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CE Firms Broaden SLR Market

The SLR category, long the province of Japanese camera firms with patented lens mounts, has seen a sudden influx of new competition from CE companies with little optical heritage. At the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show, Panasonic announced its first d-SLR in conjunction with Olympus, while Samsung expanded its lineup courtesy of a partnership with Pentax. In both cases, the CE firms went with third-party lens makers (Leica for Panasonic and Schneider Optics for Samsung) to support their d-SLRs.

Canon introduced a midlevel d-SLR, the 8-megapixel EOS 30D, shipping in March for a suggested $1,499 with an EF-S 18-55mm lens ($1,399 body only). The company will keep the 20D on the market for a reduced price of $1,299.

The 30D features 5 fps shooting to 30 JPEG images or 11 RAW files; 3 fps shooting to 37 JPEGs; a 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD; and new spot metering capability. Its ISO sensitivity can be advanced from 100 to 1,600 in one-third increments rather than the full stops available on the 20D. The camera also features a new folder management system for saving images onto CF memory. Each folder can now hold 9,999 images vs. 100 on the 20D.

Additional features include a 0.15 second start-up, automatic noise reduction, nine-point wide area autofocus and a new dedicated print/share button previously found on the company’s consumer point-and-shoots.

Canon also added two new EF lenses to its lineup. The EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM (27-88mm, 35mm equivalent) is compatible only with the EOS 30D, EOS 20D, EOS Digital Rebel XT and EOS Digital Rebel SLRs. It ships in May for an estimated $1,149. The new EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens will ship in March for an estimated $2,099.

Fujifilm dropped the price on its FinePix S3 Pro d-SLR camera to a suggested $1,699. The company will also add an AC adapter and HS-V2 Hyper Utility software to the product bundle. Both were optional accessories.

Panasonic launched the 7-megapixel Lumix DMC-L1, developed in conjunction with Olympus. The camera features several technologies co-developed by the two companies, including the live view LCD technology first introduced on Olympus’ recent E-330 d-SLR.

The L1 also features Olympus’ supersonic wave filter for dislodging dust that can accumulate on the image sensor when changing lenses.

Like the E-330, the L1 offers a live view on its 2.5-inch LCD through the incorporation of a 7.5-megapixel “live MOS” sensor and a mirror-up mechanism. It also features the third generation of Panasonic’s Venus Engine LSI for reducing power consumption and digital noise.

The L1 will offer a shutter-speed dial on the camera body and an aperture ring on the lens barrel. It accepts SD memory.

Debuting alongside the L1 is a new Leica D Vario-Elmarit lens (14-50mm) based on the 4/3 system. The lens features Panasonic’s MEGA optical image stabilization. The 4/3 system was developed to create an “all digital” SLR system with lenses designed to match the dimensions of a digital sensor. Legacy film lenses on competing d-SLR systems were designed for the dimensions of film.

Panasonic’s new SLR will also be compatible with Olympus’ line of Zuiko lenses. Pricing and availability were not announced.

Pentax showed under glass a 10-megapixel d-SLR that it plans to introduce in the fall, most likely to correspond with the Photokina show in Cologne, Germany.

The company also announced its 10th lens for its digital SLR lineup. The smc Pentax DA 21mm F3.2AL Limited is a uni-focal wide-angle lens.

Fast on the heels of its first d-SLR introduction, Samsung announced its second model — the GX-1L — which it developed in conjunction with Pentax.

The 6-megapixel model is being positioned as an entry-level d-SLR at $699 with several automatic modes and new operating system. The GX-1L features a 2.5-inch, 210,000-pixel LCD; eight scene modes; a five-point AF system; a three-mode metering system, including 16-segment multi-pattern metering; center-weighted metering; and spot metering.

A new “Auto Picture” mode selects a scene mode from standard, landscape, macro or action depending on the environment. To tackle image blur, the model features an “Auto Sensitivity” mode that automatically adjusts brightness and focal.

The GX-1L can burst at 2.8 fps up to eight frames in JPEG and at 5 fps in RAW. It offers shutter speeds from 30 to 1/4,000 seconds and automatic and manual exposure controls. The Samsung GX-1L can be powered by four AA-size Lithium, Ni-MH or CR-V3 batteries. The camera will ship with or without a Schneider D-XENON 18mm-55mm lens. The camera is also compatible with Pentax’s d-SLR lenses.