Odds, Ends, & Afterthoughts – PMA 2009


Aside from all the lenses and optics displayed at PMA 2009, there were oodles of peripheral goodies to go along with all the 'latest and greatest' photographic toys known to mankind. Some serious, and some less so.

On the serious side, Western Digital introduced the WD ShareSpace, a compact (7.7 x6.3 x 7.8") Network Storage System with RAID that's available in 2 TB, 4 TB, and 8 TB capacities. Compatible with Mac OS-X Tiger / Leopard or Windows Vista / XP, the WD ShareSpace has a transfer rate of up to 1Gb/s, can be populated with 2 or 4 hard drives, has Ethernet connectivity, and features dual hard drive mounting rails. According to the folks at Western Digital, the WD ShareSpace offers Gigabit networking and transfer rates 5 to 6 times faster than other network storage systems. The WD ShareSpace provides multiple RAID configurations for data protection and speed – RAID 1 (Striped), RAID 1 (Mirrored), and RAID 5 when all four drives are fully populated.

 Tiffen's Dfx Imaging Software has also been upgraded. The latest version includes the complete lineup of Kodak CC filters, a dizzying variety of graduated and color filter effects, chromatic aberration and distortion correction filters, multiple Photoshop-style masking and layering capabilities, and about a thousand additional filters in addition to all of the filtering features found in the previous version of Tiffen's Dfx filter software.

Another item that's been getting lots of positive press is the Photo Book by Digital Foci, which enables you to view your favorite pictures on an 8" (800x600) color LCD and comes bound in a handsome leather-like enclosure. The Photo Book can read images off of CF, SD/HC, MMC, M S/Pro, Dx, and USB Flash drives. Aside from standard JPEGs, the Photo Book also supports RAW image files from most current digicams. MP3, MPEG-1, MPEG 4, and MUPEG files are also supported.

For those who enjoy oddities, Liquid Image offers the Underwater Digital Mask, which is available in a choice of colors including our favorite, chrome yellow. The Underwater Digital Mask contains a 5Mp imaging sensor that can record stills or video (720p) onto Micro-SD/SDHC memory cards up to 32GB in size. A fixed 8.5/2.8 lens captures the action while you keep your eyes out for sharks and jelly fish.

New camera formats continue to be developed, the latest in the form of the Samsung NX, a smaller, prism-less DSLR in the style of the increasingly popular 4/3 format cameras, but with a larger APS-C format sensor. The Samsung NX was shown in the form of mock-ups slowly spinning behind – yup, you guessed it - yet more Plexiglas panels.

Every trade show has a theme of sorts and PMA 2009 was no different. While there weren't any earth-shattering breakthrough announcements or high-end DSLRs with more pixels than mere mortals can use, there were several rather noteworthy breakthroughs found on digicams selling for $500 and under. Sony's DSC-HX1, a 'simple' camera by most definitions, contains technologies unthinkable a year ago.

As an example, the HX1 can take up to 6 images shot in succession, isolate the sharpest, best detailed portions and meld them into a single solid image, negating the necessity in many cases of using a tripod, or perhaps losing that 'precious moment' forever. Does this mean we can afford to be sloppy in our ways when shooting pictures? Some will undoubtedly see it that way, but for others, these are tools for capturing images that under 'normal' circumstances, would be lost causes before the image found it's way into the memory card.

And the HX1's ability to capture a single 'panned' image and process it into a single 130-degree panoramic image is pure magic to say the least. Bridge cameras, those quasi DSLRs that are increasingly gaining in popularity, are becoming harder to ignore as serious work tools for many applications. On a personal note, I used to cover trade shows such as these with a DSLR and a few lenses. This show was captured using a Canon G10 and a Nikon P90, both of which were more than adequate for 99% of my needs. If you think about it, having a camera with a 10-plus megapixel sensor and a 20-something to 500 or 600-plus equivalent lens you can carry around all day without cussing is a blessing for anyone who needs to have a capable camera with them at all times. And you aren't trading away anything for the convenience:  the average sub-$300 pocket size digicam available today outperforms the complex DSLRs that cost $15,000 not even 10 years back. As for the future… stay tuned.

While there will always be film enthusiasts, film cameras were all but absent from PMA 2009. Even Leica's reflex camera, the R9, while prominently displayed at Leica's booth, was officially discontinued four days after the show ended leaving the venerable Leica 'M' rangefinder as one of the few professional film cameras still in production. As for non-professional film cameras, Holga and Lomo cameras are still (happily) available in a variety of colors and formats including stereoscopic.