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Camera Vendors Bid For All Niches This Holiday

New York — Last week, four vendors introduced digital cameras that captured the essence of a market that is quickly diversifying to cater to niche tastes.

Casio aimed high with a feature-laden 7-megapixel ultracompact unit, while Samsung targeted techno-savvy teens with a 4-megapixel model that can create and display animated figures on its LCD screen. Norcent introduced a competitively priced 4-megapixel snap shooter for mainstream consumers, while Rollei Logistics updated a decades-old camera design for the digital age, in the hopes of luring photo hobbyists and collectors.

Casio’s 7-megapixel EX-P700 was added to its ultracompact Exilim Pro line of digital cameras. It will ship in January for a suggested $599.99.

The P700 features a 4x optical/4x digital zoom, a 0.01-second shutter lag (with flash off, and focus locked), a two-second start-up time, 2-inch LCD screen and a continuous shooting mode to capture three photos per second for up to five images.

A “business shot” mode automatically straightens photos taken at an angle, while an Auto Macro automatically switches between macro and autofocus, depending on the distance of the subject. The camera also offers a seven point multi-autofocus and a manual assist, which displays a sample photo on the LCD to demonstrate the effect that a manual setting change would have on an image.

The P700 also features a “best shot” mode that lets user select a sample scene that matches the photo environment they’re in. Once chosen, the camera will automatically access 27 camera setups to select the preferred exposure compensation, white balance and other settings to produce an optimally exposed photograph.

Additional features include 8.9MB of internal memory with an SD/MMC card slot, PictBridge compatibility and the ability to synchronize with external flash units.

Norcent Technology introduced a compact 4-megapixel model, the DC-420, with a 3x optical/3.6x digital zoom for a suggested $299.99. The 420 ships this month.

It measures 1 inch thick and weighs 4.4 ounces with a scratch-resistant 2-inch LCD screen and several flash settings, including auto, forced, night scene, suppressed and red-eye reduction.

The camera’s batter can capture up to 100 images per charge of its rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The 420 can capture 320 by 240 resolution movie clips, without audio. Users can add a 30-second voice memo after recording video. It also features a self-timer.

RolleiLogistics will bring a digital version of the decades-old RolleiFlex camera to market this month.

The 2-megapixel RolleiFlex MiniDigi, for a suggested $350, builds off a design of the original Rollei product, first introduced in 1929. It retains the two-lens design, hand crank, shutter release, hooded viewfinder, exposure meter and the black casing of its film predecessor but has modified the design for digital photography.

The hand crank, which would typically advance the film, now serves to prepare the camera for the next shot. While the camera features a two-lens design, only one lens is functional; the other is ornamental. A pop-out lens hood keeps stray light at bay.

The camera is held at waist level and the color LCD is at the top of the unit for framing shots. It uses a square image format, so there is no difference between horizontal or vertical framing.

The MiniDigi accepts SD memory cards. According to the company, the MiniDigi is not “intended to be a full featured camera” lacking, as it does, a USB connection and a flash.

Instead, the appeal is to camera buffs, said Dick Dischler, U.S. distributor for Tokyo-based Rollei Logistics.

The camera measures 2 inches by 3 inches by 2 inches and weighs four ounces.

Samsung’s 4-megapixel Digimax U-CA 4 features a 3x optical/3x digital zoom, automatic and manual controls and will ship in three colors for an estimated street price of $299.99.

The camera is equipped with Samsung’s exclusive avatar software, which creates an animated figure that’s displayed on the camera’s 1.5-inch LCD screen. Using included software, consumers can personalize their avatars, using actual faces lifted from their digital images, and choose from a range of custom hairstyles, outfits, background scenes and dance moves.

Additional features include an RGB color effect mode, which allows users to adjust and customize the levels of red, green and blue in all of the images stored on the camera; macro focusing up to 5cm from the subject; three sharpness modes; five effect modes and six white balance settings. A night mode extends the picture taking duration up to 16 seconds.

The camera can capture MPEG-4 video at 320 by 240 resolution at 15 frames per second to the capacity of Memory Stick Duo memory. A 32MB card is included.