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New Cameras Take Aim At Market’s Low, High Ends

Five digital camera manufacturers, Canon, Toshiba, Olympus, SiPix and Polaroid, announced new models last week that encapsulate the diversity of the digital camera marketplace.

SiPix and Polaroid have staked out ground in the low end of the market; Toshiba the middle; and Canon and Olympus have courted customers with products ranging from the mid-range to the “pro-sumer.”

Canon classified its two new introductions, the PowerShot S40 and S30, as upper-mid-range cameras with 4- and 3-megapixel resolution, respectively. The S40 and S30 will be available at the end of October and have street prices of approximately $599 and $799, respectively.

Both cameras feature a 7.1mm-21.3mm 3X optical zoom lens, 3-point autofocus, and 13 shooting modes ranging from fully automatic to fully manual. Other features include compatibility with Type I and Type II CompactFlash (CF) cards, a USB interface, movie mode, Microsoft Windows XP compatibility, and direct printing using Canon’s new S820D Bubble Jet printer.

As part of the company’s strategy to tighten the link between its printing and camera divisions, the new digital cameras can connect directly to Canon’s new S820D Bubble Jet photo printer via a USB cable. A menu display provides operating instructions and one-touch operation.

The Canon PowerShot S40 and S30 are the first Canon digital cameras to incorporate a new feature called “My Camera Settings.” This feature allows users to customize settings for start-up images and sounds, as well as sounds for shutter operation, self-timer operation and camera setting adjustments.

Olympus’ new C-3020 Zoom is a 3.2 megapixel point & shoot digital camera that will ship this month for an estimated street price of $499. The 3020 features a 3X optical zoom aspherical glass lens with continuous 2.5x digital telephoto for a 7.5x total zoom and a six mode flash with a slow synchro red-eye reduction mode.

New features include five scene program modes, a customizable “My Mode” setting, USB Auto-Connect for Windows XP and Mac OSX for driver-free downloads, a new menu system, extended battery life, and a noise reduction mode. The 3020 ships with a 16MB SmartMedia card.

Toshiba’s new PDR-M21, a 2.1- megapixel digital camera aimed at entry-level home, education or business users, is shipping this month for a suggested retail price of $299.

According to Doug Freck, VP and general manager of Toshiba Imaging Systems Division, more than five million digital cameras were sold last year with the strongest sales growth in the under $500 consumer category.

The pocket-sized PDR-M21 captures images at resolutions as high as 1600 x 1200. The supplied 8MB SmartMedia memory card can hold up to 97 images. The camera features an all-glass six-element lens with 2X digital zoom, a 1.8-inch LCD color monitor, USB connectivity, a built-in four-mode flash system, and an intuitive mode dial functionality with onscreen prompts.

In addition to an array of automatic functions, the PDR-M21 has a manual mode that allows for changes in white balance, exposure and flash, as well as for continuous shooting of up to four shots in less than five seconds. Toshiba also provides a setting for taking black & white pictures.

Polaroid’s new offering, the PhotoMAX PDC 1320 with an estimated retail of $199, is an entry-level 1-megapixel digital camera that ships this month. It features a 2X digital zoom, two image resolution modes, 1.8-inch color LCD screen, 8 MB of internal memory and a memory card slot.

SiPix bowed the diminutive, 2.6-ounce StyleCam, a VGA resolution camera with a suggested retail of $69.99. Described as a four-mode digital camera, the StyleCam includes a USB video feature, video conferencing, digital still capture and a Streaming Snapshot function that captures up to 180 pictures at three frames per second. The camera includes 8MB of built-in memory to capture up to 180 pictures at 640 x 480 resolution.