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New Digicams Take Varying Levels Of User Experience Into Consideration

New digital camera introductions from Canon, Kodak, SiPix and UMAX encapsulated the digital imaging equivalent of a loose caste system, with Nikon courting the high-end user, Kodak targeting the mainstream consumer, and SiPix and UMAX aiming at the entry-level user.

Canon’s newest offering is the 5-megapixel PowerShot G5, which will ship this month for a suggested retail of $899.

The G5 features a 4x optical/4x digital zoom lens that provides macro focusing down to 2 inches. Other features include 12 EOS system-based shooting modes, a Wide-Area FlexiZone AF/AE system which allows users to focus on off-center subjects without repositioning the camera and three metering systems, including spot metering. An Intelligent Orientation Sensor t automatically rotates images for proper viewing during playback.

Consistent with Canon’s other PowerShot cameras, the G5 has a Direct Connect print function that allows printing without a computer using Canon’s line of dye-sublimation and Bubble Jet printers.

The G5 also features a 3-mode built-in flash with red-eye reduction and first or second curtain sync. The flash can be operated manually or automatically.

The camera also employs Canon’s DIGIC image processor. According to Canon, DIGIC enables the company’s exclusive iSAPS (an acronym for Intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space) technology that improves picture quality by “predicting” certain camera settings like focusing distance, exposure and optimum white balance based on zoom focal length, overall light level and tonal distribution data. With iSAPS, the PowerShot G5 can analyze a scene just before the image is made thereby increasing the speed and precision of the camera’s autofocus, auto exposure and auto white balance features.

The G5 ships with a 32MB CompactFlash card and the BP-511 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery.

Kodak added three new cameras to its EasyShare system, all of which feature Kodak’s ‘share’ button that allows users to designate images on the camera’s LCD screen for automatic printing or e-mailing when connected to a PC.

The 4-megapixel DX6440, available in August for a suggested retail of $399, incorporates a Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 4x optical zoom lens, and an exclusive high-speed, low-light precision auto-focus system. The camera also features programmable aperture and shutter priorities as well as pre-programmed sport, night, portrait, landscape, close-up and automatic modes. There is also a new automatic fill flash for backlit scenes.

The CX6330 is a 3.1-megapixel camera with a 3x optical/3.3x digital zoom Kodak Retinar aspheric all-glass lens. It features multiple scene modes including sport, night, landscape and close-up. The camera also captures continuous digital video with audio. It will be available this month for a suggested retail of $279.

Finally, Kodak introduced the entry-level CX6200 which will ship in August for a suggested $129. The camera features 2-megapixel resolution with a 3x digital zoom. The 1.6-inch LCD screen can be used to both preview a shot and instantly review the snapped picture.

All three of Kodak’s new EasyShare cameras are compatible with the optional EasyShare camera dock 6000, which retails for a suggested $79.95. The USB dock transfers images from the camera to the desktop and charges the camera’s Ni-MH and Lithium-Ion batteries. The cameras are also compatible with the Kodak EasyShare printer dock 6000 (suggested $199.95), introduced at the PMA show earlier this year.

SiPix announced that it will ship the StyleCam DV100 for a suggested retail of $129 next month.

The pocket-sized DV100 combines a full-featured digital video camera with a 1.3-megapixel still camera. The DV100 captures AVI video up to 640 by 480 at eight frames per second (fps). Video can also be captured at a resolution of 320 by 240 and 160 by 120 at 15 fps. Users can preview the video on the unit’s 1.6-inch color LCD screen or connect via the included A/V cable to a TV.

The camera features a 2x digital zoom, USB connectivity, 8MB of internal flash memory and an SD slot for memory expansion up to 256MB.

UMAX introduced its new AstraPix 540, a 2-megapixel digital camera that doubles as a Web-cam, video recorder and MP3 player.

The new AstraPix 540 is shipping now for a suggested retail of $199.

The 540 is styled in a metallic finish and features a self-timer, optical viewfinder, a 1.6-inch TFT display, 7MB of internal memory, a CompactFlash card slot, automatic and manual white balance, and a 16-level digital zoom. The unit can capture AVI video clips at 320 by 240 pixels at 15 fps. In Web cam mode the camera captures and streams video at 320 by 240 pixels at 30 fps. The AstraPix 540 can also capture rapid images in continuous mode at three pictures per shot at 1,280 by 1,024 resolution.

The camera comes bundled with a headset and PhotoStudio 1.3 imaging software.