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Digital Cam Deluge Hits Before The Holidays

The fourth quarter is shaping up to be competitive again in the digital camera market as eight vendors recently announced new models that take aim at the heart of the market, the $299-$800 range, in anticipation of brisk holiday sales.

Total shipments for the quarter may not hit 2001 levels, according to the market research firm IDC, based in Framingham, Mass. The firm is predicting 2.5 million units to ship in the next few months for a total of about 8.2 million this year, an increase of 25 percent over last year.

Canon has come to market with two new entries that incorporate a new image processor called “DIGIC,” a proprietary dedicated signal processor that the company says provides better image quality.

The 4-megapixel PowerShot G3 builds upon the G2 with a re-engineered control layout for easier access to key functions, and an enlarged handgrip for better handling. Additionally, Canon has increased the zoom range of the G3’s built-in lens to 4x optical/3.6x digital (for a 14x combined zoom) while maintaining a maximum aperture range of f/2.0-3.0, which is the widest zoom range and largest aperture of any current Canon PowerShot model.

A 32MB CompactFlash card is included with the G3, which will be available in October with a suggested retail price of $899.

Canon’s other offering, the PowerShot S230 Digital Elph, is a 3.2-megapixel unit that incorporates Canon’s exclusive iSAPS technology to enhance the speed and performance of the camera’s autofocus, auto exposure and auto white balance functions.

The PowerShot S230 also features a 2x optical/3.2x digital zoom lens, photo effects mode, a shutter speed range of 15 seconds to 1/1,500 second, spot metering, selectable ISO settings from 50-400, built-in red-eye reduction light-guide flash, and zoom playback up to 10x for image review.

The PowerShot S230 Digital ELPH will be available in October with a suggested retail price of $499. It ships with a 16MB CompactFlash card.

Fujifilm’s contribution to the product storm is the FinePix F402, compatible with the company’s new xD-Picture Card flash media format. It sports a 3.6x digital zoom and AVI movie recording with sound.

The F402 also has PC-cam/video conferencing functionality when tethered to a computer. It comes bundled with a 16MB xD-Picture Card, a battery charger and will be available in November for a suggested retail price of $349.95.

Hewlett-Packard has introduced a new Instant Share camera to its lineup. The HP Photosmart 850 digital camera is a 4.1-megapixel model with a total 56x zoom (8x optical, 7x digital). The camera is compatible with the Photosmart 8881 USB camera dock for image transfer and battery recharging.

Like other Instant Share cameras, the 850 has an on-camera image tagging feature that lets users designate where an image will go the next time the camera is connected to a computer via the dock — either automatically to up to 12 e-mail addresses or to two printers.

The camera ships with a 16MB SD card and HP Memories Disc Creator software to create digital photo slide shows on CD for playback on a DVD player. The camera is shipping now for a suggested retail price of $499.

Minolta has updated its high-end Dimage 7i with the new Dimage 7hi, a 5-megapixel model for the advanced amateur. The camera features a manual zoom ring, automatic and manual exposure controls, a variable electronic viewfinder, movie and voice modes, and takes Type I and II CompactFlash cards. It also sports a 7x optical/2x digital zoom, a 9 position white balance, 3-point wide AF, and UHS continuous shooting, a high-speed shooting mode with VGA playback.

The Dimage 7hi is now shipping for a suggested retail of $1,299.

Nikon’s new Coolpix 3500 digital camera is the second model with Nikon’s inner-swivel lens design, which was first featured on the Coolpix 2500. The 3500 features 3.2-megapixel resolution, and Nikon’s One-Touch Upload button for transferring images to a PC.

The inner-swivel 3x zoom has a zoom range of 37-111mm. The camera offers a built-in speedlight with red-eye reduction. The Coolpix 3500 ships in November at a suggested $399.95.

Sony aims to invert the ‘size does matter’ mantra with its two Cybershot introductions. The 1-megapixel DSC-U10 is due out in October with a suggested retail of approximately $200. A 2-megapixel model, the U20, will ship in November, for a suggested $279.

Both cameras have auto-focus and an MPEG movie mode (no audio), and an auto power-on by moving the lens cover. The cameras also feature auto exposure, auto white balance, pre-flash/red-eye reduction, and a six-shot VGA burst which takes six consecutive shots while the shutter button is depressed.

The first Polaroid-branded camera from Spectra has hit the market. The PDC 2150 features 2-megapixel resolution and Web-cam functionality, recording 24 frames per second. The camera has a 2x digital zoom lens, built in flash with red-eye reduction mode, 8MB of internal memory and a TV-out to slide show images on a television. It will have a suggested retail price of $299.

Toshiba’s PDR-2300 will be available in October at a suggested $249. The 2300 sports an all-glass, auto focus lens system with a 3x optical zoom, an AVI movie mode to produce videos up to 15 seconds in length, and a built-in four-mode flash.

The 2300 is the first Toshiba camera to offer internal memory — with 8MB —as well as an 256MB-capacity SD card slot.

Stepping up, Toshiba’s new PDR-3320 is a 3.2-megapixel camera building on the design of the PDR-M25. It features an all-glass, aspherical 3x optical zoom lens and a 2x digital zoom with built-in macro capability, plus an optional mounting system for third-party filters or wide-angle lenses on the lens barrel.

The 3320 will hit retail selves in October, bundled with an 8MB SmartMedia card for a suggested $329.