What`s New in Design, Technology, and Price

What’s New
in Design,
Technology,
and Price
PEI Technical Editor Andrew
Rodney plied the aisles at the
recent Photo Marketing
Association (PMA) and Seybold
Boston trade shows, scouting out
the latest digital cameras. This
month and next, he shows us
what he found. First up: the new
high-end models with professional features. Next month: new
prosumer models that are quickly
finding a niche in both the professional and consumer markets.
he line is definitely
blurring between highend digital cameras and
low-end prosumer/
consumer models. In recent
years, there was a stark
difference between high-end
and low-end models in both
image file size and price tag.
18 • PEI • APRIL 2000
Just one year ago MegaVision,
Leaf/Scitex, and Phase One all
introduced high-end digital
cameras that could produce
single-shot, instantaneous
files of 18MB, with prices
beginning at $23,000.
File size is no longer the
demarcation it once was, especially in the new generation of
prosumer digital cameras.
Marketed to serious amateur
photographers, these models
are capable of creating image
files as great as 9MB, and sell
for no more than the consumer
digital cameras of just a few
years ago, which produced
resolutions no more than
1,200x1,000 pixels.
Yet for professional photographers, there are still certain
features that can make all the
difference in critical assignment photography, such as
professional camera bodies
and interchangeable lenses.
Brand new high-end digital
cameras were sparse at the
recent trade shows—2000 may
be the turning point in the
price vs. resolution equation.
Just days before PMA opened
in Las Vegas, Internet rumors
were flying about a breakthrough, high-end digital
camera housed in a professional camera body that could
produce 18MB digital files with
instant capture—nothing earthshattering in itself. But what
had everyone buzzing was the
price tag: less than $4,000. Was
there really new technology
that could allow a manufacturer
to produce a high-end digital
camera at one-fifth the cost of
the competition?
For the answer, turn to
page 20.
At $4,000, the new Fujifilm FinePix
S1-Pro digital camera is one of the
most exciting high-end digital cameras
to come along in a long time. With
Fujifilm’s new Super CCD technology
(see sidebar page 28), there’s much
about this camera to both impress
buyers and shock the competition. The
first amazing statistic is the 6.1 megapixel
file size—in real-world terms, 3,040 x
2,016-pixel resolution (18MB files). The
full-bore, 35mm SLR FinePix body is
based on the Nikon N60, which means
you get features like interchangeable
lenses, a shooting rate of 1.5 frames
per second at the highest resolution,
ISO equivalents from 320 to 1600, shutter
speeds from 1/2,000 second to 30
seconds, slots for both SmartMedia and
Compact Flash type II cards, and the capability to write to the new IBM Microdrive.
Now add USB support, three capture
resolutions (3,040 x 2,016, 2,304x1,536,
and 1,440x960) and a selection of file
formats, including TIFF-RGB, TIFF-YC,
and JPEG. If that’s not enough, the sensor
is just 10 percent smaller than a 35mm
film frame (23.3X15.6mm), close enough
to significantly reduce the 35mm equivalency factors among lens focal lengths.
The Nikon N60 body affords complete
control over exposure, with Auto-Multi
Program, Shutter and Aperture Priority,
Manual Exposure, and Exposure Compensation (in 1/3 EV increments). The camera
has autofocus capabilities and operates
with any Nikon F mount lens (AF and AI-P
type Nikkor lenses, but not IX-Nikkors).
The 2-inch LCD on the back of the
Fujifilm FinePix S1 is for viewing images,
controlling camera operations, and
evaluating your captured images with the
very useful supplied histogram. The
video-out connection allows playback on
a standard video output device. The camera
is powered by four AA batteries and two
lithium batteries for the camera control
circuit and built-in flash. Unlike other professional 35mm-based digital cameras,
the FinePix S1 is small and lightweight
—just 29 ounces without batteries and
lens. The camera will begin shipping in
20 • PEI • APRIL 2000
June, and will come with a SmartMedia
card (16MB or larger), four AA alkaline
batteries, two lithium batteries, USB and
video cables, and software.
A quick inspection indicated that the
FinePix S1 has all the features I’d want
in a professional digital camera system.
The images captured at the DIMA digital
camera shoot-out (printed on a Fujifilm
Pictrography 4000) looked impressive.
You can’t really evaluate output quality
without hands-on testing the final version
of the camera and its processing
software, but the FinePix S1 could be
the camera that brings professional
digital capture quality to the mass
market. At the very least, this model will
be shaking up the professional digital
camera market for some time to come.
PEInfo No. 135
The MegaVision T32 actually debuted
last fall at PhotoPlus in New York.
Recently we had a chance to take a
closer look at this new 18MB (3,072x
2,048-pixel), three-shot digital camera
back for still photography. The T32
digital back produces 16-bit RGB files
using a Philips CCD chip and the
PhotoShoot software.
An internal shutter allows you to
mount the T32 to any 4x5-inch view
camera as you would a film back. It
can also operate as a standalone
camera with Hasselblad, Nikon, and
Canon FD lenses (because they have
no electric aperture control). The
AutoStop electronic aperture works
with large-format lenses ranging from
the Schneider 28mm Super Angulon to
the 150mm Apo-Symmar; the
exposure is controlled in 1/10-stop
increments from the computer.
The accompanying MegaVision
PhotoShoot software provides a number
of features for previewing and composing
images from the host computer, such
as live video focus, color-coded light
meter, mask overlay, electronic aperture
control, neutral balance, tone control,
automated file preparation, calibrated
RGB and gamma, and density range
controls. The built-in spot meter and
densitometer allow the photographer
to determine which areas of the shot
need
more
or less
light. Antiblooming is a
feature of the
Philips CCD.
Since the camera requires
three exposures to produce true,
non-interpolated color files, the T32
is meant to capture non-moving
images in the studio. Always
Macintosh compatible, the T32
professional digital camera back
has just been released in a Windows
NT compatible version; price, $28,900.
PEInfo No. 136
The image at left,
taken by Richard
Salas Photography,
was captured with
the MegaVision
T32 RGB threeshot capture.
PEI • APRIL 2000 • 21
Better Light, which has long been
producing high-quality scanning backs,
formally introduced the new Super 6K
and Super 8K digital camera backs.
Both are designed for 4x5 cameras and
offer very high resolution, which is
boosted by a one-direction interpolation of the original CCD data. For
example, the Better Light Model 6000
captured 6,000x8,000 pixels of data to
produce a 137MB RGB file. The Super
6K boosts that 137MB capture to
9,000x12,000 pixels to produce a
309MB image file. The Super 8K
produces file sizes as large as
8,000x12,000 pixels (244MB) in
standard capture mode, and through
interpolation can boost the file to as
much as 12,000x15,990 pixels (549MB).
Better Light purports that using the
interpolation algorithm at the capture
stage produces files that are significantly
superior to those interpolated in
Photoshop or other image editing
programs. While Photoshop has to
interpolate over two dimensions, the
new Super models can do so over only
one axis, and in high-bit format (more
than 8 bits per color). The speed of
interpolation is reduced when it’s done
at the actual capture stage, which is
another advantage.
At $24,990 for the Super 8K model
and $16,990 for the Super 6K (replacing
the original 8000 and 6000 models,
respectively), these new high-resolution
scanning backs are cost-effective
options for photographers who use
massive digital files for advertising,
commercial, or reprographic work. In
addition, all Better Light backs can be
economically upgraded to yield even
higher resolution.
The Super 6K Digital Scanning Back
has 12 resolution settings, with an
adjustable ISO of 100-1600. It comes
with a 4GB internal drive for storing
captured images. The Super 8K has 18
22 • PEI • APRIL 2000
resolution settings and an
adjustable ISO of 64-1000. It
comes with a 6GB internal
drive. Both models have a
dynamic range of 11 f/stops
and can provide 14-bit data
to the host imaging application.
Better Light also announced
that it will provide warranty
and repair for Dicomed
Digital Scan Backs. Better
Light President Michael
Collette was the designer
and inventor of much of the
technology behind the original
Dicomed scanning back.
PEInfo No. 137
Betterlight image taken with the Super 6K
scan back (inset, bottom) of the Paris Hotel in
Las Vegas. Cropped area shows the detail as
seen in the inset, top.
The Jenoptik eyelike MF uses a
3,072x2,048 pixel Peltier-cooled
CCD in a small digital camera back
that supports Hasselblad and Mamiya
645, 645 AF, and RZ mediumformat cameras. The eyelike digital
back captures up to 14 bits per
color, producing 18MB files in 8-bit
mode and 36MB files in 14-bit
mode. It transfers the data to the
host Macintosh over fiber-optic
cable at a rate of one shot per
second. With the supplied PCI card,
the eyelike MF digital back can
transmit a continuous live image to
the computer, without a mechanical
shutter.
The eyelike MF is priced $19,990
and comes with proprietary software
for PowerMc and a two-year
warranty. A soon-to-be-released
upgrade path will enable the eyelike
MF to make four-shot captures and
use Jenoptik’s unique
microscanning technology to
actually move the CCD during
multiple exposures, producing 16
partial exposures with total
resolution of 6,144 x 4,096 pixels.
PEInfo No. 138
The fashion image ar right was taken with
the Jenoptik eyelike MF camera (above), by
Rinaldo Reboni, of Milan, Italy.
PEI • APRIL 2000 • 23
The PowerPhase FX scanning back
produces an amazing 10,500x12,600pixel file, making it the big daddy of all
digital scanning backs. This
uninterpolated mega-scan back
produces 380MB 24-bit RGB files or
760MB 48-bit RGB files. Ideally suited
for flat art reproduction, the
PowerPhase FX is the perfect system
for museums and other institutions
that require massive digital
reproduction of exhibitions,
collections, and archives.
The ability to work in low light is
one of the new built-in features of the
PowerPhase FX. This scanning back
can capture images as fast as 1/125
second per scan line with ISO settings
of 100-1600. Another innovative technology is the Active Power Stabilizing
system that compensates for fluctuations
in light intensity during on-the-fly
captures. With IEEE 1394 FireWire
technology, the FX can move as much
as 200 megabits of data during file
transfer. The accompanying Phase One
Image Capture Software runs on both
Macintosh and Windows NT platforms;
the system sells for $33,990.
In other Phase One news, the
recently released LP48 Move and
Stitch adapter enables the LightPhase
2Kx3K digital camera back to stitch
together a 48MB (3,000x5,300-pixel)
file using three separate captures. The
adapter fits the LightPhase back on a
4x5-inch view camera, allowing focus
at the exact focal plane on standard
ground glass.
The back can be used with wideangle lenses with full use of swings
and tilts. While a built-in knob on the
adapter moves the LightPhase between
24 • PEI • APRIL 2000
each shot, a supplied Photoshop
action automatically stitches the three
captures together. The LP48 will
operate on location when mated to the
optional location kits available for the
LightPhase digital camera. The price of
the adapter is $1,750.
PEInfo No. 139
Based on the Sinarback 22 singleshot or single/four-shot digital camera
back, the new Sinarback 23 features a
2,048x3,072-pixel chip, up from
2,048x2,048 pixels in the earlier chip,
and captures an 18MB file. The active
thermo-electric system cools the chip
to produce the best possible 42-bit
RGB data with a dynamic range greater
than 11 f/stops.
The Sinar CaptureShop 2.0 software
with its integrated Sinar ColorCatcher
Engine produces excellent detail and
color fidelity, and a comes with a
supplied plug-in to suppress moiré
patterning. The hardware/software
combination actually moves the CCD
during exposure, allowing the user to
control how the chip vibrates with a
stepless slider to configure the moiré
removal to a very fine degree.
CaptureShop also features live
video previewing and focusing with a
capture rate as high as seven images
per second. The merge function
permits multiple exposures to be made
directly by drag-and-drop from the
contact sheet. The degrees of overlap
can be selected at will, and the effect
can be viewed immediately on the
preview monitor. Image data can be
exported in Photoshop, TIFF, HDR, and
other common file formats.
With its modular design, the
Sinarback can be mated to various
Hasselblad, Mamiya, Rolleiflex, and
Bronica camera bodies, as well as the
Fujifilm GX 680 and, naturally, the
Sinar P2 view camera. Data is transferred from the back to the computer
over a fiber-optic cable at more than
26 • PEI • APRIL 2000
Sinarback 22 camers (left) was
used by Red Kite Studio to
create the image above.
©Red Kite Studio.
20MB per second. The software is
supported on the Macintosh OS and
has a two-year warranty. The singleshot-only version of the Sinarback 23
is priced $23,700 and the single/fourshot version is priced $30,000.
PEInfo No. 140
Foveon Inc. introduced an upgraded
version of its professional one-shot
digital camera. The Foveon Portable
Studio Camera, with image processing
software integrated within the camera,
is designed for photographers who
already own a Macintosh imaging
workstation and want the portability to
take the Foveon on location. The
Foveon camera’s unique design
consists of a camera head (accepts
Canon lenses), attached to a notebook
computer with a large 14-inch XGA
resolution LCD screen for viewing the
live image and operating the controls.
It also comes with a full keyboard,
touch pad, and built-in Ethernet card.
Among the other unique features of
the Foveon design is a floating magnifying
loupe that works on both the live
viewfinder and the review window. The
magnifying loupe enables the photographer to examine individual pixels
during focusing and after exposure.
The camera’s 12 megasensor image
assembly consists of a color
separation prism and three 2Kx2K
patented image sensor arrays, one
each for red, green, and blue channels.
Images are captured with 12 million
sensed values, and then processed
into industry standard TIFF files of 3,
6, 12, 24, or 48MB. The sensors are
fabricated with a proprietary semiconductor process using mostly standard
CMOS processing steps. The chip has
a dynamic range of 9.5 to 10 stops.
The base price of the Foveon Portable
Studio is $27,900, which includes the
Foveon Studio Camera, FoveonCam
Capture Software, and FoveonLab
Processing Software. Foveon offers an
optional built-in CD-RW readable/writable
CD drive so photographers can store
the images to CD before leaving the
photo session. The company also
offers a dedicated Foveon Sales and
Processing Workstation as well as
customized studio configurations to
meet individual photographers’ needs.
PEI • APRIL 2000 • 27
The Fujifilm Super CCD
or years, digital camera and back
makers have had to resort to using
the conventional CCD sensors that
were developed for video capture. The
cost of producing high-resolution CCD
chips is staggering, accounting for the
bulk of the $20,000-$30,000 price tag
of high-end digital cameras. Fujifilm’s
completely new Super CCD technology
not only radically lowers the cost of
producing sensors, but also offers
abundant new capabilities.
The photodiodes on the Super CCD
are octagonal in shape, and laid out
like a honeycomb. The result is higher
sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio
and a wider dynamic range than
conventional CCDs with the same
number of pixels. The advantages are
evident when comparing the effective
number of pixels in each. According to
Fujifilm, the area of the photodiode in
the 1/2-inch, two-million-pixel Super
CCD is about 1.6 times larger than the
area in a conventional two-millionpixel CCD. The area of the photodiode
in the 1/2-inch, three-million-pixel
Super CCD is about 2.3 times larger
than a comparable conventional CCD.
The sensor in the new Fuji FinePix
S1 measures 1.1 inches. This does not
mean that the actual number of pixels
in the Super CCD is 6.1 million, but
F
In conventional CCDs, each pixel has a
control path as well as a photodiode and
charge transmission path. The Super CCD
has no control path, which makes it possible to more densely pack the photodiodes.
that the capture produces 6.1 million
uninterpolated pixels of usable data.
Fujifilm says the production of those
6.1 million pixels is based on
extrapolation rather than interpolation,
which at this point may be a question
of mere semantics.
The key factor is the final output.
The honeycomb pattern of the
octagonal photodiodes minimizes the
wasted space that is typical of
conventional CCDs. According to
Fujifilm, the 45-degree layout raises
the horizontal and vertical resolutions
by 60 percent over conventional CCDs
of the same size. The chip is also 40
percent more energy efficient than
conventional CCDs, according to
Fujifilm. The Super CCD is more light
sensitive as well. Fujifilm says that
with a 3-million-pixel Super CCD chip,
the dynamic range is widened by 130
percent over conventional chips.
The lowest equivalent ISO for the
FinePix is 320, while conventional CCDs
are usually most effective at ISO ratings
of 50- 100. In low light, the FinePix
S1-Pro’s ISO maximum of 1600 should
produce superior files with less noise
than with conventional CCDs. The Super
CCD structure can be also be adapted
to digital cameras with electronic
shutters at speeds higher than possible
with the conventional CCD.
As you will see in the second installment of this article next month, Fujifilm
isn’t limiting the Super CCD technology
to high-end cameras. I look forward to
showing you some of the wonderful
new prosumer digital cameras with
Super CCDs.
—Andrew Rodney
Leaf C-Most Sensor
he Leaf C-MOST Sensor was
announced at PMA in February,
although plans to implement this highresolution sensor technology are still
on the drawing board. Based on CMOS
technology, the Leaf C-MOST 24x36mm
sensor produces a 6.6 megapixel
(3,150x1,200-pixel) file. Unique to this
new chip is the ultra-thin, 300-micron
packaging, which will allow the C-MOST
sensor to be positioned in the focal
plane of a standard 35mm camera; in
other words, photographers will be
able to capture high-resolution images
with standard 35mm lenses.
T
28 • PEI • APRIL 2000
According to Leaf, the C-MOST Sensor
provides exceptional image quality in
comparison to other CMOS sensors,
due to a unique active pixel design
that results in high sensitivity and low
noise. Leaf also says that the image
quality the chip produces is comparable
to conventional CCD technology.
Because CMOS technology is far less
costly to manufacture than conventional
CCD technology, this new chip should
dramatically reduce the cost of highresolution cameras. CMOS chips also
allow added-on chip processing capabilities, which conventional CCDs do not.
(See “CMOS vs. CCD” in PEI 1/98.)
The maximum burst rate of the
C-MOST sensor is three frames per
second. The chip has also been designed
to produce a 12-frame-per-second video
preview at 512x768 pixels, a feature
used for compositing the photo using
a standard video signal. Conventional
CCDs, says Leaf, can output live video
at only four to five frames per second.
How soon will we see a product using
this new chip technology? We don’t know.
But this exciting breakthrough could
soon lead to a new price to performance
ratio for high-end digital cameras.
Kodak DCS Upgrades
Eastman Kodak Company announced
three new upgrades for the DCS line of
professional digital cameras: Version
5.9 software, cellular phone
connectivity, GPS connectivity, and
premium plus NiMH rechargeable
batteries. The new software and
firmware—either on the host computer
(acquire software) or in the camera
itself (firmware)—are available on the
Kodak Web site at www.kodak.com.
The new acquire software
enhancements allow professional
photographers to customize camera
functions, while the firmware opens up
new applications for the camera’s
PCMCIA slot. The cellular modem
transmission firmware will be available
to owners of Kodak Professional DCS
330, 500, and 600 series digital
cameras later this year.
X • PEI • APRIL 2000
PEI • APRIL 2000 • X
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