Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories
We’re at Photokina this week meeting with Microsoft’s partners in the imaging community and checking out all of the new equipment that has been announced over the past few weeks. Photokina is the largest imaging trade show in the world and happens every two years in Cologne, Germany. The show layout is immense, covering 230,000 square meters (nearly 2,500,000 square feet) of exhibition space, with 1600 suppliers. It’s expected that 160,000 people will visit the show during the week. The layout of the show is very well organized keeping companies, with similar products in close proximity to each other, so if you want to find out more about memory cards, Lexar, SanDisk, Kingston and the like are only a few feet away from each other. Similarly, all of the camera manufacturers are in adjacent halls (though some of their booths are so large, they take up most of the space in their respective halls).
Microsoft’s iView Multimedia has a booth here showing off some of the new features in iView Media Pro 3.1.1. We’re nestled right between Apple and Adobe, who are demoing their latest high end photo workflow offerings. Tim Grey has been there each day giving demos of the new imaging features in Windows Vista including the Windows Photo Gallery and we’ve been getting some great feedback from the attendees (though sometimes the language barriers make that process a little tricky).
The question we keep getting from people back in the office is “What is the coolest thing you’ve seen at the show?” That’s a really tough question to answer because there are so many great things here ranging from the new Hasselblad H3D medium format camera that costs about as much as a nice new car (~$30,000, but it’s 39 megapixels!) to the new cameras from Kodak, Canon and Nikon. Sigma has a new camera sporting a new Foveon X3 sensor and Epson, HP and Canon all have new printers to show off in all shapes, sizes and profiles. You probably want us to focus on just a couple of things so here goes…
Chris’ Picks of the ShowLensBaby 3G – The LensBaby is a ‘selective focus’ lens which creates some cool depth of field effects as you bend the lens to accentuate certain parts of the image. The new third generation of this lens (dubbed Lensbaby 3G) adds lens locks that hold the lens in place once you get it just the way you want and then lets you fine tune the focus before taking the shot. Josh thinks it makes your camera look like something from Hellraiser but I think we agree that it is very cool and worth checking out.
Canon Media Storage – Canon released a portable media storage device that lets you copy images off of the Canon cameras, freeing up your memory cards for more shooting and making it easy to transfer up to 80 GB of images back to the PC. It’s 3.7” TFT LCD display makes it easy to review your pictures in JPEG, TIFF or Canon RAW formats and the device is laid out just like the back of a Canon DSLR so it should be very intuitive to any Canon shooter.
Josh’s Picks of the ShowI would have to agree with Chris that the LensBaby3G is the ‘coolest’ new item at the show and one that’s sure to make my wallet lighter. The ability to lock the lens, and then fine tune the adjustment using the control knobs is reminiscent of the kind of control you get with a 4 x 5 view camera. My other picks include:
Hasselblad H3D – This is essentially a full frame DSLR on steroids. Boasting a 48 x 36mm sensor—twice the size of a full frame 35mm sensor—available in 22 and 39 megapixels, this camera packs enough resolution for the most demanding applications. Despite its size, it was remarkably well balanced and comfortable. As Chris mentions, it’s not cheap. Plus you’re going to need to invest heavily in storage—a 16-bit image off the 39 megapixel H3D is going to be about 200MB!
Epson Photo Stylus 3800 – This is an amazing printer before you realize that it’s $1,295. Capable of printing up to 17 inches wide with the latest Epson K3 inks, automatic switching between photo and matte black modes, new screening technology that makes it nearly impossible to see the actual dots, and dramatically smaller than its predecessor, this is perfect for making beautiful, long lasting prints.
Adobe Lightroom – This is a new class of digital imaging application intended to make the digital workflow faster, easier, and more productive. While it’s still in beta, I really like the approach of using one piece of software to organize & manage, process, print, and publish my photos. One the unique new features is non-destructive editing. This essentially means that any changes you make in Lightroom don’t affect your original image. Lightroom keeps track of these changes and applies them to copies of the image when you save, print, or publish the image. It’s going to be very exciting to watch this application evolve.
It was really cool of the Photokina folks to provide some great photo opportunities at the show. Aside from the Kölner Dom Cathedral and numerous bridges, there was a stage outdoors with several beautiful eagles and a couple of times per day, the eagles fly back and forth between trainers across the courtyard. Great photo opportunities!
If you want to see lots of great pictures from each of the major players at the show, stop by DPReview’s live Photokina coverage which includes a brief review of each booth and lots of pictures of the cool new devices at each one.
- Chris Evans and Josh Weisberg
Although we talk a a lot about the Windows Photo Gallery, the photo experience in Vista also includes the Windows Explorer (“the shell”), Media Center, Windows Media Player, and Movie Maker, to name a few. Separate teams work on these different components. However, we spend quite a bit of time with each other coordinating the work that we do, so that the user has a good experience when they’re working with their photos.
But each team also make sure that the user experience is also optimized based on how you’re interacting with it. Media Center pulls together the media experiences across Windows—photos, videos, music, TV—into great remote-controlled UI. Media Center folks call this the 10-foot experience instead of the keyboard-and-mouse-based 2-foot experience. So the photo experience in Media Center is optimized for that 10’ experience.
(By the way – 10 and 2 feet are the distances between your nose and the monitor when you’re using each of those interfaces. As a matter of full disclosure, I worked on the Media Center team for several years before I joined the PIX team. :-) )
For example, metadata and photo organization are a big investment for Vista, enabling users to easily browse, find, and share your photos that you’ve taken. Since the Media Center experience is all about easy browsing and consuming of your content, too, it’s a no-brainer for us to make sure that the tagging concept we added as a core part of the photo experience in the 2’ photo gallery was also available at 10’ media center.
A place where we made some compromises is in how we handle acquisition of photos. The Media Center team wasn’t able to take advantage of the new photo acquisition platform that we added to vista, but we still worked together to make sure that the overall experience works – regardless of the underlying technology. We made sure that our photos are still viewable in both media center and the gallery. Yeah, it means that the Media Center implementation misses features like auto-rotate during import or plug-in support, but based on the costs and resources, we think this was a reasonable tradeoff.
Then there are some things that we don’t even try to keep parity with. A feature that may inherently require a lot of keyboard and mouse work – like composing an email – just isn’t as compelling to add to the remote-control-driven Media Center.
That’s all well and good, but how do I use it?
I love using Media Center to immediately review photos that I’ve just taken – like from a party that’s still underway, or straight back from vacation.
I’ve got a Living Room PC form-factor Media Center in my living room. I just pop my memory card into the PC and immediately begin reviewing my photos full-screen with the remote. I use Media Center’s immediate editing features to correct rotation or to zoom on in pictures.
I then save the detailed editing and tagging for when I go upstairs to get to my home office with my “regular” PC with keyboard and mouse handy. On the flip-side, I’ve got my photo collection on my home office PC shared out on my home network, so I can browse my full collection from my media center PC.
That just happens to be *my* workflow. I could also have used Media Center to import them to a network location, and then reviewed the photos from another PC. (I’ve just got some habit that I’ve built up around doing some lightweight processing around photos when they come in, and I like being reminded of it by the physical action of plugging my card in my main PC)
- Rodger Benson, Group Program Manager
When I think “photographer”, I picture some guy with a khaki, pocket-riddled vest, two or three camera bags slung around shoulders and back and a camera with a lens like an elephant trunk. It’s funny, because I’m a photographer and that certainly doesn’t describe me. I shoot with a Canon SD700, a simple but powerful point and shoot. I like it because its image stabilization technology lets me take pictures without a flash (so I get nice, warm colors) in low-light conditions (e.g., late-night events), but, more importantly, because it’s small enough to drop it in my pocket and forget about it. Anything bulkier would be too awkward to carry around and I’d use it less.
Another common image of the “photographer” is of a darkroom purist, carefully editing each picture to maximize its artistic and aesthetic qualities, the end result destined for black and white matting or a personally-hosted web album. Obvously, there are a lot of people like that (and, honestly, I share a hallway with many of them here on the PIX team), but again, that ain’t me.
I like to have FUN with photos. Sure, I crop them, remove the red-eye and tweak the colors, but I also muck with them. Sometimes I’ll throw a cartoon or neon filter over them to add a bit of drama or scrawl a word balloon or a mustache. When I share my photos, sure I put them on-line, but as often as not, when my friends actually see them, I’m sitting at the computer, narrating the stories, jumping around between pictures and providing color commentary (if you’ll excuse the pun).
That’s why I love services and apps like fd’s flickr toys. It lets you do fun things like make it look like your photo is a roadside billboard, add comic book style caption and put your face on the cover of a magazine. Zingfu is another one for making “your photoz dumber”. Here’s me on the side of a milk carton, courtesy of Zingfu.
So here’s my question to you all: what are other fun sites like these that I’d enjoy? Not just sites that let me add a template to my photo, but sites that let me play and build things with photos? Send in your suggestions through this blog's comment feature, and I’ll post a follow-up with a round-up of the best (IMHO).
- Jordan Schwartz, Senior Program Manager
Awhile ago, Jordan and I met with Duncan from http://on10.net to give him a look at the Windows Photo Gallery in Vista.
Duncan has posted the video of our encounter, check it out!
- Scott Dart (Program Manager)