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May 2003 news and reviews

May 31
Konica teaser

Konica has recently put up a flash teaser on their Japanese web site, very much in the vien of Nikon with their Coolpix SQ earlier this year. It shows a number of Konica cameras through the years and ends with a sillouette of the new model with the promise of more information coming on the 6th of June. There are two very good samples linked from the page though, so I think again its a case of wait and see.

May 28
Nikon Coolpix 5400

Nikon has today announced the new five megapixel four times optical zoom Coolpix 5400 (the Coolpix 5000's sucessor). The Coolpix 5400 is especially interesting because it offers a wide angle 28 mm equiv. four times zoom compared to the typical 35 or 38 mm equiv. Other noteworthy specifications include 1/1.8" sensor (the Coolpix 5000 used a 2/3"), ISO 50 - 400 sensitivity, up to 10 minute Bulb exposures and front or rear flash sync.. Available "Summer 2003" with a list price of $799. UPDATE: 5400 will get RAW "in Spring 2004" via a firmware update.

Two new Sony U-series ultra-compacts

Sony has today announce two new U-series ultra-compact digital cameras. The DSC-U30 (available in three colors) is essentially an update to the DSC-U20, it has a two megapixel CCD sensor and fixed lens. The 'new feature' for the DSC-U30 is a convex mirror on the front of the camera so that you (or your friends) can see yourselves before taking a shot. The DSC-U60 is Sony's first ruggedized and waterproofed model, it has a rubber body and is waterproof in up to 1.5 m (5 ft) of water. Both cameras should be available in July at $200 and $250 respectively.

May 27
Lexar and Sandisk xD cards

Lexar Media and SanDisk have today both announced support for the xD-Picture Card format, which was developed by Olympus, FujiFilm and Toshiba. Lexar Media will now be offering xD-Picture Cards
in Lexar packaging through many of its worldwide retail outlets and SanDisk have signed a 5 year agreement with Olympus to manufacture as well as sell xD-Picture Cards under the Olympus brand.

NuCore to reduce image file sizes

An interesting story on EE Times today about a new image processor for digital cameras from NuCore Technologies called CleanCapture. CleanCapture chips lower noise in the analog stage, thefore improving compression using standard algorithms. If an image file contains noise, the noise is treated as data and deteriorates compression efficiency. "A JPEG file created by NuCore's processor is on average a half or one third the size of conventionally processed JPEG files" said Seiichiro Watanabe.

Fujifilm announce FinePix A210 Zoom

In their second announcement of the day Fujfilm has revealed the new FinePix A210 Zoom, a three megapixel, three times optical zoom entry-level digital camera. The camera has a 1.5" LCD monitor, is powered by two AA batteries and stores images on xD Picture Card (16 MB included). The A210 is designed to appeal to first time digital camera users with an easy to use interface which includes larger buttons and clear labelling.

Fujifilm announce 512 MB xD Picture Card

To coincide with the Olympus announcement (which just pipped them to the post) Fujifilm has also today announced their 512 MB xD Picture Card. The xD Picture Card format was jointly developed by Fujifilm, Olympus and Toshiba (who produce the cards). Adrian Clarke, Director of Consumer Products at Fujifilm, said: "The new capacity for the xD-Picture Card™ takes it into a commanding competitive position compared to other storage formats, whilst the tiny physical dimensions are of considerable benefit with regard to camera design and size."

Olympus announce 512 MB xD Picture Card

Olympus Japan has today announced another step in capacity for the relatively new xD Picture Card flash storage format, according to the press release they expect the 512 MB xD Picture Card (M-XD512P) to go on sale in Japan this June (next month). This new, higher capacity card, is already compatible with several recently released Olympus digital cameras; C-5050 Zoom, C-50 Zoom, C-730 Ultra Zoom, C-740 Ultra Zoom, C-750 Ultra Zoom, Stylus 400 (mju 400) Digital, Stylus 300 (mju 300) Digital. Although not confirmed in the Japanese release we assume this new card would be compatible with the US models D-560 Zoom and D-390.

May 22
Lexar card issues with D1x and D1h

Lexar has recently identified a rare compatibility issue between some of their 32x and 40x Professional Series CompactFlash cards and Nikon D1x & D1h cameras. Under certain conditions, the cards can become corrupted resulting in a standard "CHA" error message on the camera's LCD display. The affected cards can be identified by the card's serial number located at the bottom edge of the card opposite the connector. Cards with a serial number ending with the last 4 characters of 4D8D or 6DB4 should be updated with the latest firmware.

May 21
Pentax *ist D delay - English release

Pentax has today issued an English (the previous was only in Japanese) press release about the delay of the *ist D digital SLR. "Due to a delay in the delivery of some components, the product launch has been pushed back to late August of this year. In the sales memorandum of February 27, 2003, the original date was announced to be sometime in June or July. Final specifications will be announced later." For their sake I hope they can hit this new target and not delay any further, having a flagship digital product is important and Pentax really need to prove that they can actually produce a digital SLR.

Displaytech LightView 311k EVF

Displaytech has announced the LightView 311k Display Module, the highest resolution display produced for digital still camera and camcorder viewfinders. The 311k is a 0.26-inch diagonal FLC on reflective CMOS microdisplay with 432 by 240 pixel display resolution. Each pixel has 24-bit color depth, and it operates at 120 Hz (360 Hz RGB field rate) to provide flicker free, full color video imaging.

May 20
Just posted! Kodak DCS-14n review

Phew! Perhaps one of the most exhaustive (and exhausting) reviews I've ever produced, our review of the fourteen megapixel DCS-14n spans no less than 24 pages, five of which are dedicated to comparing this camera to Canon's eleven megapixel EOS-1Ds. We've had our DCS-14n for some time now so I've had a good chance to evaluate the camera, and the various firmware versions which have flowed our way. And that's part of the problem, is the 14n actual finished yet? Dive into our review and see how Kodak's latest digital SLR stacks up.

All Manufacturers Becoming Winners

Nikkei recently ran a story about the success of digital camera manufacturers. They were initially burdended with heavy investment costs, but now have a cash cow as production increased. The top five manufacturers operating profits in their digital-camera-related divisions skyrocketed 130% in fiscal 2002. Global digital camera shipments soared 70% on the year to 24.55 million units in 2002, surging 50% in value terms to about 800 billion yen.

Creative Graphics Blaster Picture Perfect

Creative Technology Ltd. has today announced the Graphics Blaster Picture Perfect graphics accelerator, it is based on a 64MB VP500SE Visual Processing Unit (VPU) from 3Dlabs and is bundled with full versions of ArcSoft's PhotoImpression, Panorama Maker, and ArcSoft PhotoPrinter. The Graphics Blaster Picture Perfect has an ESP of US$179.99.

May 16
Pentax delay *ist D

Pentax Japan has today published a press release informing their customers of a delay to the availability of their new '*ist D' digital SLR which was announced at PMA this year. The *ist D was originally scheduled for sale in June 2003, this has now been moved to 'the end of August 2003' due to 'a delay in the procurement of material required'. While delays in the delivery of materials is something out of Pentax's hands it must be slightly embarassing after the fiasco of the previous Pentax digital SLR which was forever delayed and eventually cancelled.

May 15
Kodak and HP Dissolve Partnership

Kodak may have to write off "tens of millions'' of dollars invested in a failed venture with Hewlett Packard, called Phogenix, that was making picture-developing kiosks. Kodak was counting on the mini-labs to catch up to Fuji Photo's five-year head start, instead it will now focus on a development agreement with Noritsu Koki Co. of Japan as its "core'' mini-lab.

May 14
New SD9 Firmware and Software available

Sigma has today posted (as promised) firmware v1.4.0.1302 and Photo Pro v1.1 (1302). The firmware has three major features; support for Lexar WA (write acceleration) technology, a bug fix for occasional hangs in long exposures, compressed preview images resulting in smaller X3F files. The new version of Photo Pro has a wide variety of fixes, the most important of which is improved JPEG output quality by using 4:4:4 downsampling (fully sampled chroma). UPDATE: Image quality comparison included.

Nikon post Coolpix 2100 firmware

Nikon has today posted firmware v1.1 for the Coopix 2100 digital camera. This firmware appears to address the same issue as the recently released firmware update for the Coolpix 3100. This new firmware fixes an issue with the reporting of battery level on the LCD monitor, the camera may have under-reported the available power when using the EN-MH1 rechargeable battery, although this didn't affect the actual life of the battery. The download is available in English for Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

May 12
Kodak Acquires ASF Digital PIC Technology

Kodak has today announced an agreement to acquire Applied Science Fiction's film processing technology, Digital PIC™. Digital PIC is a non-chemical process for developing standard color negative film. It produces a digital image file that can be used to print photographs and be written to a CD. As a result, Kodak's will have the only kiosks capable of taking any input, including film, and giving the consumer the prints they want, in minutes.

May 10
New Firmware and Software for Sigma SD9

Sigma has announced new SD9 firmware and a new version of Sigma Photo Pro will be made available for download next Wednesday, 14th May. The new firmware and Photo Pro combination deliver improved noise reduction, improved processing speed and the primary concern of SD9 owners higher quality JPEG images from Photo Pro. JPEG files from Photo Pro are now saved with the 4:4:4 down sampling when the quality is set to 7 or higher, the previous version of Photo Pro used 4:2:0 down sampling which could lead to loss of color resolution and odd color artifacts.

May 9
Fujifilm UK lowers S2 Pro price

Fujifilm UK has today announced a £300 price reduction for their S2 Pro Digital SLR. To this day the S2 Pro remains one of my favourite digital SLRs with superb resolution and 'only Fujifilm do it this well' color. Will Rolls, Marketing Manager, Fujifilm UK said, "For consumers, two things have improved on the FinePix S2 Pro - firstly, it is now available more widely than before, and secondly, at a very accessible price. It is not the newest digital SLR on the market, but we are confident that it will easily outgun recent additions to this important category."

May 8
Speed relief for Notebook users?

Aska Corporation, Japan has today announced the new CF32A 'Speed Over' PCMCIA CardBus CF adapter. Because this new adapter uses the high speed 32-bit CardBus interface it can deliver transfer speeds of 5 MB/sec (compared to the 1.2 MB/sec of the normal PCMCIA interface). This would no doubt provide welcome relief to Notebook users and photographers 'in the field' who often have to put up with slow image transfer performance. The CF32A is a PCMCIA Type II CardBus card and supports Compact Flash Type I or II including the IBM Microdrive. UPDATE: Japan only product.

May 6
Olympus and America 24/7

Olympus America announced that it will reunite with photo visionaries Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen, original creators of the highly acclaimed Day in the Life series of photography books, for America 24-7, the largest collaborative photography event in history. A huge corps of digital photographers will shoot images for a digital time capsule representing life in America over the course of one week, May 12th-18th.

Kodak DCS 14n Firmware Upgrade

Kodak has recently posted a firmware update for the DCS 14n. This firmware upgrade, version 4.2.2, fixes a problem with the display of the card capacity under the Japanese and Chinese languages plus the focus area can now be changed whenever soft pressing the shutter button. New features also include a card write speed measurement feature, support for SD/MMC cards, faster startup and shutdown, plus much more.

Lenmar 2300 mAh NiMH AA batteries

Lenmar Enterprises has today announced a new high performance nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) AA battery. The NoMEM PRO(R) series now features AA batteries with an industry-leading capacity rating of 2300mAh. "This new power level for AA batteries gives digital camera users the improved rechargeable battery performance they desire to make digital photography more enjoyable and economical," stated Marty Goldberg, Lenmar CEO.

May 2
PowerEx 2200 mAh AA NiMH batteries

Maha Energy Corp., the maker of the PowerEx brand batteries and chargers has today announced their latest hike in AA NiMH battery capacity, now up to 2200 mAh. Just four months after announcing 2000 mAh AA NiMH batteries they have managed to squeeze an extra 10% (200 mAh) capacity into the batteries. 'As part of its global marketing program highlighting that “Not All Batteries are Created Equal,” indeed due to variation in design, quality control and rating, even identically rated batteries could have significant variation in performance as much as 30%.'

Two new Canon Dye-Sub printers

08:00 CET: Canon has today announced two new Canon 'Card Photo Printers', the CP-200 and CP-300. Both printers are based on dye-sublimation technology and both can be connected directly to any Canon digital camera which supports Canon's own 'Direct Print' system. Both cameras have 300 dpi engines for printing and can print at the standard 10 x 15 cm (4 x 6 in) sizes as well as other smaller sizes. A full 10 x 15 cm (4 x 6 in) print takes approximately 85 seconds. The CP-200 is powered by an AC adapter, the CP-300 by a dedicated Lithium-Ion battery or AC adapter. There is also an optional car battery adapter for either.

Canon PowerShot SD100 / Digital IXUS II

08:00 CET: Canon has today announced the new three megapixel, two times optical zoom PowerShot SD100 (US name) / Digital IXUS II (EU/SE Asia name). This camera is the smallest and lightest Digital IXUS (Digital ELPH) to date, it has a stainless steel body an updated lens system, orientation sensor and DiGiC processing. The most significant detail about the SD100 however is that it is the first Canon digital camera to use SD for storage, Canon's first departure from Compact Flash. Exclusive: We have a full review of the Canon PowerShot SD100 available.

Three new reviews!

Today we have posted not one, not two but three full in-depth reviews of three ultra-compact three megapixel digital cameras. Reviews posted today are of the Pentax Optio S (3 mp, 3x), the Casio EXILIM EX-Z3 (3 mp, 3x) and the new Canon PowerShot SD100 (3 mp, 2x). All of these cameras are aimed as pocketable 'carry anywhere' cameras with a basic easy to use capability as well as a few advanced features you can grow into. Each has their merits but which offers the best combination of image quality, feature set and value for money?

May 1
Fujifilm to cut digital camera output

Kyodo News have posted an interesting story about Fujifilm planing to reduce its digital camera shipment outlook for fiscal year 2003 by 500,000, fearing it will become difficult to procure components manufactured in China due to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Company officials said Wednesday "Digital cameras are strategic products, for which demand has been rapidly expanding on a global basis, creating procurement difficulties for some components."

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