CES 2010 compact camera round-up
CES 2010 only opened today and we've already seen the announcement of 45 new compact cameras. To a great extent these launches have been about manufacturers refreshing their product ranges, but there have been a few interesting additions along the way. As try to dry ourselves off after the latest compact camera deluge, it's worth taking stock of where these latest models leave the market. What sort of specification should you be able to expect from the class of 2010?
As we've become used to, the march of the megapixel continues apace, with 14 megapixels becoming the standard (it's present on 28 of the new cameras). Meanwhile, thanks in part to the sterling efforts companies such as Panasonic have made to promote the benefits of wide-angle capability on compacts, a similar number of the latest cameras include lenses with a 28mm equivalent field-of-view or wider. And many makers are not stopping at the the already impressive 28mm equiv. - a handful of angularly-adventurous models reach out to an effective 25 or 24mm.
The future of video more clearly defined
HD video is another feature that has become de rigueur this season - 29 cameras offer at least 720p resolution, with a couple of Sony's latest models stretching all the way to 1080i 'Full HD.' We're also rather pleased to see that more efficient compression algorithms such as H.264 and AVCHD are starting to creep in alongside the card-space-consuming Motion JPEG format. Even so, HD video's capacity requirements have finally encouraged Olympus and Sony to embrace the de facto industry standard SD/SDHC memory card, while Canon and Panasonic move on to the SDXC memory format. SDXC promises cards capable of storing a disorientating 2 Terabytes of data. That should be enough to satisfy your inner Cecil B. DeMille, as it would let you shoot around 480 hours of HD footage.
For now at least, the largest SDXC announced is Panasonic's 64GB version, which is probably enough for the moment, given that 2TB could store upwards of 400,000 images, even from these latest 14MP beasties. Even so, it's probably for the best that several manufacturers are getting keen on photo-tagging to help make sense of so many images.
Face Recognition is one of the tagging technologies beginning to show itself in this year's cameras, while Sony has joined the small club of cameras offering GPS, to allow geo-tagging images as well. And it's not just image organization on your PC that the camera makers are thinking of with all this image tagging - it's integration with Facebook, Flickr and all the other websites that the young people seem so keen on, hence Samsung's CL80 with its undiscriminating attitude to connectivity (both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0).
10MP not yet out-for-the-count
The result is a marketplace in which the traditional 3X zoom and VGA movie recording are as old-hat as a deerstalker. It's also one in which 10MP (and even 12MP) sensors risk being overlooked. But, in addtion to the CCD-based Canons, Casio and Sony have launched 10MP models incorporating back-illuminated CMOS sensors that promise decent low-light capability while boasting faster data rates that make all manner of multi-shot, high-speed features possible.
The model every maker wants to be seen out-and-about with is a slim, tactile, touch-screen camera. Sony has been making them for years but now, perhaps helped by the popularity of the temptingly tactile iPhone, just about everyone has one. We've not been huge fans in the past, due to a combination of insensitive touch detection and badly re-purposed button-orientated interfaces, but all involved have assured us that it'll be different this time. We'll see.
The only thing that every camera maker is agreed on is the need for color. Blue and Red color schemes have long been offered in addition to standard silver for mid-range compact, to the point that those colors have run into the normally staid world of the interchangeable lens camera. More recently a handful of more vibrant tones has burst onto the market, with creative names to challenge the magnificent 'Go ManGo' used by Dodge the the 1970s. However, while last year this trend was prevalent in the waterproof/lifestyle camera segment, it now extends to all compacts, with camera store shelves soon to be occupied by a range of hues Pantone would be proud of.
We've also yet to see any new products from Nikon or FujiFilm but, with the PMA trade show in February and the new, industry-body-backed CP+ show in Japan a month later, these latest 45 compacts represent just a taste of what's to come this year.
|Canon||PowerShot A3100 IS||4X||12||35mm||SDXC|
|PowerShot A3000 IS||4X||10||35mm||SDXC|
|Olympus||Stylus Tough 3000||3.6X||12||28mm||720p|
|Panasonic||Lumix DMC-FS33||8X||14||28mm||720p||SDXC TS|
|Lumix DMC-FP3||4X||14||35mm||720p||SDXC TS|
|Samsung||CL80 (ST5500)||7X||14||31mm||720p||H.264 TS Wi-Fi Bluetooth|
|TL240 (ST5000)||7X||14||31mm||720p||H.264 TS|
|Sony||Cyber-shot HX5||10X||10||24mm||1080i||AVCHD BIC GPS|
|Cyber-shot TX7||4X||10||25mm||1080i||AVCHD BIC|
Key to additional features:
SDXC - Compatible with SDXC memory card format
BIC - Back-illuminated CMOS sensor
AVCHD/H.264 - uses a more efficient movie compression algorithm the common Motion JPEG
TS - Touch Screen