Photokina 2010 Day 0: Leica Drives a VW; 20-Foot Chase Jarvis; Canons Along The Rhine


SEPTEMBER 21, 2010

Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

The 31st annual photokina imaging trade show kicked off in Cologne, Germany today promising scores of new imaging products, inevitable marketing hype, and more scantily clad booth babes than you'd find this side of Las Vegas. And oh yeah, there's also huge vats of Kolsch beer, a Cologne specialty that's served in beaker-sized shot glasses at every restaurant in town.

We arrived here yesterday and got a chance to make the rounds of some of the press preview events which give journalists a sneak peek at what will be debuting at the biennial show. (And yes, there was plenty of Kolsch to go around.)

Though the effects of the Recession continue to rake most regions of the world -- the number of "pro" product announcements is noticeably down in 2010 -- there's still some interesting technology on display at photokina, which is the largest imaging show in the world. (It's worth noting, however, that the American press contingent at photokina 2010 is minuscule compared to previous years. Travel budgets certainly aren't what they used to be.)

Here are some of the highlights from press preview day. (Check PDN Gear Guide for more photokina 2010 reports throughout the week.)

The First VW-Designed Titanium Leica M9 Goes to Steve Sasson
The Leica press preview event at photokina is always the hottest ticket in town and this year the company pulled out all the stops. No, there wasn't another Leica S2-type announcement like the one from photokina 2008, but there was a somewhat unusual collaboration between Leica and German car manufacturer Volkswagen.

VW's head of design, Walter de'Silva, designed the new Leica M9 Titanium model, a limited edition camera that's sure to make Leica aficionados drool with something akin to blood lust.

Though it's hardly a major redesign of the M9, a full-frame-sensored digital rangefinder that's already attracted a lot of gadget envy since it launched last year, de'Silva's added some sparkling touches to it, including a new textured grip made from the same leather used in the interiors of Audi automobiles (VW and Audi are jointly owned) and that crushingly fetching silverline Titanium exterior. We didn't get a chance to play with the camera -- Leica kept it at a safe distance from the press' grubby fingers -- but the Titanium exterior should make it lighter than the original M9.

Other style pieces we liked about this pimped-out M9 include the spokes-like lens and hood attachment -- an obvious nod to de'Silva's VW background -- and the slightly bizarre leather shoulder holster cross-chest carrying strap. There's also a Rube Goldberg-esque box packaging for the Titanium M9 which Leica describes in its press release as "an elaborately handcrafted black casket." Hmm...

The camera will be limited to 500 units and available from Leica dealers beginning in November. Even though the as-yet unannounced  price -- which includes a Leica Summliux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens -- is sure to be through the roof, there will be likely be a long waiting list for this camera.  Maybe the Recession really did end in June 2009 as recent news reports suggest.

As part of the festivities at the Leica preview, company CEO Dr. Andreas Kaufmann presented a Titanium M9 to Steve Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera. Sasson, who worked for Kodak at the time of his invention, built the first digital camera in 1975 from spare parts he found around Kodak's headquarters in Rochester, NY. According to Kaufmann, the Titanium M9 given to Sasson represented the four millionth Leica camera.

We caught up with Sasson after the ceremony and he seemed clearly jazzed at receiving the limited edition Leica.

"It's fantastic," Sasson told PDN Gear Guide. "The digital camera afforded us the opportunity to make something completely different since there are no moving parts. But there's something first-class about what Leica has done (with the M9) by taking something that was already a classic and melding it with digital technology. It's a great marriage and a very elegant design."

Chase Jarvis' Big Nikon D7000 Movie

Pro photographer Chase Jarvis was on hand at the Nikon press preview to show off his short fllm, "Benevolent Mischief," which was shot entirely in HD with the new Nikon D7000. Though Jarvis posted the film on his blog last week, this time he got to show it on a 20-foot screen in front of a several hundred members of the press.

"The 1080p HD looks beautiful," he told us. "I spent a lot of nights at three in the morning putting this together and I can't believe how it came out. (The D7000) is really an advanced camera for the price and you can do a tremendous amount of things with it."

Jarvis said the film was shot almost entirely at ISO 1600 and 3200 and even though much of the HD footage was captured in difficult, dim lighting conditions, the footage still held up when enlarged for the big screen.

"More than 50 percent of the work I do now is motion," Jarvis noted. "This is the tip of the iceberg. The convergence of photography and video is going to grow bigger and stronger. It's on."

A Canon Birthday Party

While Canon wasn't showing off anything new at its press preview at a restaurant along the Rhine river, it was celebrating the 10th anniversary of its IXUS line of compact digital cameras, a brand that's known as ELPH in the U.S.

As part of the event, a giant IXUS birthday cake was wheeled out. Between sips of Kolsch, the press made short work of the massive confection.

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