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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

20 Years Of Photo Innovation

Take a look back at two decades of trends and technologies that changed photography

Image Stabilizer Canon EF 75-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM (1995)
The first lens to feature technology to reduce the impact of vibration and camera shake, the Canon EF 75-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM lens provided photographers with the ability to handhold a telephoto zoom at shutter speeds two stops slower than could normally be expected to deliver sharp results. Sensors in the lens detected motion and produced a corrective signal to a group of lens elements to shift and compensate for camera movement. The result was a sharp image that otherwise would have been soft. This lens and subsequent lenses have delivered a greater percentage of sharp shots under difficult conditions.

Kodak E200 (1996)
Introduced in 1996, Kodak's E200 film was the first high-speed, pushable film that offered photographers color contrast and image structure traditionally associated with slower films. E200 set a new benchmark as the first slide film that could hold its color, sharpness and grain when pushed, thus extending shooting ranges under demanding light conditions.

Epson Photo EX (1998)
With the release of Epson's Photo EX in 1998, consumers now had the option of printing large images that looked like real photographs. The EX printer, with its large carriage, was the first printer capable of producing 11x17-inch images as well as 44-inch panoramas. The printer incorporated several breakthrough technologies. Epson's Micro Piezo and Super Micro Dot Technology allowed the printer to produce smaller, rounder dots while precisely placing them on the page. It also included a new Multi-Layer Dot Technology, which increased the color range, and Epson's AcuPhoto halftoning module virtually eliminated visible dot patterns. The result was a smoother image with truer color unlike any printer and the beginning of a new era in photo-realistic output from desktop printers.

17-35mm ƒ/2.8 ED-IF AF-S Nikkor (1999)
The 17-35mm ƒ/2.8 ED-IF AF-S Nikkor caused quite a stir when it was first released. It was Nikon's first ultra-wide-angle zoom, a lens that was the direct result of computer-aided designs and improvements in the manufacturing of aspheric lens elements. This small, 26.5-ounce lens included three aspheric elements and two ED elements. Its internal focusing mechanism eliminated the need for the front element to rotate or extend itself. The incorporation of an AF-S built-in motor delivered fast autofocus. It was a boon for photographers who desired both speed and an expansive angle of view.

Nikon D1 (1999)
Eight years after the introduction of the Kodak Digital Camera, the 2.74-megapixel Nikon D1 digital SLR set a precedent for professional SLRs. With a fast boot-up time, a 0.05-second shutter release lag time and a fast shooting rate of 4.5 frames per second, the D1 was proving to be the fastest and highest quality digital camera on the market that broke the $5,000 price barrier. The Nikon D1 created a buzz, and digital photography began to be seriously regarded by professional photographers as a viable‚Äîand now affordable—way of shooting.

Canon EOS D30 (2000)
In the next year, the Canon EOS D30 set a new price point. Released in September 2000, the D30 offered 3 megapixels in an easy-to-use SLR. The price of the D30 in 2000 was approximately $3,000. Canon also developed the camera with a CMOS chip, a feat that was supposed to be impossible in manufacturing, and matched the quality of a CCD chip. Cheaper to produce, the CMOS chip is now the predominant chip type used in digital SLRs.

Four Thirds System (2003)
Until the introduction of the Olympus E-1, digital SLRs were adaptations of film cameras and lens systems designed for the 35mm frame. Developed jointly by Olympus, Kodak and Fujifilm, the Four Thirds image sensor took a new approach to digital SLRs, breaking from the 35mm mind-set. Along with the new sensor, the Olympus E-1 system introduced a new line of lenses designed specifically for the new format, giving photographers the whole range of focal length options, from wide-angle to telephoto.

Anti-Shake CCD (2003)
When Minolta (now Konica Minolta) introduced its Anti-Shake CCD in the DiMAGE A1, it was seen as a unique alternative to lens-based image-stabilization technologies; but as the A1 was a fixed-lens "compact" digital camera, its biggest potential advantage went largely unnoticed. That potential was realized with the later introduction of the Maxxum 7D digital SLR in 2004—because the Anti-Shake system is built in to the camera and not the lens, it allows photographers to get the benefits of image stabilization with any lens they choose.

Canon EOS Digital Rebel (2003)
Once again, the price barrier was broken by the release of the Canon EOS Digital Rebel. In an effort to appeal to the enthusiast consumer, Canon released the 6-megapixel Rebel for less than $1,000. Because of the low cost and relatively high performance, many pro photographers also bought the camera as a versatile backup to their more expensive EOS system SLRs.

Digital Medium Format (2005)
Although digital backs for medium-format cameras aren't new, they have tended to be clunky aftermarket add-ons that often required being tethered to an external power source or storage device. More recent improvements in both power and mass portable storage have helped cut the wires and allowed manufacturers to explore more integrated designs. This may be the year when digital medium format really takes hold, with new models announced from Mamiya, Rollei, Hasselblad and Pentax. Unlike earlier medium-format solutions that addressed digital capture as an afterthought, these new models have been designed from the start as digital cameras.



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