By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
According to the calendar, if not the weather, summer is around the corner, bringing barbecues, pool parties, and potentially drenched digicams. With this in mind, Sony and Minolta announced cameras meant for high portability and pool-side photography, while Nikon has courted the savvy shooter with its newest intro.
Minolta added two new digital cameras to its lineup: the DiMAGE Xt and the E223.
Building off the DiMAGE Xi, the 3.2-megapixel Xt features the industry's fastest start-up time of any digital camera with an optical zoom lens, Minolta's image-processing technology known as CxProcess, a 3x optical/4x digital zoom lens and a smaller, thinner body than its predecessor.
Minolta also announced a waterproof Marine Case for use with the new DiMAGE Xt.
The new, vertically oriented design of the DiMAGE Xt eliminates more than 5 percent from the size, nearly 8 percent from the weight and produces nearly a half-second reduction in start-up time compared to the Xi.
The Xt's controls have been redesigned, with the addition of a mode dial for selecting the camera's recording, playback, and set-up modes. A new Quick View button allows images on the memory card to be accessed from the recording modes after they have been captured.
The accessory waterproof Marine Case allows the camera to be submerged under up to 100 feet of water. Both the camera and its separate accessory casing ship this month.
Minolta also introduced the entry-level, 2-megapixel DiMAGE E223. The camera sports a 3x optical/3x digital zoom along with a macro mode that can focus down to 3.1 inches.
The E223 offers fully automatic features for focusing, exposure metering, flash and white balance. Flash modes include autoflash with red-eye reduction, fill-flash and flash cancel. The E223 takes SD memory and features 8MB of internal memory. The camera can record movie clips up to 60 seconds in length with audio at 320 by 240 (QVGA) resolution.
Nikon targeted the higher-end photographer with its newest Coolpix 5400, announced last week. The 5-megapixel 5400 will replace the Coolpix 5000 when it ships this summer for a suggested retail price of $799.95.
The new Coolpix features 4x zoom-Nikkor ED optics, wide-angle coverage, 15 scene modes and the company's exclusive Best Shot Selector (BSS) feature. An enhanced continuous shooting mode allows the camera to fire off seven full-sized images at a rate of 3 frames per second.
An ultra macro mode is capable of shooting subjects as close as 0.4 inches and is supported by the Best Shot Selector (BSS) feature, which automatically chooses the sharpest of three images.
The camera comes with a fully-articulating LCD screen that allows the photographer to shoot at a variety of angles while viewing the LCD. An enhanced movie mode can record up to 180 seconds of QuickTime video at 15 frames per second at 320 by 240 resolution or 70 seconds of 640 by 480 video with audio.
Sony is launching an updated version of its Cybershot U series cameras, the U30, a wearable digital camera that senior product manager Jim Malcom described as an "impulse buy, a grab-and-go product."
The U30 will feature 2-megapixel resolution, a fixed focus lens, fast start-up time, pre-flash metering and a red-eye reducing flash mode. The camera will be Memory Stick PRO compatible, and features 5 scene modes (soft snap, illumination snap, twilight, active outdoor and vivid nature). The camera sports an improved LCD screen from its predecessors which absorbs and reflects ambient light through the LCD to improve brightness outdoors.
The camera also has a VGA burst mode which captures five 640 by 480 images, an MPEG movie mode (with no audio) that captures up to 15 seconds of video and a circular mirror on the sliding lens cover to help frame hand-held self-portraits.
The U30 will be available in June for a suggested retail price of $199 and will be available in three colors: blue, silver and charcoal gray.
Sony will also ship a more durable Cybershot U, the 2-megapixel U60, which features a vertical design and is waterproof to five feet. The U60 shares the feature set as the U30 and will have a suggested retail price of $249.
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