Review: 2009 Consumer Electronics Show
Written by George S. Pearl   

The 2009 Consumer Electronics Show:
What’s new for the CSI and Evidence Photographer?

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada is the world’s largest show of its kind. For the better part of a week in January, it stretches out through the entire Las Vegas Convention Center and spills into several nearby hotels and convention centers. This year, I took the opportunity to see what could be found as useable new products for crime-scene investigation and evidence photographers. Even though most of the products there—such as a $650,000 home stereo system, video games, and super-thin televisions—did not apply to our trade, there were a few gems to be found. After spending two and a half days searching through a forest of new products, I was able to find several items that I think are worth taking a look at for your departments.

Just in case you still like film…

Eastman Kodak Corporation is now producing what they call the “World’s finest grain color negative film!” The product is Kodak’s new Ektar 100.

I was told that it is sharper than the now-discontinued Ektar 25 film, which was amazing. With the new higher ISO rating that this film has, I can’t wait to give it a try. There is still need for film in a variety of applications—and I was surprised to see how many digital cameras now have a film-look mode where they are trying to output images to look more like film. Why not actually just shoot film, especially when now you can get the “sharpest in the world”? www.kodak.com


Prints that last 120 years

Kodak is reinventing the company to meet the demands of a digital world. The first thing that I was impressed with was their new digital ESP 5 All In One Printer. This printer will deliver extremely high-quality, borderless prints at sizes ranging from 4 x 6-in. up to 8.5 x 11-in.
It has been available for a few months and promises to help save a lot of money on ink costs while delivering prints of outstanding quality that will last archivally for up to 120 years. I was impressed at how fast it printed and that the prints come out dry and smudge resistant.

“The printer is extremely sharp and prints up to 9600 dpi,” said Kim McAllister, marketing-communications manager with Kodak. “One advantage of this new printer is that it adjusts the color printing for each paper type by sensing a barcode on the rear of the paper being fed into it.” With that new sensing, the need to tell the printer what type paper you are using is now in the past.

“We have also optimized our color cartridge so that one color doesn’t run out before another,” added McAllister. “When the cartridge is out of ink, they (all colors) all are out, other than the black which is a single.”

I thought the ESP 5 printer was a bargain at a retail list price of $149, but when I discovered that it had an optical scanner on top as well, I started jumping up and down. It can print directly from your memory cards, directly from your camera, or from your PC or Mac. The ESP 5 has a color 3-in. LCD screen that allows you to view your pictures and make corrections prior to printing. The ink cost is very low: about $9.99 for the black-and-white and around $14.99 for the color. I have not tested this printer myself, but the prints look excellent. www.kodak.com


Ultra-portable HD video from Kodak

Kodak’s Zx1 Digital Video Camera with 2x zoom is priced at $149 and will be available in April 2009. The new HD camera is iP43 Certified and can be used in the rain or snow. It makes MOV HD files for the Mac and PC. It provides 720 HD video at up to 60 fps for bright or low light. You can edit, create, and upload videos with its built-in software. This new video camera is the same size as my handheld calculator (2.0 x 4.2 x 0.8 in.) and can record up to ten hours of HD video with an SD/SDHC memory card. An optional $10 remote control will operate the camera and the playback but will not turn it on or off.

It slips into your pocket, but don’t let the small size fool you. The video output this little device produces is almost science fiction to me coming from an era where I had to lug huge cameras, batteries, and then a big heavy video recorder too—but still not get even half the image quality or recording time and ease of operation this new Kodak HD camera provides. They come in five different colors. I want the red one. www.kodak.com


There it is: right before your eyes…

The Myvu Personal Media Viewer from the Myvu Corporation of West-wood, Massachusetts is an eye-catching product that reminded me of Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. These lightweight video viewers are worn like a pair of sunglasses, allow-ing one to see the equivalent of a 52-in. video screen that is 9 ft. away.

The viewer also has little ear buds that dangle from each side to allow listening to audio if you need it. What makes this viewer so important for crime-scene or evidence photography use is that you can connect it to a small video-chip camera (not included) using the RCA adapter that comes with the unit.

Dan Cui, Sr., vice president of Myvu Corporation’s worldwide sales, said that the viewers were created in 1995. “Back then, they were only sold to military, medical, and industrial customers, but in 2007 they were marketed to the consumer,” he said. “You can use it if it is hooked to a nightscope or IR viewer, and we have a lot of our customers flying model airplanes with a camera in the plane transmitting to the Myvu pilot.”

I like the viewers for use with a camera attached to a pole. The viewers allow you to position the camera for overhead shots of a dead body on the floor or some other photographic situation calling for an overhead view. A small video-chip camera running on a 9-volt battery is all that is needed on the camera-end of the pole. You just run a cable down the pole to hook the camera to the Myvu set. This video eyewear would work well with a Fusion Helicopter (see “You’re hovering…” on Page 22) to monitor exactly what the onboard camera is seeing.

These start at only $99 retail for a QVGA 320x240 widescreen. I thought the resolution on this least-expensive model to be extremely good, but they have an even better VGA 640x480 model, and in May, a Super VGA 800x600 model becomes available for about $400. www.myvu.com


Portable USB microscope

The Veho Discovery Microscope VMS-001 should be useful for some investigators. It is a small-but-capable, USB-powered 20x to 200x 1.3-mega-pixel magnification microscope that is about $150 (software included). But despite the relatively low price, this small scope is no toy: it captures up to 1280x960 AVI resolution. It has four bright, switchable LED lights around the lens to illuminate objects. If you want to see bullet markings or toolmarks really close-up, try this microscope. Coming soon will be a 20 to 400x model. Available at...

www.focuscamera.com
www.firebox.com


Here’s a good way to see in the dark:

Luna Optics of Staten Island, New York provides many different types of night-vision scopes. Vlad Savchik, president of Luna Optics, informs me that their scopes will attach to SLR-type cameras using a T-mount lens adapter ring. All units have IR illuminators built into them that have a reach of about 150 ft. They also have an attachable laser. “The laser’s beam can be adjusted wider or narrower and can project about 1,000 meters. The beam is almost invisible for all practical purposes,” said Savchik. The scopes can cost approximately $1,300 and the Laser Illuminators are around $300. www.lunaoptics.com


All-weather photography

Bogen Imaging distributes the Kata E-702 Elements Cover that was designed for SLR cameras or camcorders. Just because it is raining, snowing, or a dust storm is blowing should we not photograph evidence at a scene? Should it just be allowed to wash or blow away? Maybe the requirement is to photograph in the rain to replicate the view of a scene that a witness had while standing in the rain. Whatever the case, the new Kata E-702 Elements Cover for SLRs or video camcorders (available for $50 retail) will help solve your wet-shooting problems and allow full function of the camera while keeping it safe and dry.

“This is the best-selling product in the Kata Protective Carrying Solutions line,” said Doug Feldner, production manager for Bogen Imaging. “For SLR, the E-702 can accommodate up to 200mm lenses.”

Even though it may look cumbersome, this product is not difficult to use. It is made of a unique, very soft plastic that felt to me much like liquid rubber. Being soft and pliable, it folds up into a very small package for portability and storage. www.bogenimaging.us


Advanced HD video and photos

The Sony Handy Cam HDR-XR500V is a 1920x1080 HD video camera and 12.1 megapixel still-image-capture camera that took me by surprise. This camera has a new Exmor-R sensor in it for stunning low-light performance. It also has GPS built in and Navteq Maps. It has an optical steady-shot with active mode and a 12x zoom. The camera can record for 14.5 hours on its own internal, 120GB drive. In writing this, there are no words for me to explain the dynamic range ability of this little camera. It has the ability to film and record all of the details in the bright areas and the shaded areas—all at the same time—for outstanding clarity. The retail price is listed at $1,299—but it is worth it if you need to show every detail in a difficult record-ing situation such as an arson scene. www.sony.com


Updated UV/IR capabilities

Fujifilm’s IS-1 is a UV/IR-capable Neo-SLR camera that also does video. The IS-1 is the follow-up to Fujifilm’s S3 Pro UVIR SLR camera. It is extremely lightweight, comfortable to grip, and easy to operate. Perhaps the best feature of this camera is the adjustable live-viewing screen that allows the user to view what the camera is seeing from almost any position: from waist level to straight ahead, or from over your head as well as under objects—all while in the IR mode. With this camera, a whole room could be quickly imaged in IR for evidence.

With a special filter (PECA) the camera can also shoot normal color photography or video as well. The 38–300mm lens allows for a huge zoom range and the f/2.8 lens is good in low light, too. In macro, the camera can shoot down to 1:1 magnification. Audio is also recorded during video recording. Fujifilm also offers one step up from the IS-1: the IS Pro, which offers, among other pro features, interchangeable lenses. The smaller, less expensive IS-1, however, is still a workhorse that you might want to consider. www.fujifilm.com


How to control your computer cords:

E-Filliate, Inc., a company that is located in Rancho Cordova, California, is marketing a unique product called the Flexicord to address those big tangles of wires that inevitably form when computers are hooked to multiple peripherals.

“We have been working on it for two years and the cables are patent pending,” said Chuck Sherwood, director of operations for E-Filliate. “They can extend to ten-times their coiled lengths.” The company carries all general cables (such as USB or Firewire) that are bendable into whatever shape you might desire. They have HDMI, computer, data, and audio cables as well. “Having formable cables that maintain shape and length reduces the amount of space that is required—and it also reduces the cable clutter,” said Sherwood. www.flexicord.com


You’re hovering…
Model helicopters give you a way to photograph
difficult-to-reach crime scenes

Fusion R/C helicopter


Spy Copter II helicopter

DigitTronics, Inc. of El Monte, California had what I thought was the showstopper new product for crime-scene and evidence photographers. The company makes several different types of electric-powered model helicopters. Don’t go discounting this until you hear me out: The Fusion R/C helicopter can fly at 40 mph and carry a special 400-line color video camera and transmitter (large photo, above). The other model shown was the Spy Copter II (inset photo) which is able to lift up to a one-lb. payload, but Patrick Le, the sales manager for DigitTronics, told me that the Fusion model is easier to fly and can be learned in only ten minutes because of its unique design of counter-rotating blades. The Spy Copter II, he said, is flown like a real helicopter and will take over two hours to learn just to hover, but it can carry a special HD video/still camera they sell that captures 8-megapixel images.

If you get the video-transmission accessory, you could use the Myvu eyepiece (see “There it is: Right before your eyes…” on Page 19) as a monitor. Both of the model helicopters can fly a mission for about 20 minutes before a quick change of rechargeable batteries is required.

The Fusion model was advertised at the show for $249 and then you pay an extra $119 for the video camera and transmitter. The helicopters come ready-to-use, right out of the box.

A 2.4 GHz spread spectrum radio/receiver protects your helicopter from other frequencies and gives you 100-percent glitch-free operation and encryption. The models can be safely operated as far as you can see them, with a maximum distance of about 1,000 ft. (line of sight).

How many times have you wanted a quick aerial view of some activity or an accident scene? Want to take a quick look in a window way up on the 15th floor or see who is on the roof shooting at you? These little choppers could make your life a lot easier and can fly inside or out. www.digittronics.com

Compare the Fusion model helicopter with the Spy Copter II by going to: www.dpl-surveillance-equipment.com


Unique and versatile new equipment for underwater photography

Liquid Image Co., LLC has a great product that actually combines two technologies into one: a scuba mask and a video camera. The product is the result of the innovative thinking by the owners of Liquid Image: Kent and Melanie Pearson.

“My wife and I came up with the idea for the underwater digital-camera mask,” Kent Pearson said. “Melanie is a snorkeler and I’m a scuba diver, so we came up with the 15-ft. depth Explorer to relieve her of holding equipment to record images on video.”

These innovative ideas evolved with their need to allow the mask to go deeper and deeper, adding buttons and springs inside and out designed to withstand the water pressure. The masks (patent-pending) use microSD memory cards. They feature built-in lights to indicate the camera mode: a blue light for video and a red light for stills—and the mode is easily changed with a rocker switch that is located at the top-right side of the mask.

Since you can also hear well under water, the mask beeps to indicate that a picture has been taken or to confirm that the video is being recorded. It also beeps three times when you run out of memory. The masks can be fitted with your own prescription lenses. For filming, they have one-watt spotlights that can maintain illumination for up to 120 minutes with three AAA Lithium batteries for each high-intensity LED light.

Four mask models are currently being produced:

  • The Explorer Series for depths of up to 15 ft.
  • The Video Mask for depths up to 33 ft.
  • The SCUBA Mask for depths up to 115 ft.
  • And the Pro-Series Mask for depths up to 330 ft.

These masks should be able to help CSI professionals document a range of underwater evidence with complete ease—while freeing up the diver’s hands so he or she can fight off an attacking electric eel or hungry octopus. The masks start at only $79. To learn more about these masks, you can visit: www.liquidimageco.com


About the Author

George S. Pearl is a certified evidence photographer through EPIC (Evidence Photographers International Council). He is president of Atlanta Legal Photo Services, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Pearl can be reached in two ways:

Telephone 404-872-2577
E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED:
"The Focal Point: New Tools for Photographers," written by George Pearl
January-February 2009 (Volume 7, Number 1)
Evidence Technology Magazine
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Item of Interest

The language barrier between English-speaking investigators and Spanish-speaking witnesses is a growing problem. (Updated 28 February 2011)

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