The latter part of the year has seen many trade
shows. Seybold in San Francisco, PMA's Photo & Imaging Expo at Olympia
and the Apple Expo, again at Olympia, were each unique, yet all had common
At Seybold I found Michael Spindler, CEO of Apple Computer, a somewhat low-key-note speaker. He declined to take questions from the press and there had been rumours of a takeover of Apple by IBM. Seybold is changing. Digital publishing has matured to the point where one gets the impression that it's now just a matter of dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's. So the conference turned its attention to other methods of publishing - particularly on the World Wide Web.
The Seybold trade show was the biggest yet. It is a superb show, with everything from digital cameras to digital printers. Many of the products, launched at DRUPA in Düsseldorf, were being seen in the USA for the first time.
The Photo Marketing Association's superb Photo &
Imaging Expo, was held at London's Olympia at the end of October, attracting
visitors from all over Europe for the launch of the Advanced
Photo System laboratory equipment. APS cameras and film will be launched
at the PMA's show in Las Vegas in February 1996. But the London show was
by no means exclusively about APS. Digital imaging was there is strength,
the highlight for me being the first showing of Dicomed's
6x6cm 'Big Shot' digital back for the Hasselblad - albeit working in
Less than two weeks later, Apple Expo turned out
to be another imaging exhibition, though the emphasis was much more down
to earth. I overheard an exchange at a demonstration of the
Leaf Digital Camera Back. "You said the camera is expensive - how
much is expensive?" "About $35,000." The questioner left,
unable to control his almost hysterical laughter. This was certainly a show
of lower-cost solutions - imaging for everyone. Agfa and Kodak had big stands
devoted to digital imaging. Agfa used the event to show their new digital
cameras for the first time in the UK. The Agfa StudioCam is a scan back
in a special body which takes Nikon lenses. The ActionCam is completely
portable, like the cameras from Fuji, Kodak and Nikon, and capable of capturing
images instantaneously, recording them on removable PCMCIA type three hard
drives. Both cameras are priced at £8,500 but Agfa supply through dealers,
so expect to see 'street' prices of £7,500 - or even lower. Price of
the ActionCam includes a 131Mb PCMCIA drive, 28 - 80 Auto Zoom lens, books
on scanning and digital cameras, Photoshop 3.0 LE, Canto Cumulus and other
software. It's good to see Agfa in the digital camera market.
Agfa used the Comdex Fall show in Las Vegas, not Apple Expo, to announce
their new DuoScan flatbed scanner, with a true optical resolution of 1000
pixels per inch and a pre-scan time of ten seconds. It will be available
in the UK in January 1996 at under £4000. The other good news (unless
you've just bought one, that is) is that the price of the excellent Arcus
II has been reduced to £2,495. For further information telephone Agfa
on 0181 231 4200.
Compared with digital cameras, flatbed scanners are higher volume products, so prices are lower. Microtek make some of the world's most popular scanners at the most popular prices. The 600 ppi ScanMaker II can be found for less than £300 with Microtek's own ScanWizard software and Caere's OmniPage Direct OCR software. Contact Microtek in Germany, at +49 211 526070.
I am often asked to recommend dealers for computer
equipment. It's always a good idea to strike a careful balance between price
and service. Some 'box shifters' do not have time to give advice and never
want to see the equipment again once is has gone out of the door. Over the
years I have had some nightmare experiences, usually when I have sought
only the cheapest price. The trick is to find a well-informed supplier who
offers keen prices and excellent service.
In the days before desktop digital imaging, when I used only PCs, I discovered an excellent supplier near Hanger Lane, in north west London, called Action Computer Supplies. Phone them on 0800 333 333 for one of their new eight hundred page catalogues, packed not only with products but with invaluable information about many aspects of computing. Order by freefone, pay with a credit card and you will get free next day delivery - and Air Miles.
A few years ago I was looking for an unusual piece of software, used to grab sections of what you see on a computer monitor to produce software manuals. Phoning half a dozen mail-order dealers advertising in the Mac magazines brought promises from three that they would phone me back on my cellphone with details. Only one did. That impressed me. The software arrived the next day and I have used that dealer ever since - MacLine based in Carshalton, Surrey.
MacLine's service is second to none and has won many awards. Customer care is a priority and the staff are highly knowledgable about all the Mac products in all their permutations. The MacLine catalogue, published twice a year, is a mine of information which you will refer to again and again. Phone 0181 401 1111 for your copy.
MacLine's World Wide Web Site at http://www.macline.co.uk/ has even more information, coupled with the very latest prices. Or you can just phone for friendly advice. Highly recommended.
Many of you seem to find it surprisingly difficult to get product literature
direct from the manufacturers. It seems some companies don't want to sell
anything. In fact one company - InfoBank - actually advertises the fact
that it doesn't sell anything. It's certainly worthwhile contacting InfoBank,
though, at 0181 991 2653, because they offer a free service supplying manufacturer's
brochures overnight. Their Mac and pre-press products include all the Appple
computers, flatbed and drum scanners, slide scanners, digital cameras, film
recorders, dye-sublimation printers, CD writers and Photo-CD libraries.
Another neat idea is a 'Monitor Kit' floppy disk
from Colab. For £15 Colab will send you a disk containing a digital
image, together with a photographic print of the same image and a rebate
of £10 off your next order. Open the disk image using your favourite
image manipulation program and adjust the computer monitor to match the
print. Then when you send your own images to Colab, to be written out to
film, the colour and exposure should be correct. Colab call it a 'digital
test card' but, unfortunately, it isn't as accurate as the BBC's girl with
the noughts and crosses board.
A look at the Photoshop histogram of the Colab test card shows that the
image has crushed light tones, in the handlebars and footware, and blacks
which only go down to dark grey. Colab stress that this file is to calibrate
your output to their film writer. Do not use it for other purposes, for
you are likely to turn your monitor's brightness down too far to match the
display of the digital picture to that of the print. Your eyes and brain
would compensate by making all your pictures a little too light. This apart,
Colab are to be complimented for this simple but effective approach to colour
management. (Colab 01203 440404)
Two years ago we offered a Chip Shop Chip Charts monitor line-up disk for five pounds. I am pleased to say that this is available once again - free of charge on the World Wide Web.
This year has seen a large number of superb new
digital imaging products. From all these I have chosen a few Star *
Products which are even sexier than Peter Thornton's black lace nightie!
* First, the Kodak DCS460 camera. Six magapixels on one chip, a six megabyte file in a split second. The large CCD allows any Nikon lens to be used on the camera body, allowing instantaneous fisheye and ultra-wideangle digital images to be captured for the first time. (Kodak 01442 61122) £25K.
* The Fuji FV-10
Photo-Video Imager is many products in one. It can scan slides and convert
negatives, both black and white and colour, into positive images. It has
a built-in copy stand and lights to scan prints. It can scan three dimensional
objects. It can be used as a 'live' colour television camera. It has a 4x
zoom, autofocus, exposure and colour controls. It is electronic, not digital,
with composite video and S-VHS outputs but can be used with a digitising
board or the AV input of a suitable computer to convert its analogue television
pictures to digital. Ingenious. Versatile. Great for presentations. (Fujifilm
0171 586 5900) £695.
* Fargo's Fantastic
FotoFUN! is exactly that. A diminutive 203dpi
dye-sub colour printer for 6x4 inch prints. An incredible breakthrough in
low-cost photographic quality printers. (Bannerbridge plc 01268 419101)
* Casio's QV-10
is similar in layout to the Sharp ViewCam camcorder but is digital, tiny
and slips into your pocket. Measures only 13x6.6x4cm and weighs 190g. The
shutter is electronic and therefore silent, the colour LCD screen acts as
both viewfinder and stored image display. Up to 96 images can be stored
in the built-in flash memory. Although the low resolution images are somewhat
limited in applications this is a camera which points to the future. (Casio
electronics 0181 893 2592) £680.
* With mention
of all these hi-tech products you possibly wonder which camera I use around
the trade shows. For the last six months I've been using the Pentax Espio
928. It has a noisy but excellent optical quality 28-90mm zoom but a quiet
shutter and power-winder. I particularly like the built-in eyepiece correction,
though I do wish the setting ring would not turn of its own accord in my
pocket. Digital images are derived from it by processing 35mm film at Boots
and scanning using a Kodak RFS2035. Product shots are captured using my
old Kodak DCS200 - just as good today as it was three years ago - which
saves the cost of film, processing and two trips to Wantage.
No, digital imaging is not always the easiest solution. Combine it's
useful techniques with existing craft skills and you will have the best
of both worlds.