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Minolta Goes Upscale With Digital Cameras

NEW YORK — Seeking to shore up what it sees as a vacuum in the higher-end digital camera market, Minolta has taken the high road with the introduction of three new digital cameras to its Dimage family, including one with a 5.2 megapixel resolution.

Two of the new cameras, the Dimage 5 and the Dimage S304, will be available in August. The Dimage 7 will be available in July.

While many digital camera manufacturers have been courting the lucrative mid-level market (2 megapixel cameras less than $500), a Minolta spokesman said there’s room at the top.

“What we’ve found in our market research is that 39 percent of digital camera owners want to upgrade,” he said. “This is not only people who bought a 1 megapixel model years ago, but consumers who just recently purchased 2 and 3 megapixel models. The Dimage 7 represents a significant increase not only in resolution but in image flexibility and features.”

Aimed at the “serious enthusiast,” the Dimage 7 features a 5.2 megapixel resolution, which is a first for the price point of $1,499, according to the spokesman.

“This is 60 percent more resolution than comparably priced digital cameras available on the market today,” he said.

The Dimage 7 is patterned after a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) film camera with a host of programmable features, such as Advanced Distance Integration spot metering, a newly designed all-glass 7x optical zoom lens, and Minolta’s proprietary CxProcess, which optimizes image sharpness and color reproduction. The camera comes bundled with a 16MB CompactFlash card, USB and video cables, and Dimage software.

The Dimage 5, which carries a $999 suggested retail price, features a 3.3 megapixel resolution and shares most of the same features as the Dimage 7. Both offer 60 second QuickTime movie capture and digital effects control, which allows a user to manage image quality before the image is written to the CompactFlash card.

Both the Dimage 7 and Dimage 5 offer a selection of exposure modes, flexible white balance adjustments, data imprinting and digital-enhanced bracketing, which allows for variations in exposure, contrast and color saturation. For the photo savvy, both cameras can capture raw image data (as opposed to the traditional TIFF or JPEG file formats), which allows users to change various image features, such as tone and gradation, in a computer and then save the image in TIFF or JPEG format. Minolta provides proprietary software to view and manipulate the raw image files on a PC or Mac with the camera.

Minolta also announced the Dimage S304, a 4x zoom camera with a resolution of 3.3 megapixels. The S304 is an autofocus, autoexposure camera featuring the company’s Focus Area Selection, which allows photographers to move the focusing point to single out a specific subject from a number of objects at varying distances. The price was not available at press time.

The camera also features digital subject program selection, which lets users set modes such as macro, portrait, night portrait, landscape and text mode. The S304 comes bundled with a 16MB CompactFlash card, USB and video cables, ArcSoft PhotoImpression software and Dimage Image Viewer software.

In case the features and operations overwhelm the consumer, Minolta also announced that beginning in September they will open up a toll-free “technical support line” available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.