Pleasant Vegas Weather Matches Climate in DSLR Market

Pleasant Vegas Weather Matches Climate in DSLR Market


PMA’s Las Vegas weather was a respite for those of us attending from the East Coast. But with so many booths to visit and products to see, there was little time to enjoy the sunshine and mild temperatures. Instead, we roamed the show floor and sat in on meetings to find out what was new in the digital SLR world.

Not surprisingly, compact digital camera announcements outnumbered those of digital SLRs at this year’s show but there was enough DSLR news to keep us—and many other attendees—occupied and interested.

Canon’s “Everything” DSLR

The hottest news on the professional DSLR front, and possibly the most exciting news of the show, was Canon’s new EOS 1D Mark III and we can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of EOS. Re-engineered from the ground up, this camera often defies logic, especially when compared with its predecessor. Despite the fact that the Mark III has a 10-megapixel CMOS, it’s capable of continuous shooting speeds of up to 10 frames per second for 110 jpegs and 30 RAW files; high ISO (which can be expanded up to 6400) results in lower image noise and is complemented by selectable noise reduction; a smaller, lighter battery lasts almost twice as long. And that just scratches the surface: there’s also a built-in dust reduction/cleaning system, live view, expanded dynamic range and expansive wireless capabilities, packed into a body with improved weatherproofing that weighs a half pound less than the Mark IIN. Look for a Test Bench review in the near future. Also keep an eye out for Canon’s improved 16-35mm lens, with increased edge sharpness and improved weatherproofing, the new 580EX II flash and wireless transmitter.

E-Volt Additions

Olympus also expanded its DSLR line with two new models—the Innovation Award-winning E-510 and its sibling, the E-410. Both of these compact 10-megapixel cameras feature Olympus’ Live View technology and dust-reduction system, as well as large LCDs with a 176-degree off-center view, which makes it easy to utilize the live view when holding the camera above or below eye level. The E-410 is slightly more compact and, with a small handgrip, has a more streamlined profile. The E-510 features a larger handgrip, which we personally prefer, and also offers mechanical sensor-shift image stabilization, along with a build-in supersonic wave drive motor. Combine the affordable pricing, compact and lightweight bodies, dust reduction system (and, for the E-510, image stabilization) with the extremely compact and lightweight lenses and consumers and photo enthusiasts will be motivated to move into the Olympus DSLR arena. Available in body only, as well as one lens and two lens kits, pricing ranges from $699-$899 for the E-410; $799-$999 for the E-510. Of course, the two-lens kit with the new ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 and ED 40-150mm f4.0/5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom lenses provide the best value for customers. This year, Olympus will be releasing a 12mm-60mm f-2.0/4.0 lens with supersonic wave drive; a 50mm-200mm f-2.8/3.5 lens with supersonic wave drive, as well as a 70mm-300mm f-4.0/5.6 lens for consumers.

Also on display at the Olympus booth was a model of the long-awaited successor to the pro E-1. While no one currently has any specs on the E-P1 LV (live view), from looking at the concept model (which looks more finished than the one shown at Photokina), the camera looks like it will be solidly built and slightly larger than the current model. We met with the designer and saw his original sketches that, he said, represented the concepts of “extreme,” “professional,” “capturing the moment,” “tough,” “strong” and “sophisticated.” We imagine that E-1 users are especially looking forward to the release of the new model; we’re anxious to get our hands on one as well.

Nikon Adds an “X”

New from Nikon is the D40x, a 10-megapixel semi-clone of the 6-megapixel D40. In addition to the higher megapixel count, the D40x offers 3 frames per second continuous shooting speed, which is about 0.5 frames per second faster than the D40. At 1/200, the flash sync speed of the D40x is slower than that of the D40 (1/500) because of its mechanical shutter (incorporated to avoid the smearing that can occur with high megapixel sensors). Additionally, the D40x has a slightly higher CIPA rating (about 520 images per battery charge vs. the D40’s 470). It’s important to note, however, that autofocus is possible only with Nikon’s AF-S and AF-I lenses because, unlike other Nikon DSLRs, the D40 and the D40x are not equipped with an internal lens motor and, instead, must rely on the lens motor for AF. Other Nikkor lenses are compatible, however, but must be focused manually. According to Lindsay Silverman, Senior Technical Manager for Nikon, the company believes that the customer who buys the D40 is unlikely to own or purchase lenses other than the kit lens.

But Nikon users, especially those on a budget, will be excited about the new AF-S VR 55-200mm lens. This zoom is extremely compact and lightweight and costs only $249.95, an extremely attractive price for an image-stabilized lens.

It’s important to note that the D40x does not replace the D40. Both cameras will be available concurrently, offering two Nikon options for those looking for an affordable digital SLR ($799.95 for the D40x with an 18-55mm lens; $599 for the D40 with an 18-55mm lens).

Alpha Promises

Sony teased visitors to its booth with concept models of two future Alpha digital SLRs. Both will feature new sensors and new BIONZ processing engines. And, both will be a step-up from the current A100. One will be a midrange camera, which we assume will target the prosumer and enthusiast, while the other will be the flagship of the line, i.e., a “pro” model. No other information was available but Sony also showed a line of 8 concept lenses including a prime telephoto with a large aperture, a super telephoto as well as zoom and wide angle lenses, which we assume will continue Sony’s commitment to using Carl Zeiss lenses. It’s likely, however, that we’ll see five new lenses this year, which will be a boom for Sony A-100 (and Minolta) users.

Pentax Special K

Pentax, of course, was showcasing the K10D, the latest model to grace the company’s DSLR line. We’ve worked with this camera and think Pentax has a slam-dunk winner on its hands so we weren’t surprised when Ned Bunnell, Director of Marketing for Pentax, told us that this model “triggered a huge increase in lens orders.” And, although most Pentax DSLR users are Pentax customers and loyalists, the K10D is triggering the interest of Nikon and Canon users as well.

Pentax also featured some new lenses, including the DA* 16-50mm and 50-135mm lenses, which both feature SDM (supersonic motors) and are weatherproofed. Prices at $899.95 and $999.95 consecutively, these will be out in late spring/early summer. In September, look for more DA* lenses like the 200mm f/2.8 and the 300mm f/4. Down the road, Pentax will also release a 60-250mm lens along with a 35mm macro “pancake” lens, so Pentax DSLR owners will have plenty of optics to choose from.

Sigma Prototype Lens

On the flip side of Pentax’s tiny pancake lenses is Sigma’s super-telephoto 200-500mm f/2.8 lens. The lens is only a prototype but was extraordinary to see: it’s about 3 feet long and weighs about 35 pounds. This made the many other lenses they exhibited look tiny. Sigma also displayed its 14-megapixel SD14 digital SLR camera; available now, the camera features a Foveon sensor and offers more features than its predecessors like a built-in flash and a hot shoe, along with a 2.5-inch LCD.

Panasonic/Samsung Lenses

No new DSLR announcements from Samsung or Panasonic, but both companies are expanding their line of lenses. Samsung, in addition to a power pack for its GX-10, is also offering a number of new lenses, with promises of more to come soon. New D-Xenon lenses, which use ED (extra low dispersion) glass include an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, and a 100mm macro f/2.8; D-Xenogon (non-ED) lens offerings include a 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 and a 35mm f/2 model.

Panasonic showed two new Leica-branded lenses for the L1 DSLR. Built on the 4/3rd system, these lenses will also work on Olympus DSLRs and feature a 2x increase in angle of view. Both lenses feature an f/stop ring on the barrel and cost about $999.99. The first is a fast 25mm f/1.4 lens (50mm equivalent) and the second is a 14-150mm (28-300mm) zoom that features not only incredible focal length flexibility but also offers optical image stabilization.

While compact cameras may outnumber digital SLRs in sales and new releases, the DSLR category continues to grow not only in quantity but quality as well. And, with so many new lenses, the opportunity for retailers to encourage users to expand their DSLR system has grown as well. yy

While compact cameras may outnumber digital SLRs in sales and new releases, the DSLR
category continues
to grow not only in quantity but quality
as well. And, with so many new lenses, the opportunity for retailers to encourage users to
expand their DSLR
system has grown
as well.