We've weighed the opinions of our columnists and network of industry experts. The results are in, and you're holding them in your hands - the winners of our annual Standing Ovation Awards for best presentation products of the year. As usual, this year's crop of winners set the standard of excellence much higher than the year before, or the year before, or the year before that. Indeed, the technical innovations and design improvements demonstrated by this year's top products were impressive. We can't thank everyone who deserves it, but our congratulations go out to everyone who helped make these products what they are today - winners.
Prettier pictures, better photo prints, and easier data storage were the watchwords.
So many pixels, so little time…
Digital photography long ago left film in the dust, and with the paradigm shift came a whole new industry of digital-imaging companies to support the innumerable errant pixels everyone needs to manage. Printers, storage drives, camera accessories — not to mention boatloads of new software programs — have arrived to make digital images of all types sharper, prettier, longer-lasting and, in general, easier to work with.
For presenters, these gains have meant better content for PowerPoint slideshows, hand-outs, Web-based presentations, posters, signs and other material. Take, for example, the Canon EOS 5D digital SLR, one of our Standing Ovation Award winners. The 12.8-megapixel camera has a full-frame, 35.8 x 23.9mm CMOS sensor that arguably creates images clear enough to rival pictures from the best 35mm cameras on the market.
And with printers like the Epson Stylus Photo R1800 or Canon Pixma IP8500 — the Standing Ovation Award winner and runner-up for the inkjet printer category — you can make digital photographs that will rival almost anything produced in a photo lab. In addition, new ink technologies allow those inkjet photos to last for decades. (The inks used in the Epson Stylus Photo R1800, for example, are pigment-based and will provide more than 100 years of fade-free longevity when printed on specific Epson papers, according to company tests.)
To store all the pretty pictures — and to back them up for safe keeping in more than one place — companies like Iomega, Verbatim and Rimage all debuted unique products this year. The Iomega 120GB Portable Hard Drive, for example, is the size of a PDA but holds 120GB of capacity, which is enough room for thousands and thousands of images. Better pictures, lower prices and wider adoption of digital-imaging technologies are what's expected in 2006.
Inkjet Printer: Epson Stylus Photo R1800
If you need photo-quality printing, archival quality and fast print speeds, the R1800 is your machine. This prosumer model was made to output thousands of pages a month, and it can print 11 x 14-inch color photos in less than two minutes. Borderless photos from 4 x 6 inches up to 13 x 19 inches are also possible with this speedy inkjet.
Price: $549. Contact: Epson, 800.463.7766, www.epson.com.
Runner up: Canon Pixma IP8500 Price: $320. Contact: Canon U.S.A. Inc., 800.652.2666, www.usa.canon.com.
Digital camera, professional: Canon EOS 5D Digital SLR
The Canon EOS 5D digital SLR has 12.8 megapixels of resolution and a full-frame, 35.8 x 23.9mm CMOS sensor for less visual noise and a clearer image. The camera is speedy as well, with a burst-capture rate of up to three frames per second. It's compatible with most of Canon's lenses and has all the advanced features you'd expect on a high-end digital camera.
Price: $3,299. Contact: Canon U.S.A. Inc., 800.652.2666, www.usa.canon.com.
Runner up: Pentax *ist DS2 Price: $800 (body only). Contact: Pentax Imaging Co., 800.877.0155, www.pentaximaging.com.
Digital camera, consumer: Kodak EasyShare-One
The Eastman Kodak EasyShare-One offers a first in consumer-grade digital cameras: embedded Wi-Fi technology, which lets you send photos over the Internet directly from the camera, without any computer interaction. Images up to 4 megapixels in resolution can be emailed from Wi-Fi hotspots around the globe.
Price: $599. Contact: Eastman Kodak Co., 800.242.2424, www.kodak.com.
Runner up: Pentax OptioWPi Price: $300. Contact: Pentax Imaging Co., 800.877.0155, www.pentaximaging.com.
Network printer: HP Officejet Pro K850
The HP Officejet Pro K850 prints 13 x 19-inch, wide-format documents in full color. It's a speedy little bugger, too, with print times of 24 ppm in black and white and 21 ppm in color. And with pricing that starts at $399, the Officejet Pro K850 is not much more than an average inkjet.
Price: starts at $399; network version, $499. Contact: Hewlett-Packard Co., 888.999.4747, www.hp.com.
Runner up: Konica-Minolta Magicolor 2430 DL Price: $399. Contact: Konica Minolta Printing Solutions U.S.A., 800.523.2696, www.printer.konicaminolta.com.
CD/DVD drive: Rimage 360i
The Rimage 360i CD and DVD publishing system can burn a disc and print a fine thermal-inkjet-based image on a label in mere minutes, in a totally hands-free operation. The Rimage claims the 360i system provides the lowest cost of ownership in the industry based on printed cost per disc.
Price: $2,495. Contact: Rimage Corp., 800.445.8288, www.rimage.com.
Runner up: Aleratec USB Copy Cruiser Plus. Price: $90. Contact: Aleratec Technologies, 818.678.6900, www.aleratec.com.
Portable HD: Iomega 120GB Portable Hard Drive
The svelte, solid little hard drive has 120GB of capacity, but it weighs a mere 6 ounces. Encased in aluminum, and smaller than most PDAs, the drive can store hours of digital video, thousands of digital images, or more PowerPoint slideshows than you'd ever want to see.
Price: $280. Contact: Iomega Corp., 858.314.7000, www.iomega.com.
Runner up: CMS ABSplus 80GB Price: $269. Contact: CMS Products, 800.327.5773, www.cmsproducts.com.
Flash HDL Verbatim Store 'n' Go U3 Smart Drive
This tiny portable drive lets you take your computer with you. The 1GB version of the Store 'n' Go U3 Smart Drive stores your computer applications and its data. This lets you plug the drive into any Windows XP or 2000 computer and use it as if it were your primary machine.
Price: $99. Contact: Verbatim Corp., 800.421.4188, www.verbatim.com.
Runner up: Lexar Media JumpDrive Secure II Price: $100 (1GB version). Contact: Lexar Media Inc., 510.413.1200, www.lexar.com
Other Standing Ovation Award Categories: Projection and display, Delivery and Software.