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PMA 07 Initial Impressions
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by Rob Williams on March 8, 2007 in Trade Shows

PMA is just getting underway, but there are a slew of products that have already been announced. I am taking a look at the first eight to really catch my attention including the Nikon D40x, Canon Mark III, Olympus E-510, Lenbabies Creative Aperture kit and more.

Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Hasselblad


If you are a camera or imaging enthusiast, this is the time of year to be excited. Sure, there are many announcements made throughout the year, but PMA is really the central hub where most of the key ones are made. This year is looking like no exception, as we’ve been seeing many since CES ended.

Since then, we’ve seen many new camera models, lenses, software, accessories and more. Sadly, I was unable to attend the conference this year, so I will be reporting from home on what I find to be of interest.

That said, depending on how many new announcements are made during the show, this might be the only article I write about it. However, if there just so happen to be a slew of other products announced throughout the weekend, I will consider a follow up.

Today we will be taking a look at a few new DSLRs including Canons super-fast Mark III and Hasselblads latest 31 megapixel beast. Nikon also announced an "upgraded" version of their D40 and also a new high-end Coolpix… finally. Olympus is also back with a new release that really caught my eye.

If you are not interested in a new camera though, the second page will be more to your liking. Lenbabies has a very, very cool new release that happens to be inexpensive if you already own one of their lenses. We will also take a quick look at the latest 123di and Adobe Lightroom.

Whatever your price range, you will find something of interest within…

Canon EOS-1D Mark III – ($3,999)

Official Site

By far, one of the most interesting announcements would have to be Canons new Mark III professional camera, which they tout as being the "fastest DSLR in the world". They are not joking either, with 10FPS promises. This rate allows for a burst speed of 110 ten megapixel JPEGs or 30 ten megapixel RAW.

That’s far from being the only thing that helps this camera stand out though. To help assist with finding the perfect shot, there are a total of 45 AF points, 19 which are user selectable.

Canon did a lot of studying with their Mark III, and must have concluded that more megapixels are not worth the effort. This is true for the majority of folks out there. So while the 1Ds II has a huge 16.7MP CCD, this latest incarnation has 10.1MP. Once again, this is fine for most professional shooters… anything higher is for a more selective audience.

One new feature that is getting a lot of mixed reaction is the fact that the large 3.0" LCD doubles as a live view, so shooters would not have to rely on a viewfinder. While this seems like a foolish idea on a professional camera, I don’t think it’s actually such a bad idea, but again, it would depend on the situation. While the viewfinder would be the “only” choice the majority of the time, live view would be useful if you are running away from a mountain lion, but still need that perfect shot. You might as well say bye bye if you try to squint into a viewfinder! ;-)

Overall, this is great release from Canon that is most drool worthy. It can be yours sometime this spring for a retail price of around $4,000.

Nikon D40x – ($799)

Official Site

Who saw this one coming? I sure didn’t! Nikon just released their low-end D40 a mere four months ago, so to see a replacement already is confusing! But that’s where things get interesting. It’s not a replacement, but rather a glorified version of the original. Glorified indeed, as its specs bring it even closer to the D80.

What’s been upgraded? First off is the 10.2 megapixel CCD, which is identical to the one used in the D80, and very similar to the one used in the D200. Not a bad deal for a $799 camera, considering the higher-end models retail for hundreds more. This will result you with images at 3872×2592 resolution which weigh in at around 5MB for a JPEG and 10MB for a NEF RAW. Like the D80 and D200, the D40x has faster performance as well, with 3FPS shooting capabilities.

While not such a big deal, the D40x supports ISO 100, whereas the original D40 allowed for ISO 200. Other than this, both cameras are a spitting image of each other… same weight/size/design. The creative GUI has been retained, so essentially it’s just a D40 with a few better details. Original D40 owners can relax though, as the D40x retails for $200 more, at $729 for the body only, or $799 for the kit with the 18-55 lens.

Another smaller, but still exciting, announcement from Nikon would have to be the 55-200mm 4-5.6 AF-S VR zoom lens. Although I haven’t been terribly impressed with the original, the VR version only costs $80 more, to settle in at $249. That is a -great- price for a VR lens, no matter how you look at it. It would be a great lens to bring along if you want to go light shooting, but wish to leave your more expensive VR lenses (safely) at home.

So, where’s the D3, Nikon?

Olympus EVOLT E- 510 – ($999)

Official Site

Olympus is back with a vengeance with a slew of new releases, but the one that’s caught my eye is the E-510, the successor of the E-500. There is also an E-410 and a successor to the E-1, but I am sure we will learn more about that one as the show progresses.

As it stands, the E-510 looks to be a great DSLR for the novice and professional alike. If one thing stands out, it’s the fact that image stabilization is in the body, so regardless of which lens you choose to use, you will have that benefit. How well this works when compared to IS/VR in a lens is debatable, but it’s a great feature anyone can appreciate.

Live view is another feature that people moving on up from point and shoot cameras will enjoy. Like the bigger DSLRs, this one includes a 10MP sensor… great for printing. As far as lenses go, there is not one, but two included with the E-510. Both are Zuiko lenses, one wide angle 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and the other, a normal 40-150mm f3.5-4.5 zoom. Both great additions that add a lot of value to the retail price.

I have never spent much time with Olympus DSLRs, but their new line-up has me wanting to. For $999, you get a solid body with built-in IS, two lenses and a 10MP feature? If the quality matches with the specs, then this is one amazing specifications/$ ratio.

Hasselblad H3D-31 – ($24,999)

Official Site

We can all dream, right? Hasselblad released their medium format H3D-22 and H3D-39 models last year, but that left quite a gap in the megapixel department. To fill that void, they recently announced their 31 megapixel model, appropriately called the H3D-31. The 31s sensor is not the same size as the others though, 33.0×44.0mm, compared to 36.7×49.0mm for the others. It still retains its full frame POV, however.

Being a 31 megapixel camera, the resulting images are not for the weak. Each one of the 4872×6496 images will result in a 40MB RAW file in the 3FR format, or 95MB if you prefer the 8-Bit TIFF format. Using the RAW setting, the H3D-31 boasts an impressive 1 capture per 1.2 seconds rate, or 42 captures per minute. Shooting at that rate would effectively fill up a 2GB CF card in just over a minute.

Other features include a sharp 2.2" OLED screen which is located directly below the huge viewfinder to help find the right aspect you are looking for, quickly. ISO ranges from 50 – 400, with shutter speeds ranging from 32s to 1/800s or 18 hours to 1/800s if using film.

If battery life is a concern, you might want to pack a backup, since you can drain one in just under 250 captures. Of course, a camera like this is not for everyone, and it’s likely overwhelming for most. I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be touching one for a while though, since this model will retail for just under $25,000, which is $5,000 less than their 39 megapixel model.


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