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Photokina 2006 imaging trends

Ilse Jurrien
Photokina report
Friday 18th, August 2006
Posted by: Ilse Jurrien

Digital reflex cameras attracting the greatest interest, camera phones taking over the role of an “optical notebook”, DVDs and hard disks as new storage media for camcorders, the next generation of memory cards is ready for launch and Internet enables the photography industry to utilize new forms of communication. At Photokina in 2006, the merging of the photography and video worlds with the consumer electronics, telecommunications, and information technology sectors will lead to a new level of quality, with the Photokina presenting imaging innovations in a more extensive and focused manner than that found at any other comparable trade fair. The Photokina 2006 promises to be the biggest show ever!

Imaging Trends

Photokina 2006 show - Digital camera
Whether it's image recording, storage, or processing, or image communication and the presentation of still and moving images, photo amateurs and professional photographers alike will be able to see and experience more than ever before from September 26 to October 1, 2006 in Cologne, Germany. The Photokina 2006 show focuses on cameras, not just for reasons of tradition, but also because practically no other sector displays such product variety and wide-scale technical innovation.

Photokina show 2006 - Digital SLR cameras
Digital reflex cameras are currently attracting the greatest interest, and digital reflex photography has evolved from a high-end technique for professionals to a popular pastime for the masses. No other type of camera has experienced such high sales growth in recent years, which is not surprising given that they retain the good “old" reflex properties of great picture quality and application variety. And that explains why more and more cameras with higher resolution are now favorable, making them affordable to amateurs as well. New players from the electronics sector, including Panasonic, Samsung and Sony, are now competing for customers (in some cases cooperating with optics and electronics specialists) and putting pressure on established companies such as Canon, Fuji, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax. As a result, customers are benefiting from a greater selection of products and innovative technical solutions.

Photokina digital imaging - Image sensors
APS-C is the dominant sensor format, and its ten Megapixel resolution may become the standard for consumer models. Meanwhile, the Four Thirds system is catching up as a result of the market entry of Panasonic and (possibly) Leica. Cameras with a full-format sensor (24 x 36 mm) will remain in the professional price range for now. The latest technical development for reflex cameras is known as “LiveView”: With reflex cameras as well, Olympus and Panasonic are now making it possible to see the image on the monitor before the picture is taken, a feature that is already standard in compact cameras.

Photokina 2006 event - Optical image stabilizer
Other technology trends are having an equally significant impact on reflex and compact cameras alike. The most important of these, due to its undisputed utility, is the optical image stabilizer. This feature uses sensors that register when the camera is shaking. The system compensates for this instability with an opposing movement of either the image sensor in the camera, or one of the lenses. With the image stabilizer it is now possible to exploit the optical quality that sophisticated lens design and a high degree of sensor resolution offer for handheld photography. It also opens up new possibilities for taking pictures in poor lighting conditions. The basic rule here is the greater the lens focal length, the more important it is to have an optical image stabilizer. Moreover, neither the often trumpeted “digital image stabilizer” nor a “digital zoom” can substitute for a true optical solution, as the former invariably lead to a loss of quality.

Photokina Trade Show - LCD monitor
Particularly pleasing is the trend toward increasingly larger LCD monitors, even in compact cameras. Here, it's important for resolution to keep pace with monitor size, otherwise the image will be bigger but the pixels will become rougher. Many of the latest improvements have been made inside the camera and remain unseen to users. For example, a new generation of image processors is speeding up internal image processing and making it more precise. The long time it takes to turn on a camera and take a series of photos, a problem people often complain about with earlier generations of cameras, will become a thing of the past with the introduction of models equipped with the new processors.

Photokina 2006 Trade event - Communication
More and more digital cameras are now being transformed from stand-alone devices to versatile communication units. PictBridge is practically the standard now for direct printing, and wireless communication systems are offering consumers greater convenience. Such systems include Bluetooth, for close proximity connections at home or in the office, and WLAN. With WLAN, amateurs can send their pictures to an online service and professionals at events can use it to transmit images to their editorial office.

Photokina Trade event - Camera phones
Camera cell phones are also responsible for another digital camera trend: Practically no name-brand manufacturer still offers a digital camera with less than four Megapixels. The former entry-level segment is thus disappearing, and the trend is now the five to six Megapixel models (currently the most widely available), as well as seven to eight Megapixel cameras as the consumer standard. Camera phones are also taking over from digital cameras the role of an “optical notebook” always at the ready for spontaneous snapshots. The photo quality of the new three Megapixel models on the German market is not only sufficient for PC and Internet applications but also for making prints up to 13 x 18 cm at a quality comparable to the old analog pocket format.

2006 Photokina show - PictBridge and Megapixels
Camera cell phones now also feature PictBridge compatibility for direct printing as standard, whether via wires or Bluetooth. In spite of all they can do, camera cell phones are still often plagued by long reaction times and limited photographic design possibilities, which is why they are still no substitute for a “real” digital camera. A preview of what the future might bring is offered by the Korean market, where camera phones with up to ten Megapixels have already been presented. The trend in Europe will focus initially on extended multimedia features, and Nokia and Sony Ericsson are particularly active in this area. Many cell phones already come with an MP3 player and FM radio, while Internet connections and digital mobile television are still in their infancy.

2006 Photokina Trade Show - Digital camcorders
The miniaturization of digital camcorders has reached its physical limits, as has the focal-length range of the mega-zoom lenses. Current models are designed according to the principle of “as compact as possible, and as large as necessary.” Technical trends are focused on replacing mini-DV cassettes as storage media with DVDs or hard disks. The new media stand out by virtue of their user friendliness and fast operation, not to mention the elimination of tapes that can unwind and the need to rewind and fast-forward. Simple hook-ups to PCs and Macs, and less expensive and easier-to-use software, are making new camcorders more fun to use for beginners. Moreover, the final burned DVD version of recordings can be shown on home DVD players without any problems.

Photokina 2006 imaging trends - High Definition Video
Ambitious video filmmakers are very happy about the availability of more and more three-chip camcorders with one recording sensor each for the basic colors of red, green and blue. And those who wish to thoroughly enjoy the new HDTV and 16:9-format standards can expect to see an increasing number of HD camcorders at affordable prices. Many digital camcorders now also offer the possibility of taking digital photos of three or more mega pixels, thanks to the increasingly higher resolutions offered by chips. Meanwhile, analog camcorders have practically disappeared from the market.

Flash Memory card - Storage capacity
The next generation of memory cards is now ready for launch under the designation SDHC, and the first 4GB cards in the new standard will be presented at Photokina 2006. The standard basically allows for higher storage capacity of up to 32 gigabytes on cards smaller than a postage stamp. The trend toward increasingly higher resolution and RAW formats (with correspondingly larger data volumes) is complemented by faster card writing and reading speeds, which is also paving the way for combination devices with moving image recording. However, being able to exploit the greater possibilities of SDHC cards will require suitably designed cameras, and the first such models will be on display at Photokina.

Mobile storage device - Photos and Videos
Many manufacturers are now offering an increasing number of attractively priced mobile memory devices with integrated mini-disks for storing a large amount of image content. Capacities of up to 120GB are now available on the market, and those willing to spend a little more can choose from numerous multifaceted devices that not only store photos and display them on LCD monitors but can also store videos and feature MP3 players and even terrestrial digital TV.

Photokina 2006 - Photo presentation
Methods for taking pictures and presenting them have never been so easy and varied: Whether it's printing at home, or sending pictures out for printing, anyone can present their photos according to their own individual requirements. Printers optimized for photos can be filled with up to eight different inks, allowing ambitious photographers to extract the finest nuances from digital image data. Handy compact printers provide “instant digital images” that are perfect for parties or quick documentation. Printing with such devices has become less complicated; and it can even be done without a computer, by using either a PictBridge connection linked to the camera, or an integrated card reader that extracts data from the memory card. Professional large-format printing for the most diverse applications is also delivering increasingly impressive results.

Online print service - Digital Photo Album
In addition, online companies worldwide and local photo stores can blow up digital photos at the highest level of quality, using the same durable photo paper that consumers are accustomed to from analog photos. Growing in popularity are new forms of presentation, including individually designed photo albums and “digital slide shows” shown on high-resolution TV screens or projectors. Televisions and hard-disk recorders equipped with a slot for photo memory chips are now being offered on the market, and HDTV is leading to a merging of the worlds of photography and video.

Photokina 2006 show - Imaging trends
Photos can now also be seen anywhere in the world, at any time, thanks to faster and faster connections, whether online via DSL, on the move with UMTS, or wireless at home or in the office with WLAN networks or Bluetooth. What's more, photo communities and blogs that make possible global image presentations (for example the web site of, and SRMP portals offering new imaging marketing opportunities (like, are enabling the photography industry to utilize completely new forms of communication.

Photokina 2006 Trade show - Technology and Innovation
The flood of new products, technologies and services in the imaging sector is making it more difficult even for experts to maintain an overview of what's on offer. Given this situation, Photokina's role as point of reference and a barometer of trends in the booming imaging industry is more important than ever before. No other event in the world provides active image-makers with so much first-hand information on so many areas of interest, and all at one location.

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