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Nikon Debuts D3, D300 Digital SLRs

Tokyo — Nikon unveiled a pair of new digital SLRs and five new lenses at a press conference, here, yesterday.

The new cameras and lenses will ship in November.

Both the D3 and D300 cameras will incorporate Nikon’s new Expeed image processing engine; 3-inch, 920,000-pixel LCD screens with 170-degree viewing angles; and a pair of live-view modes for previewing images on the LCD before shooting.

They will also feature a new 51-point autofocus system, and a new scene-recognition system that the company said improves autofocus and subject tracking.

Both d-SLRs will feature HDMI outputs and a new “Active D-Lighting” mode. Formerly available only in playback, Active D-Lighting will allow users to apply the effect to a photo before it is snapped.

The D3 will incorporate a 12-megapixel FX format, full-frame CMOS sensor. It is capable of burst speeds of 9 fps at full resolution at full frame or 5-megapixel DX format images at 11 fps.

It offers light sensitivities to ISO 6400 and a dual CF card slot.

Since the D3 uses the larger FX sensor, the camera will automatically switch to a DX-format image if a Nikkor DX lens is attached to the camera body. The D3 will retail for an estimated $4,995 (body only).

The D300 uses a 12-megapixel DX format CMOS sensor. It is capable of shooting 6 fps bursts at full resolution or 8 fps using an optional battery back.

The D300 also offers a “self cleaning sensor” that vibrates to shake off dust. It will retail for an estimated $1,799 (body only).

In addition to Nikkor lenses, the cameras will work with a host of optional accessories, including a new wireless transmitter and a GPS adapter.

Nikon plans to keep the D200 and D2x on the market.

Five new lenses will also join the Nikkor family, among them the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 for an estimated $1,799 and an AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for $1,699.

The company will also introduce its vibration-reduction (VR) technology into new 400mm, 500mm and 600mm super-telephoto lenses (previously VR was available on lenses up to 300mm). The 400mm, 500mm and 600mm lenses will are expected to retail for $8,799 $7,899 and $9,499, respectively.

Nikon has set a goal of achieving a 40 percent share in digital SLRs worldwide, Nikon CEO Michio Kariya said during the press conference. The company expects roughly 7.5 million digital SLRs to be sold in 2007 worldwide, growing to 10 million by 2009, said Makoto Kimura, Nikon imaging company president.

To help achieve its sales growth and best rival Canon, which announced its own high-end SLR two days ago, the company will increase its marketing and sales promotion budget. According to Yasuyuki Okamoto, marketing GM, Nikon surpassed Canon in d-SLR unit sales in Japan during the first half of the year.

The company will focus on besting Canon rather than the “home appliance manufacturers” like Sony, Panasonic and Samsung because of the large number of Canon lenses in consumers hand and due to Canon’s photographic heritage, Okamoto said. “It is harder for the home appliance manufacturers to develop the lens systems” critical to success in the d-SLR market, he said.

The company will also try to broaden its appeal to younger users and women, Okamoto added.