Spotlight on Imaging, the Picture Business/CEA joint effort held annually at the International CES was back once again and presented attendees with a widely diverse array of imaging technology.
From HP’s very clear Retail Publishing vision to a camera lens that actually distorts the users’ view of a particular scene, the 2009 Spotlight event presented an interesting cross section of current imaging industry innovation and technology. Toss in a three-piece classical string band, some tasty hors d’oeuvres and an open bar (all part of CEA’s Digital Imaging Division reception) and this event appears to be gaining some traction within the digital imaging community.
With regard to the tabletops….
In days when many retailers are considering any and all possible sources of extra income, Noritsu America showcased their new dry-lab printer they hope will entice businesspeople into the photo printing business.
The new D502 Duplex Printer is about the size of a typical copy machine, but, at $35,000, is actually an entire photo printing solution, able to produce double-sided, high-res products such as photobooks, calendars, posters, signs, scrapbooks, cards and banners. Gregory Joe, Noritsu America’s marketing manager, explained that the D502 is aimed at retailers who might not have been in the photo business before, from independent CE operations to gift shop or bookstore owners. "This is a workhorse printer," said Joe. "And it plays well with others, [from kiosks to binding machines]." Joe says the Noritsu D502 will be available in the U.S. in the second half of 2009
When a PC is being marketed as a “Photographer’s delight” the imaging industry takes notice, thus Lenovo’s table demo’d their new W700ds, the dual-screened machine that packs a lot of punch. The aforementioned second display, perfect for Photoshop toolbars, extends from the lid to give mobile users a true multi-monitor experience. Popping additional folders of images on this extra screen also frees up the main monitor for other duties. This particular ThinkPad is really about the full PC experience and less concerned about portability, providing a full keyboard, a built-in Wacom tablet along with the dual screens.
This computer is a bit bulky at around 11 lbs and carries an equally heavy price tag (about $5,000) but again offers a complete workstation with all the power and creature comforts of a high-end desktop in a transportable package. www.lenovo.com
Based in L.A., Digital 1 to 1 is an interesting new business that is producing short web movies, 2-4 minutes long, about the basics of digital photography. Retailers can buy a yearly subscription (starting about $400/year) to the video pods, offering their customers an online opportunity to learn about topics like white balancing or changing ISO levels or shooting sports, etc. The dynamic duo manning their Spotlight table, Santino Zafarana and Ken Pivak are producing the kind of savvy, non-threatening How-To videos that the imaging industry has been waiting for.
The International Supplies table was displaying Purosol’s cleaning kits for CE/Imaging products – a cleaning spray made of non-toxic organic plant extracts. The product now comes in 16oz bottles and is labeled as Purosol Plasma (for TVs and computer screens) and Purosol Optical for camera and video lenses. Finally a “no-residue” cleaning product for lenses and LCDs.
San Francisco-based ScanCafe demo’d their online photo scanning and restoration service. The company, founded in 2006, offers photo, negative and slide scanning and restoration services (recently scanning their 10 millionth image). The service works thusly – customers mail in their boxes of photos, slides and negatives, and the company scans, restores and organizes the images. The company then provides clients with access to an online library to view and select the images they’d like to keep (users can reject up to 50% of the images they have scanned in). Selected images are then burned to a DVD or CD and shipped back to the customer along with all of the originals. The company also told us they are looking at developing some retail partnerships as well.
A name change and some new innovation were served up at the Lensbaby (formerly Lensbabies) table, as this manufacturer and marketer of unique selective focus camera lenses, demo’d their latest “twist” in the product line.
“The goal in changing our company name was purely to simplify and synchronize our corporate identity with our line of products,” said Sam Pardue, Lensbaby co-founder. “What began as a single Lensbaby product four years ago has now blossomed into a complete line of related products that satisfy the needs of creative photographers at all levels. Our products are known to the world as Lensbaby products and now our company name is simply Lensbaby.”
Lensbaby demo’d their still relatively new line of creative “bendable distorting" lenses at Spotlight, along with adding a new type. Dubbed Composer, this latest incarnation leaves their previous bellows bend/focus system of earlier Lensbabies behind and has now adopted a ball-and socket twisting system with a focusing ring at the front that lets the user select the in-focus sweet-spot. The company has also put together a new Optic Swap system that lets the user swap out the lenses inside for a variety of different options: these include standard lenses and a Holga-like plastic lens. The Lensbaby original is now replaced by the similar Muse with the new swap system, and the Control Freak which replaces the Lensbaby3G. The system produces results your customers won’t believe.
HP’s table at Spotlight wasn’t so much about product as it was about a vision – the company’s expanding retail publishing vision. HP simply continued the momentum surrounding their digital photography portfolio, designed to empower customers to do more with their digital assets across the printing ecosystem at retail, online or at home. Those products include photo books, collages, posters, prints and much more. The companies ever-expanding line-up of printing solutions stands behind this vision including the latest Designjets, Indigo presses and Photosmart printers. For a more in-depth look at this vision check out our interview with the HP’s Vice President, Retail Publishing, Rohit de Souza in Picture Business this month.
Microsoft’s Windows Home Server took center stage at their Spotlight table and the product’s many imaging apps shown brightly. It is truly one of those products, that upon merely hearing about it one might say, “Why would I want that?” Once you see what this technology is actually capable of that opinion quickly changes to, “I have to have that.”
The ability to easily back up all the content on multiple computers in one’s home, access that content from anywhere – home, office or on the road – organize that content and make it instantly actionable is “holy grail” kind of stuff as far as the imaging industry is concerned.
Microsoft essentially refers to the product as a “stay at home” server that “delivers the benefits of powerful server technology used by many people at work within a simple, easy-to-use solution for the home.” Each night it automatically backs up home computers running Windows XP and Windows Vista, provides a central place to organize various digital media, and includes a free Windows Live Internet address to access the home server from virtually anywhere and share content with friends and family.
The Home Server also monitors the health and security status of home computers and can stream media to other devices in the home, such as the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, allowing people to enjoy digital music, photos and videos on their television.
Microsoft also recently introduced the new Power Pack 1, a software upgrade that delivers a range of enhancements that includes a new way to protect data, in case of a disaster such as a fire or theft, by enabling the backup of a home server to external storage. In addition, Power Pack 1 improves its remote access features by providing a simple way to upload multiple files, presenting photo thumbnail views and enabling more control of remote user access.
Digital Downtown is a collaborative effort among Brookfield Properties, owner of the World Financial Center, The Consumer Electronics Association, NAPCO’s CTPG Group of publications (Picture Business, Dealerscope E-Gear and Custom Retailer magazines) and Martin Porter & Associates that made worldwide media news last year and was acclaimed as a must attend, must exhibit showcase on the annual consumer technology event calendar.
The DD Spotlight table announced that this event is coming back in 2009 with more special events, more new products, and more opportunities to interact face-to-face with upscale consumers, business leaders, media representatives and metropolitan area dealers and custom installers. To find out more check out www.digitaldowntown-nyc.com.
That’s one bright Spotlight and we’ll look forward to seeing you in Vegas again…real soon.