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Summer Digicams From 4 Vendors

The digital camera market will heat up this summer when new entries from Argus, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony hit store shelves.

Argus announced a new addition to the lineup, the DC3300, which is now shipping with a suggested retail of $199.

The DC3300 features 1.3-megapixel resolution and 32MB of internal memory. For users seeking additional memory, the camera sports a SmartMedia expansion slot. The camera can capture three minutes of video and four hours of voice recordings. The camera has a 3x digital zoom.

Fujifilm will add a model in the 2-megapixel resolution segment, the digital camera market’s best selling resolution. The company claimed the FinePix F401 is one of the smallest 2.1-effective-megapixel zoom digital cameras in its category. It features Fujifilm’s third-generation Super CCD image sensor and an optional PC-sync cradle for USB transfers, PC-cam video-conferencing and camera recharging.

The FinePix F401 will ship in August at a suggested retail price of $499.99. The optional PictureCradle will be available for a suggested $79.99.

The Super CCD combines Fujifilm’s new, proprietary image processing method, known as Pixel Data Coupling Technology, along with a new noise-reduction technology to enable the FinePix F401 (and other third-generation Super CCD models) to deliver ISO sensitivities up to 1600 in 1280 x 960 (1-megapixel) mode. In addition, it minimizes CCD “noise.”

The camera sports a Super EBC Fujinon 3x optical, retractable zoom (with up to 3.6x digital zoom) lens. The F401 can capture more than 13 minutes of AVI digital video with sound on a 128MB SmartMedia card at 320 x 240 resolution at 10 frames per second (fps), or 160 x 120 resolution at 10 fps.

With the camera’s built-in microphone, picture takers can attach 30-second voice notes to each photo.

The F401 also offers continuous, full-resolution shooting at three fps up to four frames, or a special last-four-frame-only continuous shooting mode that enables photographers to record the last four frames of the subject after releasing the shutter button for sports and action photography. Preset shooting modes include auto, portrait, sports, landscape and night scene. Nikon introduced three new cameras to its Coolpix line, all shipping in July. Suggested retail prices were not available at press time.

The Coolpix 5700 features a 5.0 effective megapixel CCD and 8x optical zoom-Nikkor ED glass lens. It is the first Coolpix model to include an electronic viewfinder (EVF), the ability to capture images in a RAW data recording mode (for image control and manipulation after the picture is taken) and Nikon’s exclusive extra-low dispersion (ED) glass for improved image quality.

The 5700 can record up to one minute of full-motion video with sound, and comes with NikonView 5, an image browser software that lets users organize, retrieve and print images, create a slideshow and share images via e-mail, the Web or PDAs. Additional bundled software includes ArcSoft’s PhotoStudio, VideoImpression, Panorama Maker and ArcSoft PhotoBase.

The 5700 ships with a 16MB Nikon Starter Memory Card, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery and charger that provides approximately 90 minutes of continuous operation when fully charged.

The second offering, the Coolpix 4500, is the first Nikon digital camera to feature 4-megapixel resolution combined with a 4x optical zoom-Nikkor lens. Built on the swivel-lens body design of the Coolpix 995, the Coolpix 4500 offers both manual and automatic control options.

For automatic functions, the camera includes 16 built-in scene modes, the most in any Coolpix camera, and an automatic pop-up flash. The Coolpix 4500 also has two sound features — a voice memo function to record up to 20 seconds of audio captions for still images, and a QuickTime movie mode that records up to 35 seconds of video with sound.

The final offering from Nikon is the entry-level Coolpix 2000, a 2-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom-Nikkor lens. It offers five automatic scene modes, compact body design, a One-Touch Upload button and an interactive “Let’s Get Started” video CD program that takes users through the process of digital picture taking and uploading images.

The 2000 also includes an autofocus, a built-in Speedlight featuring red-eye reduction, automatic flash, flash cancel and slow sync modes. The camera incorporates an automatic shooting mode and five programmed scene modes, including Portrait, Party/Indoor, Night Portrait, Beach/Snow and Back Light.

The camera’s multifunction dial gives control of image quality, image size, white balance, exposure metering, continuous shooting, best-shot selector, exposure compensation and image sharpening. From Sony come two new models in its P-series of digital still cameras. The DSC-P7 combines a 3.2-megapixel (effective) Super HAD CCD with a 3x optical zoom lens in a compact design.

The camera sports a three-area multipoint autofocus, and for low-light conditions, Sony’s AF Illuminator briefly illuminates the subject for an accurate focus lock. The multiburst function captures 16 320×240 frames with three selectable intervals for motion analysis.

With MPEG HQX movie mode, consumers can capture 16 fps 320×240 full-screen playback video (without audio) clips whose length is limited only by the capacity of the media. Users can edit-in MPEG clips in the camera with 6x cue/review & divide/delete feature.

The DSC-P7 is supplied with Sony’s InfoLithium battery and AC-LS1 AC adaptor/in-camera charger. It will ship in June for approximately $500.

Sony’s other introduction, the DSC-P2, has the same feature set as the P7 but with 2-megapixel (effective) resolution. It also ships in June for about $400.