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Lenses Take Center Stage As D-SLR Momentum Builds

While the universe of digital SLRs steadily expands, camera manufacturers are quickly building out a selection of lenses to appeal to photo hobbyists.

Nikon added an updated version of its D40 d-SLR at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show while Panasonic and Pentax announced new lenses to compliment their existing interchangeable lens cameras.

Nikon will ship the 10-megapixel D40x in April.

The new D40x will be housed in the same body but offers quicker continuous shooting and a wider ISO range than the D40.

The D40x can fire off up to 100 images at 3 fps — vs. 2.5 fps on the D40 — and offers an ISO range of 100 to 1,600 vs. the D40’s range of 200 to 1,600.

The camera features a 2.5-inch LCD, eight scene modes and incorporates a new “assist image” function to guide users through various camera settings. A new “flash off” mode kills the flash while increasing ISO for shooting subjects with available light.

Like the D40, the D40x will include Nikon’s “retouch menu” for accessing its in-camera editing features such as d-lighting and red-eye reduction.

A body-only version of the camera will retail for a suggested $729. For $799, Nikon packages the 3x optical zoom 18mm-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens. The camera is compatible with Nikon’s AF-S and AF-I lenses

Nikon also added a compact telephoto lens to its AF-S family. The 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor lens offers built-in vibration-reduction technology. It ships in April for an estimated $249.

Panasonic and Leica announced the development of a large-diameter telephoto zoom lens, specifically designed for Panasonic’s L1 and other Four Thirds system compatible digital SLRs from Olympus.

The new 10.7x LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH lens will incorporate Panasonic’s MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) and will be the first Leica D lens with a range up to 300mm.

Pentax will likely not introduce new consumer-level digital SLRs this year but instead concentrate on building out its own assortment of lenses for its K-series of digital SLRs, a company spokesperson said.

Several new DA lenses are slated for late 2007 introductions including a 200mm f/2.8 lens in September and a 300mm f/4 lens, also due in September. Pricing was not announced. In December the company plans to introduce a 60-250mm f/4 lens. A 35mm f2.8 macro lens is also planned for 2007, though a release date was not announced.