Digital Cameras Go Mainstream p.70

By: DEBORA TOTH NEWSPAPERS' EFFORTS TO tighten deadlines and reduce operating costs are being significantly aided by the adoption of digital cameras, as many obstacles that limited photojournalists' use of the cameras are being eliminated and new models with more memory bring flexibility to low-light situations.
"Newspapers are arranging their budgets to buy digital cameras," says Marty Cammarata, sales director of Associated Press Technology Marketing, which markets the News Camera 2000e. "Either a newspaper has a digital camera or is entertaining buying them. Newspapers can finally cost justify them. There's no film development to pay for or wait for. Digital cameras offer ease of use and time savings."
Cammarata credits Associated Press' success with dig-
ital cameras for the new technology's increased use.
"I was in Hobart, Tasmania, in May for a newspaper trade show," recalled Cammarata. "It so happened we were there the day of the massacre. We shot both film and digital images. I was able to come back to Hobart, take the removable drive and input the images into my Mac, and send the images to our offices in New York City online. At that same point, I got a call from the local photo lab that the film had been developed."
The camera "scooped the entire staff of photographers," he continued. "Newspapers were astounded that the camera performed so well in that environment. The quality was excellent."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's associate editor of flash photography is quite aware of being scooped by a digital camera.
"When I was with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, we used film for the 1995 World Series," said Curt Chandler. "AP was using their digital cameras. They beat us by 45 minutes with their images of the baseball game while we waited for our film to be developed. At a big event like the World Series, that's a lot of time."
At his new post with the Pittsburgh newspaper, Chandler is experimenting with various digital cameras before making a purchase. He's tried a Fujix Nikon for such events as the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, both of which included Pittsburgh teams.
"When we did the Super Bowl, we used a digital image for the front cover page," says Chandler. "In our case, we needed a good shot of the fans' post-game depression. When AP covers an event, they shoot the winning team. The game ended at 9:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and by 10:35 p.m. we had transmitted, toned and laid out the page. At that same time, we were just getting our first roll of film developed. We're in a very competitive market. The digital image gave us the advantage."
The Jonesboro (Ark.) Sun is balancing between digital and traditional film. Its three staff photographers are equipped with two AP NC2000 digital cameras, which will be upgraded to the NC2000e version this year, while the newspaper's reporters are equipped to shoot with film.
"We get better turnaround with the digital cameras, especially for deadlines," said Mark Pace, head of photography
in Jonesboro. "For some
reason, we have a lot
of wrecks in this area. We can send a photographer out at 10 p.m., get a digital image, and go to press with it for the next day's edition."
Pace uses the digital cameras for both action and still photography. For example, a local college football team's game in Minneapolis can be shot in a domed arena and sent via AP's PhotoLink software back to Jonesboro in minutes. Mug shots for particular interviews can be shot digitally, saving both time and film costs.
"If it's one more shot for the day, rather than use a whole roll of film for a mug shot, we go digital," said Pace. "That way we save film and development costs, plus we can see the person's image immediately and if we don't like it, take as many more as we need."
This year has seen a flurry of new digital cameras. Agfa introduced its StudioCam model for still photography and ActionCam model for action photography. Utilizing the CCD (charge-couple device) sensor technology developed for the company's other imaging products, the cameras electronically capture images that are instantly available for preview and transmission. Both retail for $9,499.
Unique to Agfa's digital cameras is a bundled software package that includes Agfa's own FotoTune Cam color management software. StudioCam is equipped with FotoLook, an application that can automatically optimize exposure levels, contrast, color balance and computer-enhanced sharpness. Both cameras also include Adobe Photoshop LE image editing and Cumulus Desktop Image Database software.
Designed for use in professional photo studios and desktop publishing environments, StudioCam is suited for high-quality, still-life photography. It captures still scenes at a high optical resolution of 4500 x 3648 pixels with 36-bit color for direct downloading through a Macintosh.
ActionCam is for catalog publishing, journalism, advertising and multimedia work. ActionCam allows users to take full control when they need special effects not supported by automatic operation. Program choices include speed- or aperture-priority settings for sport, portrait, landscape and nature photography. ActionCam uses the body of the 35mm Minolta Maxxum. It captures up to 24 fully processed large, moving or heat-sensitive images in one minute on a 1548 x 1148-pixel sensor for 200-lpi offset printing at up to 4 x 5 inches.
Digital information can immediately be imported to a computer via modem or direct SCSI link. Files are stored on removable miniature PCMCIA cards that plug into the back of the camera. Each card holds up to 114 images.
In January, the Associated Press introduced an advanced version of the News Camera 2000, the first electronic camera designed specifically for photojournalists, called the News Camera 2000e.
The NC2000e is the result of a collaboration between AP and Kodak, which for four years have been testing and refining electronic cameras for photojournalism. Improved electronics in the NC2000e provide significantly enhanced image quality and color fidelity at higher ISOs.
The new technology reduces digital noise and eliminates the grainy texture common in digital images higher than 800 ISO. The NC2000e has increased memory to 16 MB, enabling photographers to shoot more consecutive frames before saving images to the drive (2.25 frames per second for a burst of 12 images). An advanced Photoshop plug-in designed by AP allows users to work with 36-bit data before saving it in standard 24-bit RGB mode.
Dicomed is expanding its BigShot digital camera line to include the BigShot 4000 and BigShot 3000. The high-end BigShot 4000, suitable for fashion and product photography, is a single-shot instant-capture camera featuring a front-of-the-lens Liquid Crystal Tunable Filter (LCTF).
This patented filtration and chip clocking and read-out scheme provides capture of all three primary colors in a single exposure at 10 bits per channel. The filter cycles rapidly through red, green and blue within the single flash exposure, and the full-color 48MB file is downloaded by fast SCSI-3 connection to the host Macintosh. Versions for Windows NT will be available in six months. The BigShot 4000 is priced at $54,900.
The economically priced BigShot 3000 uses the same LCTF but captures the three primary colors in three flash exposures, in less than 10 seconds, yielding a full 12-bit 48MB file. The BigShot 3000 is priced at $39,900.
In March, Polaroid Corp. introduced its first digital camera. The PDC-2000 features a megapixel sensor based on Polaroid's imaging technology to capture 24-bit color digital images that can be easily transferred to any computer or printed at a resolution level as high as 1600 x 1200 pixels.
Unlike other digital cameras, PDC-2000 images are not compressed, so there is no loss of image data or visual quality. With one million pixels of image data per shot, Polaroid says that PDC-2000 images can be enlarged to 8 x 10 inches.
The PDC-2000 comes in three different models. Customers can select a model that stores 40 images ($3,695), one that stores 60 images ($4,995) or another that relies on a cable connection to a computer for storage ($2,995). Pictures are captured at the original million-pixel resolution and can be transferred to any computer system at resolutions of 1600 x 1200 or 800 x 600.
Each image is automatically recorded with the date and time and can be labeled with letters or numbers for easy identification when transferred to any Macintosh or Windows PC. Pictures can be deleted one at a time or all at once and retaken on the spot. All PDC-2000 models use a SCSI-2 interface to ensure image transfer in seconds from camera to computer.
According to Polaroid, the PDC-2000 is suitable for small to mid-size photos. It is not recommended for sports photography or full- or half-page spreads.
?(Toth is aq freelance writer) [Caption]
?(Mario Lemieux and Pittsburgh Penguin teammates in Stanley Cup playoffs, photographed with Fujix Nikon digital camera) [Photo & Caption]
?(Football action shot taken with an AP NC2000 digital camera) [Photo & Caption]
?(Agfa's Minolta Maxxum-based Actioncam comes bundled with Agfa color management, Adobe Photoshop LE and Cumulus image database software.) [Photo & Caption]
?(Polaroid PDC-2000 is a million-pixel camera in three models that feature automatic exposure control, autofocus and automatic flash up to 15 feet.) [Photo & Caption]


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