Digital Camera Vendors Flood Mass Market

By Greg Scoblete On Jun 7 2004 - 6:00am

In the tradition of the season's disaster film, several digital camera vendors initiated the summer with a tidal wave of new introductions targeted principally at the sub-$500 price band.

Canon poured a host of new technologies and enhancements into its latest S-series PowerShot, the 5-megapixel S60, including a new lens design, longer-life battery, a quicker start-up time and an improved macro mode.

The camera will ship this month for an estimated street price of $499 and features a newly developed 28-100mm Ultra high refractive index Aspherical (UA) wide-angle 3.6x optical zoom lens.

The camera also features a new high-capacity lithium-ion battery, the NB-2LH, which offers approximately 26 percent higher capacity than the previous lithium-ion battery used in older models.

The S60 features a macro mode to shoot objects as close as 1.6 inches; a 9-point AiAF autofocus system; PictBridge compatibility; and a manual control option for user-controllable focus, exposure and white balance. It accepts Type I and II CompactFlash cards and will ship with a 32MB card.

Canon will offer an optional underwater housing for the S60 (model number WP-DC40), which will also ship this month for an estimated street price of $240. To aid in underwater photography, the S60 features a new underwater white balance preset, which will automatically set the camera for shooting in the briny deep.

Kodak made good on its promise to broaden its assault on the home printer market with the introduction of a new EasyShare printer dock that works with third-party digital cameras. The introduction was accompanied by a refresh of three EasyShare digital cameras.

The second generation EasyShare printer dock features PictBridge compatibility, allowing it to print directly from other PictBridge-enabled digital cameras. The company will offer two optional external memory card readers that will enable the dock to print directly from flash memory cards. A 6-in-1 reader is available now for a suggested $26.99, and an 8-in-1 reader will ship in July, though suggested retail has not yet been set.

According to a Kodak spokesperson, the printer will not work with third-party flash memory card readers.

The new printer includes a dedicated dock for Kodak's own 600/6000- and 700/7000-series of EasyShare digital cameras. In addition to printing, Kodak camera owners can use the dock to recharge the camera's battery and transfer photos to a PC.

The dock produces 4-inch by 6-inch thermal photo prints in as fast as 90 seconds. Kodak offers a 40-count refill pack of printer media (paper and cartridges) for a suggested $24.99. The new printer dock ships this month for a suggested retail price of $149.

On the camera side, the company announced one new model in its DX line of higher-end cameras and 2 models in its CX line of digital point-and-shoots. The 4-megapixel DX7440 features a 4x optical Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon zoom lens; a 2.2-inch LCD screen; a 0.2-second click-to-capture speed; 16 pre-set scene modes; and automatic and manual controls for setting aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and bracketing, and ISO equivalents.

The camera can capture video at 24 frames per second (fps) at 320-by 240-resolution and at 13 fps at 640-by-480 resolution to the length of a memory card. The camera offers 32MB of internal memory with an SD/MMC card expansion slot.

The DX7440 will be available this month for a suggested retail price of $349.

The CX additions include the 7530 and 7330. The 5-megapixel CX7530 features a 3x optical zoom lens, nine pre-set scene modes, PictBridge compatibility, a 1.8-inch LCD screen and an on-camera digital photo album for reviewing photos stored on the camera's optional SD/MMC memory card.

The 7530 will ship in July for a suggested $299.

The 7330 is a 3-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom lens shipping in June for a suggested $199. It offers 16MB of internal memory, a 1.6-inch LCD screen and a multi-zone auto focus.

Nikon added another Coolpix to the line with the 4-megapixel Coolpix 4100. The model offers a 3x optical zoom lens, PictBridge compatibility, in-camera cropping and a blur warning that automatically alerts users if the photo they just snapped suffers from blur caused by camera motion.

The 4100 also offers 14.5 MB of internal memory, an SD memory card slot, 15 scene modes and continuous shooting at approximately 1.5 fps for a suggested retail price of $299.95. The camera will ship this summer.

Olympus introduced its second special edition digital camera in conjunction with auto-maker Ferrari. Called the Ferrari Digital Model 2004, Olympus will only ship 10,000 of these cameras worldwide with 1,000 slated for "select retailers" in North and South America in late July for an estimated street price of $699.

The 3.2-megapixel Ferrari camera was the product of a six-month design collaboration between Olympus and Ferrari. It sports an aluminum body finished in "Ferrari Red," employing a special finishing process to match Ferrari racing car bodies.

According to Olympus, the camera is the slimmest and most compact model it has ever produced. Other features include a 2.5-inch LCD monitor, 22 photo modes, a docking station, PictBridge support and a new Album function, which allows users to organize photos into photo albums directly on the camera's memory card. Users can create up to 12 albums of 100 images.

Pentax updated the specifications on its OptioMX model that it previewed during the PMA show in February. The MX is a combination digital still/video camera that will ship this month for a suggested $399.95.

The palm-sized OptioMX combines a 3.2-megapixel still camera with a VGA-quality MPEG-4 recorder. It can capture movies to the capacity of an SD memory card at 30 fps.

For still shots, the MX features a 10x optical zoom, 10 shooting modes, PictBridge compatibility and a 1.8-inch LCD monitor that swivels 180 degrees horizontally and 210 degrees vertically. The unit's handle grip rotates 180 degrees.

Sony announced its latest Cyber-shot, the 5-megapixel DSC-F88 which offers a new rotating lens design.

The 5.1-megapixel F88's 3x optical zoom lens can rotate 300 degrees, so users can see themselves in the camera's 1.8-inch LCD screen. The camera takes both Memory Stick and Memory Stick PRO memory cards. The F88 ships in July for approximately $450.

Sony will offer a wide angle lens (VCL-07FEB) and USB docking station as accessories to the F88. The wide lens conversion will be available in July for roughly $60, and the Cyber-shot Station (CSS-FEB) will also ship next month for about $80.

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