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May 2004 news and reviews

May 31
Sony extend 90 day warranty on DSC's

Sony Support USA today announced that they are extending the limited warranty on DSC-F828, DSC-T1, and Y2004 models DSC-P41, DSC-P73, DSC-P93, DSC-P100, DSC-W1. Previously the warranty covered parts for 1 year and labor for 90 days, Sony has now extended the labor portion of the warranty to a full year providing full 1 year cover for these models. All other digital cameras are covered by the warranty specific to that model.

Pretec 2 GB MMC 4 card

At Computex Taipei today Pretec demonstrated a new 2 GB card which conforms to the new MMC 4 standard and which Pretec are calling the 'World's Fastest Flash Memory Card'. Thanks to the fact that MMC 4 allows for transfer of 4-bits of data in parallel this new card has a quoted write speed of around 18 MB/sec (120X) and a read speed of around 22.5 MB/sec (150X). If verified this card would indeed be far faster than any current flash memory card. The new card is also backwardly compatible with standard SD / MMC devices.

May 28
iRiver H300 series 'PC-free' USB transfers

Korean electronics manufacturer iRiver has today announced the new H300 series portable music and photo player. The unit will come in two flavors, the 20 GB H320 and the 40 GB H340. The big difference with this unit compared to several other on the market (including the recently announced Sony) is that it act as a USB 2.0 host allow you to connect any mass storage device (such as a digital camera or card reader) directly and have the unit transfer directly. The upside is that you won't need special card adapters and won't need to remove the storage card from the camera, the downside will be that the majority of digital cameras still only support USB 1.1 (which is pretty slow), the unit itself has no card slots, you will need to carry a USB cable and it can't display RAW files. The H320 will retail for 47,800 YEN (approx. $430), the H340 for 59,800 YEN (approx. $540).

Nikon Coolpix 4100

Nikon today announced a four megapixel version of the Coolpix 3200, the new Coolpix 4100. The 4100 has a four megapixel CCD and a three times optical zoom lens, it has 14.5 MB of built-in flash storage and an SD memory card slot. Designed to be as easy to use as possible the Coolpix 4100 has a straightforward control layout, a new simplified Graphic User Interface and a range of scene shooting modes designed to help even the complete novice get results in different situations.

Nikkor 200 mm F2.0 AF-S VR lens

Nikon today announced the new 200 mm F2.0 AF-S VR G lens, a very fast prime telephoto lens with Vibration Reduction capability when the light gets low. This promises to be a very interesting and very sharp lens which will provide photographers with some great possibilities for shots with very nice soft bokeh. In addition Nikon also announced a new teleconverter, the TC-17EII 1.7x. Combined with the TC-17EII 1.7x teleconverter this lens becomes a 340 mm F3.3.

May 26
Pretec 12 GB CF - just $14,900

Riding on the back of news yesterday about dropping flash memory prices Pretec today announced their new range of high capacity Compact Flash cards. These new cards (marked as '80x') will be available as 3 GB, 4 GB, 6 GB and 12 GB. The first three cards (3, 4 & 6 GB) are available in Japan as of today, the larger 12 GB card by the end of the year. Despite lower NAND flash prices these cards are still unbelievably expensive, the 3 GB card is 166,000 YEN ($1,490), the 4 GB card is 207,00 YEN ($1,860), the 6 GB card is 525,000 YEN ($4,700), the 12 GB card is expected to be 1,659,000 YEN ($14,900). Once you get over the price the next question must be would you be willing to put so much data in the trust of one card?

May 25
Sigma Lithium-Ion batteries for SD9/SD10

Sigma today announced a new Lithium-Ion battery and charger kit for the SD9/SD10 digital SLR's. The kit consists of two rechargeable Lithium-Ion CR-V3 batteries (BP-11, 3V, 1160 mAh) and a charger, this kit is expected to retail for around £59.99 in the UK. It's not clear at this stage if any decision has been made to include this with the SD10 digital SLR kit but to me it would be a logical move and would at least bring the SD10 in to line with other digital SLR's from a power supply point of view.

Sony HDPS-M1 40 GB portable photo storage

Sony Japan today announced their new portable storage device aimed squarely at 'high megapixel digital still camera'. The HDD Photo Storage HDPS-M1 has a 40 GB hard disk built-in, Memory Stick and Compact Flash slots, a Lithium-Ion battery, a one-button Copy function and USB 2.0 (high speed) connectivity. Clearly designed to be very easy to use the HDPS-M1 has no LCD display or video output capability, instead it is purely intended to be used as a backup / mass storage device for digital photographers. The compact HDPS-M1 measures just 135 x 92 mm (5.3 x 3.5 in) and is 30 mm (1.1 in) thick, it weighs just 300 g (10.6 oz) ready to use. It's expected to go on sale in Japan on 18th June at a price of 29,800 YEN (approx. $270).

Flash memory prices set to drop

According to an article today published by Reuters the price of NAND flash memory (the basic building block for almost all removable flash media) is set to drop dramatically on the back of price cuts announced by Toshiba and Samsung (two of the largest manufacturers of NAND flash). It appears Toshiba and Samsung are cutting prices in the face of strong competition from upcoming competitors like Infineon, Hynix and Micron. The price cuts amount to an almost halving of the cost of NAND flash compared to October last year. We are beginning to see the oligopoly between Toshiba and Samsung hang on to the last stages of its life, and I'm sure they will want to maximize it while they can," Eric Stang, the chief executive of Lexar Media Inc, told a conference last week.

Triscape FxFoto 2.0

Software: Triscape has today announced the release of its most comprehensive software suites, FxFoto 2.0 Standard, Deluxe Collage, and Pro Media Editions. The FxFoto 2.0 titles are targeted at photography enthusiasts and advanced multimedia users giving them full control over their pictures and the tools to create stunning and captivating presentations and movies. FxFoto 2.0 Standard is available today as a fully functional free download, while the Deluxe Collage Edition can be obtained for $29.99 and Pro Media Edition for $39.99. All titles are upgradeable.

Casio EWC-40 underwater housing for EX-Z40/30

Casio Japan has today released the Casio EWC-40 underwater housing for its Casio Exilim EX-Z40 and EX-Z30 digital cameras. The EWC-40 is usable down to 40 meters with all the major controls available to user. It is only 128mm (w) x 70.5mm (d) x 86mm (h) and weighs 270g. The Casio EWC-40 will be available in early July for a suggested Y23,100 (approx. $190).

May 24
Che-ez! Foxz2 2mp CMOS

The 'cheap and cheerful' Che-ez! brand today announced their new ultra-compact ultra-slim Foxz2 digital camera, with a fixed focal length lens and basic functionality it's not exactly a remarkable camera however it is another compact camera with a two megapixel CMOS sensor (unusual in itself). No sample images have yet been made available by Che-ez! so it will be interesting to see just how good this 2mp CMOS sensor is. The Foxz2 is also impressively slim at just 9.8 mm (0.4 in). The Foxz2 has a 1.5" LCD monitor, is powered by a Lithium-Polymer rechargeable battery, takes SD card (as well as having 8 MB internal flash) and has a USB 2.0 interface.

Adaptive computing comes to digital cameras

The future where major new technologies, such as JPEG-2000 and other advanced image manipulation techniques not yet available, are able to be added to exisitng digital cameras may be getting closer. A company called Quicksilver has a technology solution called ACM. ACM is the only software-programmable, realtime adaptive IC that offers high performance, low power consumption, low cost, and architecture flexibility in a single chip. Olympus signed a deal with Quciksilver over a year ago to develop digital imaging IC's with a view to the OEM market.

May 23
Ability 6-megapixel cameras for Panasonic

An interesting story on DigiTimes suggests that Panasonic will be releasing an OEM'd 6-megapixel digital camera with MPEG4 support later this year. This camera is being sourced from Ability Enterprise, a leading digital camera manufacturer in Taiwan, who already has Casio is its main Japanese client. Expect lots of 6 megapixel camera releases by the end of the year from Panasonic and others.

May 21
Sigma 18-125 mm DC lens

Sigma today announced an all new 'DC' (Digital Camera) lens designed to be used only on digital SLR's with an APS (or smaller) sized sensor. The new 18 - 125 mm F3.5 - F5.6 DC lens has a non-rotating front element as well as a zoom lock button, it will initially be available for Sigma AF, Canon AF and Nikon AF-D lens mounts. Expected retail price in Japan will be 45,000 YEN (approx. $400), in the UK £229.99.

May 20
Canon's DPP for EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds owners

Canon today announced that it has made Digital Photo Professional (DPP) Version 1.0.0 available for download for all EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds owners. DPP can now be downloaded from Canon's website but requires validation with the camera body serial number. At this time DPP doesn't support the EOS-10D. Digital Photo Professional is a new image management and RAW conversion application which was introduced with the EOS-1D Mark II, compared to the File Viewer Utility DPP provides far more control, a considerably better user interface and faster performance.

May 19
SMaL 3-Megapixel Ultra-Pocket 5 Rapid Development Kit

SMaL Camera Technologies has today announced its new Ultra-Pocket® 5 rapid development kit for 3-megapixel credit card cameras with color TFT display. The Ultra-Pocket 5 kit enables manufacturers and brands to rapidly enter the heart of the mass consumer market – 3-megapixel – with unparalleled thinness, style, wide dynamic range, and worry-free battery life, in the sub-$129 retail price range. The kit is available now to qualified OEMs looking to ship products into the marketplace in the second half of 2004.

Sanyo Xacti DSC-S4 / DSC-S3

Sanyo Japan today announced two new 'Xacti' digital cameras, the four megapixel DSC-S4 and the three megapixel DSC-S3. These two entry level compact digital cameras have an identical body design and appear to utilize the same lens but because of the different size of the CCD in each the DSC-S4 only achieves 2.8x optical zoom compared to the DSC-S3's 3.0x optical zoom. The DSC-S3's price works out at around US$300, the DSC-S4 at around $380.

May 18
Olympus: Ferrari Digital Model 2004

Olympus UK today announced the new 'Ferrari Digital Model 2004', this ultra-compact digital camera has a three megapixel CCD sensor and three times optical zoom lens (which appears to be of the folded optics variety). This camera appears to be based on the AZ-1 which was announced last month in Japan. The Ferrari Digital Model 2004 is colored in 'Ferrari Red' (Rosso Corsa), has flashes of (fake) carbon fibre and plays the sound of a Ferrari engine when powered up (nice...). The camera will be produced in a limited run of 10,000, half of which will make their way to Europe. It will be available in the UK in July 2004 at a price of £499.99 (inc VAT). UPDATE 20/May/2004: Pictures of Schumacher, Barrichello and Jean Todt using the new camera.

Sony DSC-F88

Sony today announced a new five megapixel three times optical zoom digital camera, the DSC-F88. Those of you who are aware of some of Sony's older digital cameras will recognize the F88's design as being very similar to the DSC-F77 (Sep 2002) and the original DSC-F55 (Feb 1999). Just like those previous models the F88 has a rotating lens / flash portion along the top of the camera body, however it now implements the 'folded lens' system of the DSC-T1 / DSC-T11 mounted horizontally within this rotating portion giving you a full three times optical zoom (the F77 / F55 had no zoom). Note that the F88 also has a viewfinder, unlike the previous cameras. We have some of our own hands-on pictures with this camera.

May 14
Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 5

Software: Jasc has recently announced the release of Paint Shop Photo Album 5 - Deluxe Edition, the newest version of its digital camera software. Sporting a completely redesigned interface that follows the digital photographer's workflow, Photo Album 5 puts the tools users need to organize, enhance, share and protect photos at their fingertips. "By listening to consumers, we will continue focusing on providing smarter software that integrates the way people create, enhance, organize and share their photos and images." said Kris Tufto, president and CEO of Jasc Software.

May 12
Sigma 24-60 mm F2.8 EX DG lens

Sigma has today announced a new constant aperture wide angle zoom lens, the 24-60 mm F2.8 EX DG. This lens is designed to be compact but also 'fast' (large, constant maximum aperture) and to provide a usable zoom range for digital SLR users, on a Nikon digital SLR this lens would have an equivalent field of view of a 36 - 90 mm, on a Canon 1.6x digital SLR (10D, 300D / Digital Rebel, etc.) of 38 - 96 mm.

DxO Optics Pro available soon

DO Labs has announced that their DxO Optics Pro software will be available to buy online from May 24th. This software is designed to enable digital SLR owners to correct images which suffer from distortion, vignetting, blur and CA. The software works by using modules created by DO Labs based on detailed analysis of the camera bodies and lenses. In a new press release DO Labs reveal the camera bodies and lenses which will be initially supported and also their pricing structure; the DxO Optics Pro software + the camera body module + the lens module.

May 10
Just posted! Leica Digilux 2 review

Just posted! Our full in-depth review of Leica's latest digital camera. The Digilux 2 has a 3.2x optical zoom lens and a five megapixel CCD sensor. It has a retro design and metal case, it feels robust and has a high finish level, control layout is logical and has the most straightforward and natural method for switching between automatic and manual operation. See how the Digilux 2 performed in our tests and how it compares to other cameras.

Canon PowerShot S60

Canon today revealed the replacement for their fifteen month old PowerShot S50, the new PowerShot S60. Despite the name this camera doesn't have a six megapixel CCD, instead it sticks with the tried and tested 1/1.8" five megapixel CCD. The biggest external differences with this camera are its new compact 3.6x wide zoom lens which provides an impressive 28 - 100 mm equiv. and the slick new body design which is thinner than the S50. Thankfully Canon has also done away with the annoying combined zoom / 4-way controller, the S60 now has a normal 4-way direction pad, separate SET button and zoom lever.

May 5
Nikon Coolpix 3700 Firmware v1.2

Nikon Europe has today posted firmware Version 1.2 for the Coolpix 3700. This firmware update offers following improvements and additions; certain brands of Secure Digital memory cards can cause image visibility problems, brightness levels of movies vary under certain lighting conditions and corrections to city names in setup menu. As usual please read carefully the firmware installation information before installing the firmware update!

May 4
Kodak 3 new cameras plus dock

Kodak has today announced three new cameras in its Easyshare line, plus a new printer dock. They are the DX7440 with 4-megapixel resolution, a SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON 4X optical zoom lens (33 - 132 mm equivalent), and 0.2-second click-to-capture rating. The CX7530 and CX7330 have 5 and 3 megapixel resolution CCD's plus 3x optical zoom. The DX7440, CX7530 and CX7330 camera will be available in the summer at a suggested retail prices of just £299.99, £249.99 and £149.99 respectively.

May 1
Olympus announce E system price reductions

Olympus today announced a series of price reductions and new rebates on the E-1 digital SLR and lenses. In the US the base E-1 body has been reduced by $300 to $1499, in the UK the E-1's body price is down £300 to £999 inc VAT (the kit including 14-54mm lens now £1399 inc VAT). This new price change brings the E-1 into line with the Canon EOS 10D (excluding lenses). In addition Olympus America are also offering a range of rebates up to $100 off Zuiko Digital lenses.