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Digicam Battle Lines To Be Drawn At PMA

Las Vegas — The digital battle lines will be drawn as the 2004 Photo Marketing Association’s annual trade show and convention opens its doors this Thursday.

Almost without exception, digital camera vendors will hit the show floor with more models in the lineup than in any previous year, testifying to the strong growth of the category.

The industry has squared off along two distinct battle-lines: vendors are in a horse race to introduce sub $1,000 digital SLRs, while entry-level newcomers look to use disruptive pricing to gain a foothold.

Canon’s Rebel was the first digital SLR to dip under the $1,000 mark, and other vendors, including Nikon, will take aim at that feat. In addition, PMA will see a spat of 8-megapixel fixed-lens cameras in the same price band, offering consumers a high-end alternative to an interchangeable lens system.

Finally, 2004 introductions will see a much broader adoption of the PictBridge direct-printing standard. PictBridge allows cameras to connect directly to printers via USB cable and make prints without using a computer.

Concord will unveil a line of entry-level cameras starting from $39 to $379 in its Eye-Q brand. The Eye-Q 3040 AF’ is a 3-megapixel CMOS-based camera with a 4x digital zoom, 1.6-inch LCD screen and 7MB of internal memory with an SD/MMC slot. The unit can capture AVI video clips and has a suggested retail price of $129.

The Concord Eye-Q 5062 AF and 4062 AF feature spot metering, multi-area auto focus, sepia mode, macro mode, ISO select, white balance, continuous shooting mode and exposure compensation. Both models capture AVI video at 30 fps with sound to the capacity of the SD card.

The 5-megapixel 5062 AF features a 6x digital zoom, a 1.8-inch LCD screen, five flash modes and seven preset scene modes. It will ship in the second quarter for a suggested $229.

The 4062 AF will also ship in the second quarter and offers most of the features of the 5062 AF but with 4-megapixel resolution and a 1.5-inch LCD screen. It will retail for a suggested $199.

The 5-megapixel 5345z will be Concord’s first metal body digital camera. It features a 3x optical/4x digital zoom, 9.7MB of internal memory and 19 scene mode selections. AVI video clips can be shot at 15 fps in the QVGA mode to the length of the SD card. The 5345z is set to ship in April for a suggested $379.

Canon will unveil several new PowerShots, all PictBridge compatible, with several new features integrated across the line. A new Print/Share button streamlines printing to compatible Canon and PictBridge-enabled printers. A Direct Transfer function offers users five options to download images to Windows computers: from all images in the camera, all new images in the camera, user-selected individual images, images selected for batch printing and a setting to create desktop wallpaper from an image.

Finally, a Direct Print feature allows users to print thumbnail frame sequences from movie clips generated in the camera and output to a Canon CP printer.

The new A75 and A310 will be the company’s entry-level models. Both 3.2-megapixel models accept CompactFlash Type 1 cards (32MB included) and are powered by AA batteries. The A310 features a 5.1x digital zoom and will ship in March for an estimated street price of $199.

The A75 features a 3x optical/3.2x digital zoom, 1.8-inch, 118,000-pixel LCD monitor, an additional Special Scene mode featuring Indoors, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Underwater. It will ship in April for an estimated street price of $299.

Jumping into the double-digit zoom category, the company will ship the image-stabilized 10x optical zoom PowerShot S1 IS to dealers in April for an estimated street of $499.

The 3.2-megapixel S1 IS can capture 640 by 480 video at 30fps to the capacity of the memory card. It ships with a 32MB CompactFlash card and features a variable-angle 1.5-inch, 114,000 pixel LCD screen and exposure-control settings.

The 8-megapixel Pro1 will be the top of the consumer PowerShot line. The camera will be the company’s first compact digital camera with an L-series lens. It features 7x optical and 3.2x digital zoom and an ultrasonic motor for high-speed zooming operation (activated by a ring on the lens).

The 14-element lens features one Fluorite crystal element, which Canon says is the first use of Fluorite in any compact digital camera lens, as well as UD glass. The Fluorite and UD elements improve sharpness and color fidelity, the company said.

Shipping in March, the Canon PowerShot Pro1 includes a wireless remote control, a lens hood and 58mm filter adapter, and a 64MB CompactFlash card, and estimated street price of $999.

Fujifilm introduced the successors to the A210 and A310, the 3.2-megapixel A330 and the company’s first 4-megapixel model, the A340. Both sport a 3x optical zoom lens, a 3.3-second start-up and 1.7-second shot-to-shot time, and are lighter weight and sport a more streamlined design than their predecessors. New to the A-series is the ability to preview an image saved on the camera’s xD-Picture Card without first having to power up the camera.

The A330 will ship in March for a suggested retail price of $199 while the A340 will hit store shelves in April for a suggested $249. Both models are Fujifilm’s first to offer PictBridge compatibility. They are also compatible with Fujifilm’s Picture Cradle camera dock — the sold separately for a suggested $99.99.

The company also unveiled the high-end S20 Pro, which builds off the body of the S7000. It has a 6x optical zoom, VGA video capture at 30fps, Fujifilm’s proprietary Super CCD-SR, and a new PC-Sync feature that lets users connect the camera to a desktop and remotely manage camera functions such as adjusting exposure controls and snapping pictures. The model takes both the xD card and MicroDrive memory and will ship in March for a suggested retail price of $999.

Kodak announced its first 6-megapixel EasyShare digital camera last week. The DX7630 features a 3x optical zoom lens, precision low-light autofocus system, selectable focus zones and exposure metering.

The DX7630 offers both automatic and manual controls, including 16 scene modes and a 2.2-inch LCD screen. The camera can capture video at 24fps to the capacity of the memory card. The DX7630 features 32MB of internal memory and an SD/MMC expansion slot. It ships in April for a suggested retail price of $499.

The company also introduced three new cameras in the EasyShare CX line: the 4-megapixel CX7430 camera, the 3-megapixel CX7300 camera and the 2-megapixel CX7220 camera.

All the new models, including the DX7630, are compatible with the optional camera dock 6000 ($79.95) and printer dock 6000 ($199.95).

The CX7430 model integrates Kodak’s new camera favorites feature for storing multiple pictures in an on-camera digital photo album. The $279.95-suggested camera will ship in March and features nine scene and color modes, a 3x optical zoom lens and can capture VGA video to the capacity of the SD card.

The CX7300 camera ships in March for a suggested $129.95 and features a 3x digital zoom.

The 2-megpaixel CX7220 will ship in May for a suggested $149.95. It offers a 2x optical zoom, Kodak’s ‘share’ button and a 1.5-inch LCD screen.

Kyocera Optics expanded its lineup of RTUNE-enabled digital cameras with the new, Contax branded SL300R T*. The 3.2-megapixel Contax SL300R T* is equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* lens with a 3x optical zoom.

Thanks to its RTUNE imaging engine, Kyocera said it was able to ‘virtually eliminate’ shutter lag time (at .07 second) and give the camera the ability to continuously shoot full resolution photos at 3.5fps to the capacity of the memory card. The camera can also capture VGA resolution AVI movies at 30fps to the capacity of the SD memory card. The SL300R T* is shipping now for a suggested $499.99.

Nikon introduced its high-end, 8-megapixel Coolpix 8700 just prior to the show. The unit, shipping now for a suggested $999, is compatible with the entire line of Coolpix accessory lenses and ships with an 8x optical Zoom-Nikkor ED lens. Features include a 238,000-pixel through-the-lens Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), exposure control modes, RAW data image mode and 12 preset scene modes, including a new Panorama Assist mode. The 8700 can shoot up to five full-size images at 2.5fps and offers a macro focus as close as 1.2-inches, supported by Nikon’s Best Shot Selector function

The camera’s movie mode captures 640 by 480 video at 30fps with audio or 320 by 240 video at 15fps with audio. A Sepia movie mode captures video at 320 by 240 resolution at 5fps with audio.

Pentax will continue to ship all its Optio digital cameras with an $150 ACDSee software package that includes ACDSee 5.1, FotoSlate, FotoCanvas and Photostitcher. All new Pentax cameras are PictBridge-enabled.

The 4-megapixel Optio S4i will ship in April and will be the company’s first to ship with a cradle-style lithium ion rechargeable base. The S4i features a 1.8-inch LCD, a 3x optical zoom and an optional, acrylic waterproof housing. To complement the housing, the camera features two new shooting modes: marine picture and marine movie. The camera takes SD/MMC memory and features 10MB of internal memory. It can capture 320-by-240 AVI video with sound at 15fps.

The company will also introduce the Optio S40, a 4-megapixel, 3x zoom model with a new ‘help’ function in the menu that guides new users through the camera’s feature. It sports enlarged shutter release and manual buttons and will work with an optional waterproof housing. Other features include 11MB of internal memory, eight picture modes and a special setting that prevents all specified shots from being erased.

The Optio30 is 3.2-megapixel model with a 3x optical zoom lens and 16MB of internal memory. A menu prompt provides tutorial messages about frequently used digital camera functions on the camera’s 1.6-inch LCD monitor. In addition to a variety of conventional picture modes the company added a virtual mode dial feature with new ‘lifestyle-oriented’ modes such as Party, Cuisine, and Pet. The Optio30 will ship in April for a suggested $200.