New Developments in Digital Cameras

New Developments in Digital Cameras


It’s finally happened: we’re living in an age when cameras will, in certain modes, just shoot themselves. 2009 also looks like a year when things we once thought of as cinematic special effects, like the projection of Obi Wan giving Princess Leia her marching orders or Dick Tracy getting an assignment from his wrist phone, make their way into real-world mobile devices.

We’ll also be able to capture decent video of craters on the moon. Here’s a quick roundup of some of this year’s standout digital imaging product stories from CES 2009:

Casio is applying its high-speed technology to a new generation of consumer digicams. The company announced two new pocket-sized cameras that can shoot 30 still frames per second in burst mode. Both cameras will be branded with Casio’s consumer name, Exilim. The EX-FC100, with a 5x optical zoom and external lens, will sell for $399.99, and the EX-FS10 with a 3x zoom and internal lens, will hit the market at $349.99.

Unlike traditional consumer pocket cams, these new models can capture ultra-high speed action-shots, such as the precise moment a bat hits a ball, by recording dozens of frames in just a few seconds. Casio is calling its high-speed engine a redefinition of the consumer camera category.

Panasonic stole the camcorder spotlight with its announcement of three new camcorders that have a mind-blowing 70x optical zoom. The SDR-H80, the SDR-H90 and the SDR-S26 will be equipped with “Easy YouTube Upload” mode, allowing users to quickly adjust and upload their clips.

National product category manager Sanjeet Patel was eager to show off the far-reaching zoom on the three standard-definition camcorders. “You can actually see the craters on the moon,” he said. “And the combination of that zoom with advanced optical image stabilization is what makes this so valuable.”

Canon is going after the 2009 camcorder market with a something-for-everyone strategy. The company introduced 11 new camcorders with an emphasis on flashed-based models. Top-of-the-line camcorders like the VIXIA HF S10 offered the option of recording video to a 32GB internal flash drive or a SDHC memory card. They could also deliver high-quality, eight megapixel still photographs.

Canon is also adding a new creative mode to its camcorders. “Video Snapshot Mode” guides users to collect a series of four-second clips, giving them an easy-to-follow timer (a blue border moves around the LCD in four seconds) for each one. Then the camera pieces together those clips with pre-loaded music and produces an instant highlight reel. Users can also import their own music tracks.

Pico projectors were abundant on the show floor. The tiny projectors can plug into a cell phone or any personal mobile device and project a photo or video image onto just about any surface. 3M showed off its palm-sized Micro Professional Projector, the MPro110. The hand-held device is battery-operated and will be available through all major retail channels later this year. An even more dramatic pico-prototype was a Samsung phone, developed in partnership with Texas Instruments, which has a DLP-based pico projector built right in. “The projector phone” will be test-marketed in Korea this year.

All the major phone manufacturers showed handsets with high megapixel counts, with 3.2 to 5 becoming commonplace. (LG has had some success with its dedicated camera-phone, the Dare. Motorola is still promoting its Kodak-partnership phone, the ZN5.) Sony-Ericsson used CES to introduce a new, more affordable Cybershot camera phone, the C510 with a dual LED flash, which has auto-focus, face-detection, and shoots video as well.

Though most manufacturers are waiting to make their major product announcements around PMA (both Canon and Nikon have a full line-up of point-and-shoots coming with shooting modes that make a human operator nearly irrelevant), Noritsu was at CES this year exhibiting a product they hope will attract all sorts of retailers to printing revenue.

The new D502 Duplex Printer is about the size of a typical copy machine, but, at $35,000 and available the second half of this year, is actually an entire photo printing solution, able to produce double-sided, high-res products such as photo books, calendars, posters, signs, scrapbooks, cards and banners.

Gregory Joe, Noritsu America’s marketing manager, said the D502 is aimed at retailers who might not have been in the photo business before, from independent CE operations to gift shop or bookstore owners. “This is a workhorse printer,” said Joe. “And it plays well with others, [from kiosks to binding machines].”