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Canon, Minolta Bow Last Minute Holiday Cameras

With NPD Techworld reporting strong digital camera sales heading into November and December, with a 30 percent dollar growth in October compared with last year, Minolta and Canon made high-end additions to their prospective lines to cash in on consumers’ holiday largess.

Canon’s contribution consisted of the PowerShot S45, which will succeed the S40 in the market. The PowerShot S45 is shipping now and has a suggested retail of $649.

Aimed at a more advanced user, the 4-megapixel S45 features a 3x optical zoom lens and Canon’s proprietary “DIGIC” Imaging Processor to help improve overall image quality.

According to Canon, DIGIC (Digital Imaging Integrated Circuit) improves the signal processing algorithms of image processors found in previous PowerShot models. The new DIGIC processor accounts for improved autofocus accuracy, improved processing speed and the camera’s ability to record 15 frames per second digital movies with sound up to three minutes per clip at resolutions up to 320 by 240 pixels.

Thanks to DIGIC, the S45 also offers a 9-Point AiAF autofocus system, 9-position white balance, selectable metering modes and a selectable second-curtain sync flash. Canon was able to improve its autofocus system since the S40. In fully automatic modes, the S45 defaults to a 9-point AiAF system that evaluates a much larger percentage of the picture area than the 3-point system used in the S40. This makes it easier and quicker for the camera to detect the main subject, even when it is considerably off-center.

In semi-automatic and manual modes, the S45 offers Flexizone AF/AE, which enables the photographer to place a single focusing point almost anywhere in the picture area for maximum creative control.

The PowerShot S45 allows captured JPEG images to be saved as a RAW file after it is recorded. This feature can be accessed at any time during the review period immediately after the image is captured, and is geared toward a user who wants to change resolution, contrast, saturation or sharpening in the execution of the final image. RAW images can be processed after storage by means of software bundled with the S45.

The camera, along with nearly all of Canon’s consumer-level offerings, can be directly connected to Canon’s optional Card Photo Printer CP-100 as well as several Bubble Jet Direct Photo Printers including the S830D and S530D.

Minolta announced that it is now shipping the next generation of its diminutive DiMAGE X, the new DiMAGE Xi, which will join the DiMAGE X on the market.

The 3-megapixel Xi packs more resolution than its predecessor and an increased zoom at 3x optical/4x digital. According to Minolta, the camera’s 1.2-second start up time is the fastest in the industry for a camera with an optical zoom (as of this writing).

The new Xi is approximately .75 inches thick and shares the folded lens design with the DiMAGE X. The design, unique to Minolta, allows the lens to move/zoom vertically within the camera rather than extruding horizontally from the camera’s body.

Other enhancements to the Xi include user-selectable ISO settings, optional date imprinting, spot autofocus (AF), an improved anti-reflection LCD and automatic e-mail file copy creation.

Users can take 35 seconds of digital video with audio or create 15-second audio notes that can be attached to a still image. Finally, the Xi can serve as a voice-recorder, capturing 30 minutes of audio without an image.

The DiMAGE Xi features Minolta’s proprietary CxProcess, an image processing technology that controls sharpness, color reproduction, tonal gradation and noise to optimize image quality.

The camera accepts both SD and MMC memory and comes bundled with a 16MB SD card. Also included with the DiMAGE Xi is Movie Enhancer, a new application plug-in for editing and processing digital video. Movie clips can be spliced together and unwanted scenes can be cut. The Movie Enhancer can reduce or eliminate the effects of generalized or localized flicker as well as improving image quality. Basic and advanced image correction palettes allow adjustments to color, contrast, saturation, sharpness and brightness.

Minolta also introduced a marine case for its DiMAGE X and the new Xi. The casing, which will have a suggested retail of $249, allows users to take the cameras under water to a depth of about 100 feet.

The compact shell slides into the pocket of a buoyancy control jacket or ski jacket. The chrome-plated, metal control buttons allows users to manipulate the camera even if they are wearing gloves. A polycarbonate surface gives the marine case strength while keeping the weight down.