Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Road to PMA 2010: Week 1

The Photo Marketing Association (PMA) will be holding its annual trade show this year on February 19-23, with the manufacturer exhibits running from Feb. 21-23. Being one of the biggest photographic shows of the year, it is only natural that companies would start releasing new products in the weeks leading up to the big event.

To that end, many manufacturers have already launched several new products. Unlike the 2010 CES (Cesspool of Electronic Stupidity, oops, that was Consumer Electronics Show), the news leading up to PMA is about a lot more than cookie cutter junk cams. Some real photo gear has been launched this time and more will undoubtedly follow. So, here is a list of the best that the first week of February had to offer in regards to new equipment being announced.

Tokina 11-16 f2.8 in Sony mount, Tokina's first Alpha mount lens. If reviews in other mounts are an indication, this could be a real gem for Sony shooters.

Fujifilm S11600, S1800, and S2500HD, super zoom bridge cameras ranging from 15-18x zoom capability. All three models are more similar than not, bing built around a similar blueprint.
Fujifilm XP10 rugged compact. Waterproof to 10 feet, shockproof to 3ft, dust proof, and freeze proof to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring on the punishment!

Fujifilm HS10 super-zoom bridge camera. 30x, yes 30x optical zoom! Suddenly those far away subjects just got a whole lot closer!

Olympus SP800 and 600UZ (ultra zoom). Olympus joins the long lens game with models that go to 30x and 15x zoom, respectively.

Olympus Tough 8010 and 6020 rugged compacts. More similar than not, both cameras are waterproof to a stunning 30 feet, shockproof to 7 feet, and freeze proof to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hasselblad H4D medium format camera. With a sensor size of 33x44mm, the H4D is almost twice the size of a piece of 35mm film. Unfortunately, the $20,000 price tag will be a put-off to all but well-compensated working pros and extremely wealthy amateurs.

Nikon Coolpix P100 super-zoom. Not only does this camera have a 26x optical zoom lens, but it also offers full 1080p HD video, a first for a small sensor Nikon.

Olympus E-PL1. Yet another update of the original E-P1 (Digital Pen). While the first D-Pen was what many photographers who demanded high image quality in a small body were longing for, the high price undoubtedly caused some would-be buyers to balk at the thought of purchase. Now arrives the affordable D-Pen. With a MSRP of just $599 with an included 14-42mm (28-84 film equivalent), many who hesitated at the E-P1 ($799 body only MSRP) and E-P2 ($1,099 body only MSRP) may finally find themselves ready to pony up the cash and discover the power of the Pen.

Olympus 9-18mm (18-36 film equivalent) and 14-150mm (28-300 film equivalent) Micro Four Thirds lenses. Both are f4-5.6 in aperture and are image stabilized thanks to the in-body stabilization employed by Olympus. The 9-18 has a MSRP of $700 while the 14-150 is set to be priced at $600. Because of the 2x crop factor sensor plus the lack of a mirror, these lenses are very compact, too.

Samyang 14mm f2.8 lens. Originally announced last year only to have production delayed, this lens created quite a stir because of its modest $450 price tag. Sure it's manual focus, but it's also 14mm and f2.8. While not particularly attractive to crop cam shooters, if the optics are good, it could be a very viable alternative to the $2,100 Canon and $1,700 Nikon equivalents for anyone who shoots full frame.

This is by no means a complete list of new products. One can go to Digital Photography Review and/or Imaging Resource for the complete list of new cameras, along with official press releases.

So what do these new releases mean for the market, if anything?

First: rugged compacts are becoming increasingly popular. Standouts among the mostly cookie-cutter crows at CES were a few rugged compacts. With more such models coming on the market, competition is sure to arise, products are sure to get better, and prices should start to fall.

Second: Super-zoom bridge cameras aren't dead. True, large point and shoot cams with long range lenses and advanced features aren't as numerous as in the past, but they will not go away completely, following in the footsteps of VHS tapes, any past audio media, and film.

Third: Few truly high-ed products announced yet, so expect at least a few SLRs and lenses in the upcoming weeks.

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