Olympus America Inc., Digital & Imaging Systems Group, world leader in film and filmless photography, today announced the Olympus USB SmartMedia Reader/Writer, the fastest way to download images from any SmartMedia digital camera. The new device complements the Olympus line of connectivity options, which includes serial, parallel, and PCMCIA port image download capability, and floppy disk compatibility, making the Olympus product offerings broader than any other.

The Olympus USB Reader/Writer is travel-friendly and lightweight with an ergonomic palm-sized design (dimensions of 2-1/2`` width x 4'' height x 3/4`` depth). No heavy A/C adapter or batteries are ever needed and there are no moving parts. The reader is hot swappable and Plug 'N Play ready, so it's always ready for instant use. It is ideal for portability and for those users that need to download image files to many different computers.

The Olympus USB SmartMedia Reader/Writer is also faster than any other desktop computer downloading solution. It reads at speeds of up to 1 MB/second and provides sustained writes of up to 400KB/second. These speeds are up to 100 times faster than that which could be expected when downloading through a serial port. With digital camera image-file sizes commonly increasing up to 5 megabytes, users need the fastest way possible to quickly and easily download those larger images to a PC.

``At Olympus, we have listened to our customers and we are providing what they have asked for -- a fast, un-tethered downloading solution,'' said Ben La Marca, Group Vice President Digital Marketing and Development. ``We offer the widest variety of choices for downloading digital camera images, so the consumer can decide which is the most convenient. Whether it be with the fastest USB Reader, an extremely fast PCMCIA adapter for laptops users, FlashPath floppy disk adapter for use with the universally available floppy disk drive, serial cable, or parallel download through the SmartMedia enabled Olympus P-330 Instant Photo Printer, Olympus provides the solution.''

Some vendors have chosen to incorporate USB directly inside their cameras. This has the effect of diminishing USB throughput. Olympus has instead maximized USB speed throughput by providing a separate reader. ``Olympus decided to incorporate USB connectivity as an inexpensive external device instead of building it inside the camera for three reasons: 1. The camera is free to do what it does best, take pictures, while images are downloaded via the USB reader. 2. The camera is never tethered, something very unpopular with users, to a computer or reader during downloading. 3. USB downloading through the external device achieves a faster throughput than USB built into a camera,'' said Brett Serxner, Product Manager.

The Olympus USB Reader/Writer works with industry standard 3.3 and 5-volt SmartMedia cards from any vendor. Images can be read from SmartMedia cards that were recorded in cameras from all SmartMedia based cameras from companies such as Agfa, Epson, Fuji, Minolta, Olympus, Toshiba, and others. Also of interest is a recent observation that SmartMedia cards have been implemented for use in other consumer electronic products, including the new Diamond Multimedia Systems Rio MP3 player.

Not only is the new Olympus USB SmartMedia Reader/Writer an excellent and speedy digital camera download device but it also can serve a second purpose. Because the device can write data, any data, on up to 32 MB SmartMedia cards, it makes an excellent ``sneaker net'' product. When there is the need to transfer a sizeable quantity of data across the office or across town, the Olympus USB SmartMedia Reader/Writer may provide a fast affordable solution.

``We have also tested the USB Reader/Writer with a large movie trailer in a QuickTime file format. Because of the sustained throughput of the new USB Reader, the audio and video signals of this trailer are seamless. This USB device is a cool, very high tech and portable player,'' said Brett Serxner. ``Think of it in this way. The device is about one-fourth the size of a Zip drive, less expensive and faster. The media is one-third the capacity yet a tiny fraction of the physical size and weight of a Zip cartridge. Best of all ... it has no moving parts. It's quite a compelling product.''

The Olympus USB Reader/Writer will be available during July 1999 for $79.95. It is compatible with MacOS 8.1 or later and Windows 98 (USB port must be available). The package includes the USB Reader/Writer, drivers for both computing platforms, and manual. It can be purchased from camera specialty stores, computer superstores, office superstores, consumer electronic stores, mail order catalogs, and e-commerce sites.