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Yesterday, I trekked into Manhattan to check out an invite from Canon. The subject was their once-every-five-years Imaging Expo, and the venue was the Jacob Javits Center.

Honestly, I didn’t expect much. I make numerous trips into Manhattan on a regular basis for this and that press event, product launch, tabletop show, and special announcement. Most of those take up a small ballroom at most, or a compact studio or loft.

Welcome to tomorrowland...

I was truly not prepared for what I saw when I went upstairs at Javits. Here was a single company exhibiting in a space that was nearly as large as a small trade show (think HD World and SatCon, held in the same building every October).

Canon went whole-hog here, with a dramatic entryway light by colored lights and decorated with large banners. Inside, a ‘hub and spoke’ layout featured a large central courtyard with numerous walk-through exhibits branching off in all directions.

Cameras. Printers. Color management systems. Office equipment. Lenses. You name it; Canon had it on display in a room someplace!

And your first stop is Spaceship Canon!

I was there for two reasons. One was to check out the new HD camcorders and front projection systems. The other was an invitation for a private, non-disclosure demonstration of a product category that alone made the trip worthwhile. (Sorry, can’t say any more than that!)

There were other surprises. Canon had a ‘hall of technology’ exhibit where they showed the latest gadgets to come from Canon’s labs. Among those were a 128-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 360-degree camera, a 50-megapixel sensor, and a wafer-side CMOS sensor that has more resolution than the human eye can use.

Imagine a wall-sized image that has so much detail it looks real. Now, imagine being able to extract numerous 2K HD video segments from small parts of that image, and you’ll get some idea of just how much resolution this sensor has. (Did I mention that the video clips reside in the same file as the master still photographic image?)

On the left, a 300 millimeter CMOS sensor. On the right, a standard SLR (full frame) CMOS sensor.

Canon also had a dome projection system measuring nine feet in diameter that captivated the audience relaxing in lounge chairs below it. Next door, you could see a tiled 4K (4x 1920×1200) projected image, using soft-edge blending. The seams weren’t as clean as they could be, but the projected images still impressed.

Canon also showed a 3D demo, using passive shutter glasses and a pair of ReaLis WUXGA LCoS projectors. For readers who don’t know, Canon manufactures not only cameras and lenses, but the CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Silicon) sensors used in those cameras as well. And they also fabricate liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) imaging panels, just like JVC’s D-ILA and Sony’s SXRD offerings.

Canon's 3D projection demo uses a pair of ReaLis projectors and passive glasses.

Canon also has its own proprietary compression codecs. In short, they make most of the parts found in cameras and projectors, which gives them a great deal of leeway to improvise and innovate, something we don’t see nearly as much of these days from Japan, Inc.

The dome projection demo was very cool.

Yes, this is the same Canon that huffed and puffed, but just couldn’t push the SED over the hilltop to a successful life. You can’t win them all. C’est la vie!

Did I also mention that Canon is profitable? And has been so for many years? Yes, the company is quite conservative in the way it does business and services its market segments. But it continues to make money (being the top guy in the lens business helps a lot!). And it has a strong brand name that is recognized worldwide.

12 megapixels just not enough? Hmmm...OK, how does ten times that much work for you?

While the other guy (that big Japanese company with four letters in its name) also has similar market cache, it has been struggling with red ink for several years. And struggling with market forces that have turned its traditional broadcast and business models upside down. And getting used to the fact that it cannot dictate and control new media formats like it used to.

Keep an eye on Canon. We’re going to be hearing a lot more from them in the near future…particularly in the world of displays.

Posted by Pete Putman, September 3, 2010 2:36 PM

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About Pete Putman

Peter Putman is the president of ROAM Consulting L.L.C. His company provides training, marketing communications, and product testing/development services to manufacturers, dealers, and end-users of displays, display interfaces, and related products.

Pete edits and publishes HDTVexpert.com, a Web blog focused on digital TV, HDTV, and display technologies. He is also a columnist for Pro AV magazine, the leading trade publication for commercial AV systems integrators.