Trends in Imaging Tools

Connectivity.   For those working with large collections of files, the wires that connect CPU to storage (computer to hard drives) have a significant impact on your time.  Simply waiting for a big file to read or write can tax one’s patience, but backing up a sizeable database using USB 2.0 or FireWire 400 connections is simply painful.  Unfortunately, advancement of throughput technology has come rather slowly, along with the usual proprietary infighting between manufacturers focused on profit.

There have been advances.  SATA has become the mainstay in recent years, including the eSATA connection for external drives; both generally transfer data considerably faster than even FireWire 800.  But everything is relative, and when one gets used to a certain length of time to accomplish a task it’s only human to start wishing for even more speed and greater efficiency.  About a year and a half ago USB 3.0 entered the scene with a promise of a data transfer rate faster than any of the current protocols.  Unfortunately, accepted standards have been slow to develop and major manufacturers (Intel, Apple) have so far not adopted it.  USB 3.0 is slowly making inroads and you can buy drives, PCIe cards, and ExpressCards that begin to open the door, but it’s not a path without ruts as the Mac OS requires special drivers.  LaCie has begun offering a solution (see a better explanation here).

All of this is part of the typical maneuvering between competing technologies, and the big player in this seems to be Light Peak. With the promise that 10 Gbps speeds are only the beginning, and the fact that this optical interconnect has much broader application than previous data transmission protocols, one can understand the desire to make it happen, but that doesn’t keep a lot of folks from being impatient.  It’s hard to read these tea leaves and separate the hype from future reality, but that’s how things work in the real world and chances are we’ll like the eventual result, even if it stretches our patience along the way.

Canon lenses.   Waiting to jump on one the Canon’s most recently announced lenses?  Might have to wait a bit longer, at least for the new 300/2.8, 400/2.8, and 8-15 Fisheye.  Looks like these won’t be available until March 2011 (see full notice here).  And for those who can tolerate rumors, here’s another hint that Canon may eventually update the venerable 100-400 zoom next year.  As stated many times before, there is a whole army of folks who’d stand in line for an improved version of this lens—myself included.  Let’s keep hoping.

New tools from X-Rite.   Those of you who have developed an appreciation for a color-managed workflow will be pleased to know of the latest hardware and software tools from X-Rite.  For just a little background, not too long ago X-Rite acquired GretagMacbeth, a company with a sterling reputation in the color management business, and consolidated Gretag and Monaco products with existing X-Rite products.  The shakeout is just about complete now with the announcement of the new i1Solutions.  There are several packages, all aimed at serious work, which include the i1 Pro spectrophotometer (as opposed to colorimeters in lower tier monitor calibration packages).  While these packages may well be beyond the needs or pocketbook of the average photographer, it’s nice to know that tools for color management continue to progress.  You can find out more about the full array of X-Rite offerings here.

Large(r) sensor compacts.   Panasonic has released the successor to their well received GF1, called—not surprisingly—the GF2.  This is a Micro Four Thirds format camera with interchangeable lenses and no optical viewfinder (though an accessory electronic viewfinder is available).  The GF2 is a little smaller and lacks some of external dials and switches of the GF1 in favor of a touch-screen LCD.  Whether you’ll like that approach or not is a matter of preference; those immersed in the mobile device gesture methodology will likely feel right at home.  See previews at Engadget and DP Review.

And for those who may have a continuing interest in the Fujifilm FinePix X100 announced at Photokina, there’s a “News & Rumors” site with links to some engaged discussions.  Only time will tell whether image quality, price, and photographer receptiveness will make the X100 a winning product or not, but so far it’s generated a wave of enthusiasm not seen in a long while.

Rebates.   We’re into the holiday season now and there are lots of rebate offers floating around—Canon, Nikon, and many others.  Of course worldwide currency values are fluctuating wildly too and who knows where prices will head in the future.  But if you need something now, chances are you’ll be able to find it at a discount…unless of course it’s one of the brand new items like the Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS which is available now for preorder and will be shipping soon.

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