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Digital Cameras Get Dynamic At CES

1/06/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS -Digital camera manufacturers are cramming more and more features into their increasingly diminutive products, but instead of overwhelming the consumer, the added features are transforming what was once simply an imaging tool into a dynamic digital device.

A walk around CES will reveal some new digital cameras positively bursting with features: internal modems for camera-to-Web uploading; the ability to capture brief video clips with sound; integrated MP3 players; and one camera from Ricoh that can send and receive e-mail.

Concurrent with the proliferation of interesting features, image quality continues to improve. Most manufacturers will be introducing cameras with 2- and 3-megapixel CCDs that promise the Holy Grail of digital imaging: a photo-quality image.

With more and more devices touting Web connectivity, it was only a matter of time before digital cameras hopped on board.

Polaroid will be introducing the PDC 640M, a digital camera with an internal modem that allows users to post images onto Polaroid's website (polaroiddigital.com) directly from the camera. By plugging the camera into a phone jack, users will be able to connect to Polaroid's ISP, Ceiva Logic, which then routs the call to a local number.

The PDC 640M features VGA resolution of 640 x 480. The retail price is expected to be $249.

Polaroid will debut new versions of its Digital Photo Printer, a portable handheld printer that produces pocket-sized Polaroid 500 instant color prints from SmartMedia or CompactFlash memory cards, without the need for a computer. The printer is compatible with all Polaroid PhotoMAX digital cameras, as well as a majority of other cameras on the market.

The PhotoMAX Digital Picture Frame from Polaroid lets users receive photos directly from the Internet without a computer. The unit plugs into a phone jack and automatically dials onto the Internet every night to retrieve photos, which can be displayed as a single image or in a slide-show format. The frame, retailing for $249 and currently available, requires a connection to the Ceiva network for a yearly fee of $59.95.

JVC is previewing two new digital still cameras, the GC-QX3HD and the GC-QX5HD, in addition to a digital photo printer, the GV-SP2. The cameras come bundled with SmartMedia removable flash memory cards (8MB for the GC-QX3HD and 16MB for the GC-QX5HD), USB cables, and a high-speed interface for use with the GV-SP2 printer.

The cameras also come bundled with cables to connect to 1080i HDTV screens so high-resolution images can be viewed on HDTV screens without resizing. In addition, they include Presto Mr. Photo, PhotoAlbum and ImageFolio software.

JVC's GC-QX3HD has a 3.3-megapixel CCD with a 2.3x Zoom. It can take 20-second video clips with sound at a small enough file size (200KB) for easy e-mailing. The camera features four flash modes: off, auto, flash and red-eye reduction. It comes with a 200,000-pixel 2-inch TFT Polycrystalline Silicon Color LCD.

The JVC GC-QX5HD also features a 3.3-mega-pixel CCD, but by using Pixel Shifting Technology, the color resolution is equivalent to 6 megapixels. With a film copy attachment (included) placed over the lens of the camera, film slides and negatives can be transformed into digital stills.

In addition, it can mask and layer images without a PC. Users shoot an image, and then take another image against a solid light-color background and the camera can impose the two to create a multilayered collage. The camera can also create 20-second video clips with sound for e-mail applications.

JVC's dye-sublimation GV-SP2 photo printer creates borderless 4 x 6-inch prints at 310 dpi. It connects to a PC via a USB cable or connects directly to either of the aforementioned cameras directly for printing without a PC. The Digital Photo Order Format allows users to set the number of prints they want from images on the camera and rout the order directly to the printer.

Retail price and availability on all of JVC's new products were unavailable at press time.

Olympus America Inc. will be announcing two new cameras at CES: the Camedia C-2040 Zoom and the Camedia C-3040 Zoom.

The C-2040 is a 2.1-mega-pixel camera with a 3x zoom lens and features a wide-angled LCD, sequence shooting, QuickTime Movie, black & white and sepia shooting modes. It comes bundled with an 8MB SmartMedia card and is expected to retail for $599.

Olympus' C-3040 is a 3.34-megapixel camera with a 3x zoom lens and features auto and manual white balance for multiple light sources, a wide-angled LCD, manual exposure and autoexposure bracketing. It comes bundled with an 8MB SmartMedia card and is expected to retail for $899.

Ricoh, following in the tradition of the all-in-one digital device, will be highlighting its recently announced RDC-i700, calling it the "Swiss Army Knife" of digital cameras.

This 3.4-megapixel, Internet-ready imaging tool can capture images and video, send and receive e-mail with attachments, send images via fax, surf the Web, and create image-rich documents and HTML files.

Ricoh's RDC-i7000 features a Virtual Assistant that integrates Microsoft Word and Excel templates inside the camera to help generate data-management, guided-capture and text/HTML-based applications.

It has a rotating 3.5-inch touch-screen LCD for viewing multimedia images, presentations and Web pages, along with a stylus pen for image editing, jotting notes or entering text via an onscreen keyboard. It will be available sometime early spring and retail for less than $1,500.

Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. Inc.'s FinePix 40I combines digital imaging, MP3 audio and digital video into one platform. The camera, which takes SmartMedia memory cards, can capture 80 seconds of continuous AVI video with sound.

Users can download music to the FinePix 40I via a USB port and control MP3 audio functions with a tethered remote. The unit, retailing for $699, comes bundled with headphones, Adobe ActiveShare photo software and RealJukebox digital audio software. The camera is now shipping.

Kodak's new EZ200 digital camera doubles as a PC Video Camera for videoconferencing. With a 640 x 480 resolution, this camera is ideally an e-mail device for sending photos or posting them on the Internet. It has 4MB of internal memory that can store up to 28 pictures, and it can capture short video clips that can be uploaded into the computer via a 9-foot USB cable. Its suggested retail price is $149.

Kodak is also showing its new DC3800, a 2.1-megapixel, 2x-zoom camera that's small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. It comes with a USB CompactFlash memory card reader for easy file transfer from camera to PC. Its suggested retail is $499.

Another compact digital camera retailing for $499-Minolta's recently introduced Dimage 2330 Zoom-features a 2.31-megapixel CCD and a 3x zoom lens. The camera has a host of automatic features, including autofocus and autoexposure, and comes bundled with Adobe PhotoDeluxe software for home image editing on a PC. Images are saved onto the bundled 8MB CompactFlash card.

Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-P1 is a compact camera offering an image resolution of 3.3 megapixels. Retailing for $800, it comes with Sony's Memory Stick (8MB) removable media.

The camera features ClipMotion, a new GIF animation tool that lets users take up to 10 pictures that the camera automatically combines to make a single animation file. This file is smaller in memory size than a standard MPEG movie, and hence, easier to e-mail.

Cyber-shot DSC-P1 users may also purchase a separate Marine Pack (MPK-P1) accessory, which is an underwater housing that makes the camera waterproof up to nearly 100 feet. It also protects the unit during use in the rain or around pools. It comes with a neck strap and an anti-fogging lens solution and is expected to retail for approximately $250.

CRS Electronics, which is based in Taiwan, is introducing the DC-10 digital camera with self timer. It comes bundled with Ulead Photo Express 3.0 image-manipulation software and saves images onto an internal SDRAM 2MB drive. It also comes with a USB connection cable for PC interface.

VideoChip Technologies, New York, is introducing its new Photo Wallet, a compact portable LCD digital-image photo album that measures 5 x 4 inches and is 0.75 inches thick. Suggested retail price is $349.99

Users can insert any standard Compact Flash or SmartMedia memory card and see images on the LCD. To find a specific picture, multiple thumbnail images can be displayed on the screen. Users scroll through with buttons to find what they like

A slide-show mode displays stored images at a timed interval in either cut or dissolve mode.