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Ultra Zooms Take Up Less Room

Orlando, Fla. — In the face of increased competition from digital SLRs, ultra-zoom cameras are not only getting vastly cheaper than their interchangeable lens competitors, but physically smaller and more functional with new features such as HDMI outputs.

Canon will offer an ultra-zoom in its entry A-series PowerShot line and announced a replacement for the S2 IS. The 6-megapixel A700 (shipping in March, $349.99 suggested retail) features a 6x optical zoom lens (35mm-210mm, 35mm equivalent), 22 shooting modes with manual options, ISO sensitivities to 800, a 2.5-inch LCD and in-camera image editing and retouching options including a new “face brightener” to compensate for back-lit images.

The 6-megapixel PowerShot S3 IS features a 12x optical zoom lens (36mm-432mm, 35mm equivalent) with optical image stabilization and a silent zoom
motor. It can capture VGA/30 fps movies and snap 6-megapixel still images simultaneously. It offers ISO sensitivity to 800, a 2-inch vari-angle LCD, a new sports mode and 16:9 still image capture. The S3 IS ships in May for an estimated $499.99.

Fujifilm’s 6-megapixel FinePix F650 is a compact model sporting a 5x optical Fujinon lens and a 3-inch, 230K pixel LCD. It also features 10 scene modes, including shutter and aperture priority and a 30 fps movie mode with sound. It ships in June for a suggested $349.

Kodak will add the 6-megapixel Easy-share Z612 (April, $299) to its lineup. The camera sports a 12x optical zoom with electronic image stabilization technology for stills and video. It offers a 2.5-inch LCD, on-camera cropping and automatic image enhancement. It sports a VGA/30 fps MPEG-4 movie mode with optical zoom active during filming. Individual still images can be pulled from the video for printing. It features 16 scene modes, 5 color modes, manual controls and 27MB of internal memory.

Panasonic announced the compact DMC-TZ1, a 10x optical zoom model with the company’s Mega O.I.S. technology and the third generation of Panasonic’s Venus Engine processor. The TZ1 is the company’s first model to incorporate a Linear autofocus system which, when combined with the high speed AF function, improves AF response time, the company claimed.

According to Panasonic, the compact size was achieved courtesy of a new lens design which combines retractable with folded-path and aspherical optical elements. The TZ1 (March, $349.95) features a 2.5-inch LCD, 18 scene modes, a 0.5 second shutter interval, a 0.95 second start-up time, and ISO sensitivity up to 1,600. It can optically zoom while recording VGA/30 fps video. It can also record wide angle video at 848 by 480.

Samsung will incorporate an HDMI output in its high-zoom Digimax L85. The 8-megapixel camera sports a 5x optical zoom, a 230K pixel 2.5-inch LCD, manual controls, VGA/30 fps MPEG-4 movie recording with 3x zooming and stabilization. The camera also features 11 scene modes, 32 MB of built-in memory, a voice recording and will ship in April for a suggested $499.99.

Sony will add two new H-series models to its nascent ultra-zoom line, both with 12x optical zoom Carl Zeiss lenses (36mm-432mm, 35mm equivalent). The 6-megapixel DSC-H2 ($400) features a 2.5-inch LCD screen, ISO sensitivity to 1,000 and 32MB of internal memory. The 7-megapixel H5 builds off of the H2 with a 3-inch LCD for $500. It comes in black or silver.