Magazine article Editor & Publisher

AP, Kodak Unveil NC2000; Electronic Camera Is the First Designed for News Photographers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

AP, Kodak Unveil NC2000; Electronic Camera Is the First Designed for News Photographers

Article excerpt

NOT 48 HOURS after the Super Bowl in Atlanta and only days before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, the Associated Press and Eastman Kodak Co. introduced the News Camera 2000.

After years of developing digital cameras and with considerable contributions from the AP, which supplied the news application specifications, Kodak designed and built a model strictly to meet the needs of news photographers.

Chief among the camera's capabilities, apart from easier handling, charging and storage, are its sensitivity to a wide range of lighting and its color fidelity.

With Kodak's DCS electronic cameras, AP editorial imaging product manager Jim Gerberich said, "Our earlier experiments turned into more page ones than anyone expected." But the Super Bowl, he said, was no experiment.

The AP filed almost 30 photos from the Super Bowl. Executive photo editor Vin Alabiso said three AP photographers at the game shot only with the NC2000.

"When it was over," he said, "one in four photos was electronic." Those photos, he added, arrived 30 minutes faster than film scans.

With the Leafax IIId in the field, 1,100 AP Leafdesks in newsrooms and satellite delivery of compressed digital images, the Associated Press considered its PhotoStream network complete: end-to-end digital handling of photos, from scanned films to pageready photo files.

But full start-to-finish digital news photography would see no films to scan in the field or file in the library. Solutions to electronic photo capture and searchable storage have been emerging for several years. Like digital archives, however, the use of digital cameras has been the exception.

With the NC2000, the AP hopes to move electronic news photography from an experimental expedient at deadline to a routine practice. At its formal introduction last month, A1abiso said, "The camera will be integrated into our regular coverage:'

The same kind of deadline coverage was made possible by the introduction of still-video camera systems in the 1980s and in the early 1990s by the first digital cameras for use outside of labs and studios.

The latter were in most ways an improvement from still-video's usually lower resolutions and analog signals. They were conventional 35mm SLR bodies fitted with new backs and bases containing CCD arrays in place of the exposure plane and digital conversion and other circuitry where the filmhandling mechanics once resided.

In one way or another, still-video and digital cameras continued to offer compromises in matters such as speed, image quality, camera size, related equipment, photo storage and transmission.

To do their job well, photographers needed a familiar and compact camera that delivered good images fast and stored them as easily as a roll of film. They also needed an easy way to preview, correct and transmit their photos as digital images.

No longer must quality be sacrificed for speed, Gerberich said. And the NC2000, he said, is more practical for the news photographer than earlier digital models.

In fact, the only obvious compromise is in the camera's price -- somewhere between the prices of Kodak's first and second digital models.

In the words of AP president Louis Boccardi, the new camera is "the next logical step."

It follows the introduction last year of the AP PhotoLynx Pro scannertransmitter, upon which the NC2000 depends for all field functions other than image capture.

Another similarly outfitted scannertransmitter device could be used, but the AP said the NC2000 was designed to work with PhotoLynx hardware and software.

New storage technology keeps the camera and the portable PhotoLynx small, light and convenient. The NC2000's improved electro-optics and fast exposure keep image quality high, and its Nikon optics and body provide a familiar feel.

The nature of the connection to the AP-designed custom docking station for the Apple PowerBook-based PhotoLynx (for which the camera includes an Adobe Photoshop plug-in) is viewed as a key to the camera's success. …

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