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July 2004 news and reviews

July 30
Digital camera sales to peak in two years
First time buyers are contributing
to the high growth rates in the consumer digital camera market, and industry analysts InfoTrends/CAP Ventures predicts two more years of strong growth before sales peak. Digital camera sales are expected to reach 22.8 million in the US by the end of this year, a 42% growth over 2003. InfoTrends also predicts that the average price of cameras is set to rise. This is due to the popularity of point and shoot cameras and sub-$1000 digital SLRs - a welcome news for vendors but not for consumers.
Kodak introduces digital GEM plug-in
Kodak has introduced a professional version of its DIGITAL GEM plug-in which enables users to reduce noise and film grain in 8-bit and 16-bit digital images without excessive softening. The noise suppression algorithm is an improved version of that used in the original DIGITAL GEM plug-in and works on extreme noise problems. The grain suppression algorithm reduces grain while preserving detail. The professional version includes a ‘Noise Preview Screen’ to enable users to view the effect before committing to it.
July 28
Stolen Nikon D70 kits
Nikon Europe has today informed us that 18 cartons with 108 D70s (including 18-70 DX lenses) were stolen at Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands. Nikon is asking for your help in tracing these stolen cameras and has provided a list of serial numbers as well as important information relating to the packaging of these particular digital SLR kits.
Fujifilm S3 Pro Update
Fujifilm has today issued a Press Release adding more meat to what we already know about the upcomgin S3 Pro digital SLR. New details include the ability to change the 'mix' between the S-pixel and R-pixel data and hence the captured dynamic range. Fujifilm will also provide a number of 'film simulation modes' which we assume to mean a way to reproduce the look of some of Fujifilm's well known films. UPDATE: Added brand new S3 Pro product shots.
Fuji FinePix S5500 Zoom

Fuji has today announced the FinePix S5500 Zoom, which maintains the SLR styling of its predecessor the S5000 Zoom and 10x optical zoom (37-370mm equiv.). It houses a conventional CCD sensor (compared to the S5000 which had a Super CCD HR sensor) but adds an extra million pixels, taking the effective resolution up to 4 megapixels. Other features include RAW mode,
ISO 64-400 and a 640x480-pixel movie mode.

Fuji FinePix S3500 Zoom
Fuji has today announced the FinePix S3500 Zoom, a replacement for the FinePix S3000 Zoom. The new model retains the metallic silver look of its predecessor as well as the 6x zoom but it now offers 4 million effective pixels and PictBridge connectivity.
It maintains the SLR styling and electronic viewfinder and also offers movie capture at 10fps.
Fujifilm FinePix F810 Zoom
Fujifilm has announced another widescreen F series camera, the F810 Zoom, which is essentially the same as the FinePix F710 but with a new 6.3MP Super CCD HR sensor. The new sensor delivers a claimed 12.3 million pixel output and has a wide sensitivity range of ISO 80-800. Fujifilm is aiming the F810Z at 'off-duty' photographers and enthusiasts who want 'manual control in a compact camera', as it features exposure control, flash compensation, raw mode, manual focus and a 4x optical zoom.
Fujifilm FinePix E550 Zoom
The highest resolution camera of the new E range, announced by Fujifilm today, is the 6.3 megapixel FinePix E550 Zoom. It is similar in specification to the F810, with a Super CCD HR sensor, but will be more 'competitively' priced. The top-of-the-range camera has a metallic casing and is aimed at enthusiasts. It boasts manual features, a 2-inch LCD, RAW mode and can be powered by two AA batteries. PictBridge compatibility allows direct printing to any printer.
Fujifilm FinePix E500 Zoom and FinePix E510 Zoom
Fujifilm launched a new range today in the shape of the E series, which is characterized by 'wide zooms, large LCD screens and a competitive price'. The new models include the
4.1 megapixel FinePix E500 and the 5.2 megapixel FinePix E510. Both have 28-91mm equivalent wideangle lenses, 2-inch LCDs, a sturdy hand grip, a pop-up flash and are, Fujifilm says, "sure to bring even the most hardened sceptic round to digital photography". They also offer movies with sound and are PictBridge-compatible.
July 27
Sony P150 hands-on Preview
The DSC-P150 is Sony's latest salvo in the megapixel wars, and the first truly compact 7 megapixel camera. It's based closely on the current P100, with the only differences - resolution aside - being the brushed metal casing and a new 'Real Image Processor' LSI, claimed to speed up most aspects of operation. We managed to get our hands on an early pre-production sample for a hands-on preview (unfortunately we cannot publish any sample images as yet).
July 23
Panasonic DMC-FX2 & DMC-FX7 hands-on Preview
The DMC-FX2 and DMC-FX7 (four and five megapixel) are follow on products to the DMC-FX1 and DMC-FX5 (three and four megapixel). Nothing groundbreaking there, however what is remarkable is that Panasonic have achieved a significant reduction in size (both width and depth) and yet still maintained an optically stabilized lens system. These are the only ultra-compact's in the market which feature stabilization, that alone means they should be worth a look.
July 22
Panasonic DMC-FZ3 hands-on Preview
The DMC-FZ3 is Panasonic's new budget priced, compact, twelve times optical zoom, three megapixel digital camera. It's based around the guts of the higher end FZ15 and FZ20 digital cameras with a smaller sensor and lens system. The first thing that strikes you when you pick up the FZ3 is just how compact it is an how light, it may not have the expensive feel of the FZ20 but it's certainly good enough and some $200 cheaper. Again, as the camera we have is pre-production we will not be publishing any sample images.
Panasonic DMC-FZ20 hands-on Preview
Announced yesterday Panasonic's Lumix new DMC-FZ20 is a step-change upgrade to the popular DMC-FZ10. On paper the FZ20 looks very good, a five megapixel CCD, twelve times optically stabilized zoom lens with an F2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range, a range of manual controls wrapped up in a relatively compact body (compared to a digital SLR). We have received a pre-production camera and have produced a very brief hands-on preview with more product images and menu captures. Unfortunately no sample images are available at this stage. UPDATE: Screen captures added.
Kodak film sales decline further
According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Kodak is winning the battle to ditch film with more people taking and printing digital images with its products. Sales of digital cameras, printers and accessories nearly doubled during April, May and June, while traditional film sales fell by 8%. The decline of film has been quicker than expected and its plans to cut 15,000 jobs by 2007 are ahead of schedule, with profits of $253m higher than Kodak's previous predictions.
July 21
BenQ DC E40
BenQ has today announced a new 'female-friendly' camera in the shape
of the 4 megapixel DC E40, its first touch-screen camera, which allows you to draw on your images and add built-in photo frames. The brushed metal sliding lens camera also offers MPEG 4 movie recording. A Dual Recharge Mode means the lithium ion battery can be recharged via an adapter or, if you're outdoors, via USB connection to a laptop. So ladies, ditch your digital SLRs and snap up a BenQ DC E40. Oh, and don't forget to be fun and fearless too.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15
Here's a new Panasonic digital camera which slipped under the radar as it wasn't included in our intial press pack. The DMC-FZ15 will be available only in the US, it's based on the FZ20 body and has the same twelve times optical zoom lens, the main difference is it has a four megapixel CCD (just like the FZ10) and no flash hot-shoe. This makes six the total number of new digital cameras announced by Panasonic today.
Major Glossary rewrite complete
Site contributor and author of The 123 of Digital Imaging e-book Vincent Bockaert has just completed a total rewrite of our free online glossary. This has involved the rewriting of over seventy individual entries as well as the addition of several more. As you can appreciate in a technology sector which is changing as quickly as digital photography it can be hard to keep up with the latest developments, Vincent has done an excellent job of bringing our glossary right up to date and will ensure it stays that way into the future. It's also a great way to see his expertise and experience a little of what's available in his excellent e-Book. If you've never browsed the glossary I recommend you do so now, if you've seen it before it's worth going back to appreciate the improvements.
Sony DSC-P150, 7 megapixel
Sony today revealed its latest move in the megapixel battle, the seven megapixel Cybershot DSC-P150. This new camera is essentially a DSC-P100 with a new seven megapixel 1/1.8" Type CCD, it has the same three times optical zoom lens, body design and feature set. The DSC-P150 is due to go on sale in September for around US$499. This is no doubt the first of what will be several seven megapixel digital cameras to be announced by various manufacturers during the upcoming Photokina trade show.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20
Following on from the success of the FZ10 Panasonic has today revealed the new DMC-FZ20 which increases the sensor pixel count to five megapixels has an improved body design (including a better hand grip) new features and an improved processor (the "Venus Engine II") which promises better performance, improved image stabilization and image quality. "the newly developed Venus Engine II gains new imaging process which adds the luminance signal extracted only from the G pixels upon detecting the horizontal / vertical lines in the image. This results in the improvement of the horizontal and vertical resolution by more than 10% compared to the former Venus Engine"
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3
Panasonic has today announced the new twelve times optical zoom three megapixel DMC-FZ3, the little brother to the new FZ20. The DMC-FZ3 is aimed at the 'soccer mom' market with a surprisingly compact body, lower resolution, fewer features and a lower price. However the FZ3 still manages a respectable zoom range, a very fast lens (F2.8 throughout zoom range) and Panasonic's optical image stabilization.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX2 & DMC-FX7
Panasonic has today announced two extraordinary ultra-compact digital cameras. On the face of it the DMC-FX2 and DMC-FX7 appear to be a pair of fairly ordinary if attractively designed four and five megapixel digital cameras. Both feature large LCD monitor (2.5" in the case of the FX7, 2.0" in the case of the FX2), both have improved responsiveness and performance and both are visibly smaller than the FX5 and FX1 they replace. However these cameras are remarkable because despite their ultra compact dimensions Panasonic has managed to squeeze optical image stabilization into the lens system. Impressive indeed and certainly enough (at least on paper) to raise these cameras above the competition.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC80
As part of the announcement of no less than five new cameras Panasonic has today revealed the five megapixel DMC-LC80. This new entry level model sports a five megapixel CCD sensor and three times optical zoom lens, it is the natural evolutionary step from the four megapixel DMC-LC70. The DMC-LC80 provides high speed 2.7 fps continuous shooting (up to 9 standard frames) as well as 320x240 30 fps movie clips limited only by storage.
July 20
Nikon D2H firmware update
Nikon has today posted a firmware update for the D2H digital SLR. Update 2.0 applies no less than twenty fixes and new features. The most interesting of which are improved autofocus performance, improved auto white balance performance, support for EXIF 2.21 (_ prefixes for Adobe RGB images), removal of ICC profiles from JPEG's, ISO embedded in EXIF, support for cards greater than 4 GB and increased playback magnification. Just like the earlier D70 update this update must be applied in two steps (Firmware A, then Firmware B) to download the firmware you will need your D2H serial number.
Canon PowerShot A85
Canon has today announced the PowerShot A85 a replacement to the entry-level PowerShot A70 which Canon are claiming was "one of the most successful cameras in Canon's seventy year history". The A85 is a four megapixel three times zoom but has been upgraded with several improvements we saw introduced in the PowerShot A75 including six new 'special scene modes', 9-point AiAF, VGA movie clips (10 fps, up to 30 secs) and a larger 1.8" LCD monitor. The A85 also features Canon's single-button Print/Share feature for immediate transfer to a USB connected PC or Printer.
Sigma 18-50 mm F2.8 EX DC lens
Sigma has today announced a further extension to its range of DC lenses which are designed specifically for digital SLR's. The new 18-50 mm F2.8 EX DC has a very usable 18 mm wide angle (approx 28 mm FOV on a digital SLR) to 50 mm telephoto (approx. 2.7x zoom). Like all DC lenses the image circle produced by this lens is designed to be just the right size for APS size sensors and hence allows the lens to be more compact than it would otherwise be.
Rollei Prego dp6300
Rollei has announced its highest resolution compact camera to date in the shape of the 6.3 megapixel dp6300. The stainless steel-bodied camera also sports a 3x (35 - 105mm equivalent focal length) F2.8 - 4.7 optical zoom, a wide range of photographic features, ISO 50 - 200 sensitivity, shutter speeds from 8 - 1/1500th second, exposure bracketing and a 2.0" TFT screen. The 6.3MP CCD produces image sizes up to 2816 x 2116 pixels, large enough for prints up to A3 size. The Rollei dp6300 will be available at the end of July priced €449 ($558.60).
July 14
Canon S1 IS firmware update
Canon has today posted new firmware for the PowerShot S1 IS. Version fixes two issues: (1) Specification changes for the way images are displayed in Continuous AF Mode, (2) Improvements for the overexposure phenomenon that occurred during daytime synchronized shooting. Installation of the new firmware can be carried out by the user, it's simply a case of placing the firmware update file on a CF card and restarting the camera.
July 12
Samsung 3mp camera phone
Although I'm not overly keen on camera phones this one does seem significant because it is more like a digital camera than any phone before. It has the same form factor as a traditional compact camera, a three megapixel CCD, a flash and a three times optical zoom lens thanks to Pentax's super-compact slidng lens system which we first saw on the Optio S. All yours for around $700.
Epson PhotoPC L-410
Epson has today introduced the PhotoPC L-410 digital camera which features a four megapixel CCD sensor and three times optical zoom lens. This new camera extends Epson's range of digital cameras to three which include the PhotoPC L-300 and L-400 which were announced in April of last year. Naturally the L-410 supports direct printing via USB using the Print Image Matching II protocol (not stated however is whether it supports the more popular Direct Print).
July 7
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
Konica Minolta today announced a new Z series digital camera, the new DiMAGE Z3 which has an all new twelve times optical zoom lens and a stabilized four megapixel CCD sensor. This places the DiMAGE Z3 as a direct competitor to Panasonic's impressive DMC-FZ10 (which fans will be glad to hear we have in-house and is in our review queue!). It's also interesting to see Konica Minolta implementing their CCD-shift Anti-Shake system into mid-range cameras, not just the flagship 'A' series prosumer models. The DiMAGE Z3 also supports VGA size movie recording and a silent zoom mode which allows the camera's zoom to be used in movie record mode with minimal noise. Unlike other Z series digital cameras the Z3 does not employ the quirky flip-mirror LCD/Viewfinder display instead it has separate LCD and EVF displays.
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10

Konica Minolta today announced the eight times zoom three megapixel DiMAGE Z10, styled in a similar fashion to the DiMAGE Z1/Z2 the Z10 has slightly less zoom, a fixed (not pop-up) flash unit and is aimed at a lower price point. According to Konica Minolta the DiMAGE Z10 also has a 'fastest in class startup time of 0.5 seconds'. The Z10 has a combined passive and video AF system, stores images on SD/MMC card and is powered by four AA batteries. The only thing Konica Minolta has not yet revealed about this camera is its price, although we expect it to be well below the DiMAGE Z2's current $450 street price.

Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 and X31

Konica Minolta today announced the two new ultra-compact 'X'-series digital cameras, the three megapixel three times zoom DiMAGE X31 and the five megapixel two-point-eight times zoom X50. The DiMAGE X31 was revealed a couple of weeks ago by Konica Minolta Europe. As with previous 'X'-series digital cameras both of these new models utilize a 'folded optics' zoom lens mounted within the camera body. The X50 looks quite different to previous 'X'-series, its folded optics lens mounted horizontally providing 2.8x zoom with a sliding lens cover on the front which doubles as a power switch.