DigitalPro Shooter Volume 4, Issue 4, January 19, 2006

In this issue we'll look back on where we've been in digital photography and where it is going next. We're also pleased to announce our African photo safaris for 2006, including details and pricing. They are the best digital photo trips you can find for African wildlife and should be a lot of fun.

Red Hornbills, Botswana
Details on our 2006 Africa
Digital Photo Safaris 

These are the Good Old Days:
Looking back at the future of Digital Photography

It's really fun to be part of the early days of a new technology--whether it was the PC in the 70's and 80's, graphical user interfaces in the 80's or DVDs in the 90's. But sometimes it is hard to recognize until later how exciting developments really are and how unique the events surrounding them are. Right now, for example, it is easy to be caught up in all the little issues of new camera models and their foibles, or the size or speed of the latest cards and disks and lose sight of the big picture of the digital photography revolution.

So in this issue of DigitalPro Shooter we wanted to take time out to put these developments in perspective. Digital photography is the biggest thing to happen to photography in the last 100 years, and it is happening right now. Not yesterday or tomorrow, but today. From an arcane niche market as recently as 2000, digital is now mainstream. Nikon is pulling the plug on most of its film products, as is Kodak; some reports claim there will be more phones with cameras than without cameras by this year; and most surprisingly at least one research report claims that the sales of digital cameras are actually already peaking.

Photo Safari 2006 Update:

2006 Alaska Grizzly bear trips, Last Chance:
Week 1 is SOLD OUT, but we have 1 slot for Week 2 (July 16-23) Grizzly Bear & Puffin week in July 2006, so sign up soon.

Africa, May and November 2006:
I'm leading two Digital Photo specialty trips to southern Africa in 2006, both focused on wildlife. One in May and one in November. Both will feature a variety of environments and habitats, with plenty of mammals & birds. We'll see Lions, Elephants, Giraffe, Leopards, Cheetah and quite a few varieties of Antelope along with several dozen other species of exotic animals. We'll be staying at some great camps and learn a bit about the country and the people of course while we're there. For more details and pricing, see: You can see some images from the trip I lead this November in DPS 4-01.

Thailand, Burma and Cambodia, January 2007:
We're just in the planning stages for a January, 2007 safari to Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia. We'll spend some time in Bangkok, but most of the trip will be divided between the temple areas in Cambodia (especially the Angkor temple complex including Angkor Wat) and Burma (including historic Mandalay and the plain of temples at Bagan). We'll have dates and pricing by March, but if you're interested please let us know at You can see some of the images from my last trip in DPS3-01.

Even at the pro end of the market we're seeing a slow-down in the rate we can absorb technology. Cameras are high-enough resolution and fast enough for many uses. For some users more resolution only fills up disks more quickly. Sure we have decades of incremental advances ahead of us, especially in image quality, speed, and ease of use--but the biggest leaps we'll see for a long time have come already. Another symptom is that some photographers have actually sold or returned their new high-resolution cameras because the files are too big, and gone back to their older models. I can't say I've gone that far, but like many folks I grab my D2H when I'm off for some 'casual' photography as often as not since the resulting images are smaller and I love the camera's 8fps when some action comes along. And how many D70 owners actually need to upgrade to a D200? Our existing equipment is quickly becoming "good enough" for many purposes.

What can Consumers Expect?

First, consumers will continue to get more for less. More important than increased resolution, consumer cameras will get faster, focus faster, and continue to add novel features like facial recognition and wireless transmission.   Of course cameras will also be built in to nearly everything. Now it is computers and phones, but in a year or two no device will be safe!

Once consumers get their images onto their computer, Apple's new iWeb and updated iPhoto, along with sneak previews of Microsoft's Vista show that digital photos will quickly become part of the basic fabric of their computers' operating system. And a new crop of media hubs, set top boxes and other convergence devices will help make sure photos can move into every room of the house, not to mention the houses of friends and relatives.

What can Pros Expect?

But what about Pros? First, this year we're finally seeing some projectors that break through the 1024x768 native resolution barrier. Thanks to the enthusiasm for HDTV we're getting projectors which can display 1400x1050 or better. As a result we can finally show digital images with a similar color and clarity we are used to with slides. Look for those projectors to drop rapidly from $3500 now to less than half that in a year.

I'm also hopeful we'll get some file formats that reflect the real needs of pro photographers. We all want the power of Raw, but would like them to be smaller (like JPEGs) with flexible thumbnails and previews embedded--and with powerful and editable metadata capabilities. Even more importantly we need some serious standardization around whatever formats we wind up with so our images can be saved for posterity and processed by our choice of editor. Metadata is not of much use if it can't be read.

Speaking of editors, We're also likely to see the death of Photoshop as we know it. The power of non-destructive editors which can apply transforms in real time to our images without saving huge bitmap renderings for each possibility are very compelling. Faster machines will help to make them a reality. Here too the need will be for standards in how those lists of edits are stored and maintained so that we aren't locked into a particular editing tool once we start to use it.

What won't we see?

One thing I haven't seen is a painless, top quality printing workflow. And there aren't many signs of it happening yet. Our printers don't know what paper is loaded, so we have to tell them. And our print drivers don't know what size paper is loaded, so we have to manually set that as well. And then profiles are still tricky and need to be manually set much of the time. Finally there is layout and paper cutting.

I would love to see the day when we could find an image, press Print, pick a size, and have it roll out of the printer in perfect color, trimmed to the correct size. But I'm guessing we won't see that for a long time.

--David Cardinal, Editor, DigitalPro Shooter

New Products

Colorvision is now shipping PrintFix Pro, a serious price performance breakthrough in printer profiling. At a list price of $499 PFP delivers profiles previously only attainable with multi-thousand dollar systems. I've been using it for a couple months now and have been printing "side by side" images from my PFP profiles and Gretag ProfileMaker 4.1 (several thousand $$ with hardware) profiles and they are neck and neck.

For any photographer who wants to get accurate color from their printer I highly recommend PFP. I'm such a believer that we've made special arrangements with ColorVision to get our readers a discounted price on PFP. You can use this form to order a copy.

Full Disclosure: Clearly we are now re-selling PrintFix Pro, so I have a bias, but we weren't when I beta tested and reviewed it. It was just impressive enough that we decided to add it to our very short list of affiliated products (along with PhotoRescue).

The all new Nikon macro flash system (R1C1) is shipping. It comes in a very cool little package, suitable for storage in the office or studio, with no less than 25 separately wrapped components. The main ones are the flash controller, two macro flashes and attachment brackets and stands. Other pieces include diffusers and gels. It uses CR123A Lithium batteries (one for each flash) rather than the more usual AA batteries, but there are now inexpensive 123A 'clones' on the market, so that's not as much of an issue as it used to be.

DigitalPro Tip

DigitalPro 4.0.3 update for Windows image browsing & cataloging software has just been released, adding support for Lexar stackable readers. Now you can load multiple cards in Lexar Pro readers with a single click! You can learn more or download it here.

--David Cardinal, Editor, DigitalPro Shooter

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