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New DigiCams Focus On Speed Of Operation

As megapixel jockeying has receded, a bit, into background noise in digital camera marketing, other performance specs, notably battery life, LCD size and speed of operation have come to the fore. Three camera vendors made introductions last week, emphasizing just these specs. DXG, a subsidiary of a Taiwanese OEM/ODM which entered the U.S. market under its own brand this year, announced the 3-megapixel DXG-308U that ships with an underwater housing. With the housing, the camera can be submerged in up to 5 meters of water. It is shipping now for a suggested $139.

The camera features 16MB of internal memory, an SD/MMC slot, 4x digital zoom and a 1.5-inch LCD screen.

“The Japanese manufacturers have made tremendous, feature-rich cameras but most American consumers are point-and-shoot people,” said Paul Goldberg, senior sales VP, DXG.

Goldberg noted that DXG is planning on introducing optical zooms in upcoming models and will introduce a 4-megapixel model in the fourth quarter. He also said the company will show 5-,6-, and 8-megapixel cameras at CES that will incorporate new CMOS technology to hit aggressive price points.Konica Minolta introduced four new digital cameras last week, two in its Z-series and two new models in its ultra-compact X-series.

The 3.2-megapxiel DiMAGE Z10 features a 0.5 second start-up time, 8x optica/4x digital zoom lens, Predictive Focus Control and a new energy saving design which the company says allows the camera to capture up to 500 frames with the included AA alkaline batteries.

The DiMAGE Z3 features the proprietary Anti-Shake System previously found on the company’s high-end A-series models. Unlike an optical stabilization system, Anti-Shake reduces blur in dim light and telephoto shots with a CCD-shifting mechanism.

The 4-megapixel Z3 features a 12x optical/4x digital zoom lens. Other features include continuous shooting at 2.2 fps, and Rapid AF with Predictive Focus Control. Focusing time for the Z3 is approximately 0.15 second in wide-angle position and approximately 0.2 second in telephoto.

In its compact line, the 5-megapixel X50 features a 2.8x non-protruding optical zoom lens with a new sliding lens cover, a 2-inch LCD screen, and a half-second start-up time. An Automatic Digital Subject Program Selection mode automatically selects the optimum-shooting mode for the subject at hand rather than using pre-selected scene modes that users must manually select themselves.

Finally, the 3-megapixel X31 features a 3x optical/4x digital zoom lens and sports a 0.1 second shutter release time lag. Panasonic introduced five new Lumix digital cameras last week, building the bulk of its lineup around ultra-zoom cameras. The ultra-zoom models will ship “late summer” and include the 3-megapixel DMC-FZ3 ($399.95), the 4-megapixel FZ15 ($499.95) and the 5-megapixel FZ20 ($599.95).

All of the cameras feature 12x optical zooms and the company’s MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) that automatically detects and optically compensates for hand movement by physically shifting internal lens elements to reduce blur.

These cameras also feature an extra-low dispersion (ED) lens to minimize color aberration, a new Venus Engine LSI — the Venus 2 Engine LSI — that enables a shorter camera start-up time, increased shutter speed, reduced lag time and faster consecutive shooting to the length of an SD memory card.

The new 5-megapixel DMC-LC80 will ship in August with a suggested retail price of $349.95. It features a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens with a 3x optical/3x digital zoom and a 1.5-inch LCD.

Using two AA alkaline batteries the LC80 can take up to 160 shots in normal mode with the LCD on, or up to 420 shots in Economy Mode 2 with the LCD turned off. It also accepts optional Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.

Finally, the company introduced a compact model, the 5-megapixel DMC-FX7, hailing it as “the first compact digital camera to feature both an Optical Image Stabilizer and a 2.5-inch LCD.”

The DMC-FX7 will be available in August in black or silver for a suggested $499.95 and features a 3x optical/4x digital zoom, a Mega Burst mode, auto bracketing, and program AE.