December 30, 2006 - With the year’s end, we round up 2006 - 12 months that were loaded with new cameras, spoiled with a few recalls, and fraught with a corporate scandal or two.
As a Photokina year, we saw product-packed camera lines. Some of the more attention-grabbing announcements came from big-time manufacturers coming out of hibernation. Those headliners included Hasselblad’s H3D, the "first 48mm full frame DSLR," as they call it, Sigma’s flagship SD14 DSLR announcement, and Leica’s M8 rangefinder. Despite consumer anticipation, the pricey cameras faced a backlash for Hasselblad’s H3D "DSLR" branding, Sigma’s SD14 postponement, and malfunctions with the Leica M8.
Other exciting news came from new SLR announcements, including newcomers to the SLR business, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-L1 and Sony’s Alpha A100 with dust removal. Samsung also officially made available their first DSLR the GX-1S early this year and announced the GX-10 at Photokina. These new cameras add to the collection of manufacturers squeezing into the dense DSLR market, while providing consumers with alternatively priced products.
Fuji took the law into their own hands by introducing the Fuji S3 Pro UVIR for law enforcement and forensics work, along with a separate launch of the S5 Pro geared for portrait and nature photographers.
Olympus unveiled their EVOLT E-330 DSLR, the first with live preview. They also unveiled their smallest DSLR, the EVOLT E-400 for European markets. Pentax launched the K10D with shake reduction.
DSLRs weren’t the only heavy hitters for the year. New point-and-shoot models saturated CES, PMA, and of course, Photokina with a host of new or enhanced features, including face recognition as seen on the Fuji FinePix F31fd and S6000fd, Canon G7, and the Pentax Optio S7.
Another innovation included more user-friendly touch screens, which was introduced last year, and have been seen on this year’s models including the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50, Pentax Optio T20, and Samsung’s new NV products of the NV10 and NV7 OPS with Smart Touch user interface.
A few other manufacturers also beefed up their point-and-shoot products with more waterproofed models such as Pentax Optio W10 and W20 and the shockproof Olympus Stylus 720 SW. In addition, Nikon announced their Wi-Fi enabled Coolpix S7c, in an overhaul of their point-and-shoots.
Photographers, nevertheless, did not miss the new software releases, including Apple’s Aperture that promises full integration with Mac systems. Adobe also released new versions of the editing program Lightroom Beta and the public beta to Photoshop CS3.
Even with all the new cameras and software, a few camera recalls and defects may have briefly interrupted the praise of new products. Malfunctions included the Leica rangefinder M8 and Digilux 2, eight Sony Cyber-Shots, a HP R707 point-and-shoot, and a Nikon D200 banding issue, all of which the manufacturers responded to.
Moreover, some products may have been eclipsed by the corporate dealings of leading manufacturer execs making headlines across the world. Rocked by scandal not only in the tech world, but the business world, HP faced investigation by Congress and the California Attorney General and a pretexting lawsuit that cost the manufacturer $14.5 million. Sony was investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for fixing the price of SRAM, while Samsung was found guilty of price-fixing DRAM and fined $300 million this year.
2006 had its share of glory and falls for cameras and camera manufacturers alike. Camera releases along with a tech rumor here and there will have consumers looking to CES 2007 and the year ahead.