The Gear Ahead
This has been an amazing year for photography. But it's not over yet. Camera makers still have a few tricks up their sleeves, and our sources have shared a few of them with us. Here they are:
1. DSLR DELUXE Canon made big news recently with the announcement of its new mid-level DSLR, the 20D. What Canon fans didn't know at the time was that the company had just finished development of a replacement for its top DSLR, the EOS-1Ds. Slated to start shipping to stores this month for an expected street price of $7,000, the EOS-1Ds Mark II will pack a whopping 16.6MP full-frame CMOS sensor into a body that looks remarkably similar to the 8MP EOS-1D Mark II. Obviously geared toward pros, it promises to be one of the most exciting cameras of the year, though not the fastest-it tops out at 4 frames per second.
Canon will also have three new digital compacts this month: the SD20, SD200, and SD300 (expected street prices: $349, $299, and $399). The SD200 and SD300 both have 3X optical zoom, 2.5-inch LCDs, and are 3MP and 4MP, respectively. The SD20 is the 5MP successor to the SD10 and has a 1.5-inch LCD and no optical zoom.
2. UPPER-MIDDLE-CLASS DIGI Sony's ultrathin Cyber-shot T1 and 8MP F828, with its electronic viewfinder (EVF), had people talking this year, but the electronics giant is about to let loose a couple of 7.2MP cameras just in time for the holidays. The more serious of the two is the DSC-V3 ($700 expected street), a follow-up to the DSC-V1. Into a 4.7x2.2x2.7-inch body, it packs a 2.5-inch LCD, Carl Zeiss 4X optical zoom lens, and both Memory Stick and CompactFlash card slots. It also boasts Sony's Hologram AF illuminator, 49-point metering, NightShot infrared, and a hot-shoe. Sony's other 7.2MP is the P150, which sports a small body and Zeiss 3X zoom lens.
3. RETRO IN STYLE ONLY While Pentax's coming DSLR follow-up to the *ist D will be big news, the new Optio 750Z deserves attention. Its 7.4 megapixels, 5X optical zoom, and 1.8-inch swiveling LCD make for quite a nice-looking spec sheet. And the retro-styled body looks mighty fine, too.
4. FASHIONISTA FIREPOWER At September's Olympus Fashion Week in New York, Olympus made its fashion statement with the Stylus Verve ($350 street). Resembling a spacey cell phone, the 3.7x2.2x1.1-inch, 3.7-ounce Verve has a 2X (35-70mm equivalent) optical zoom lens, 4MP CCD, and 1.8-inch LCD. Like any good fashion accessory, it's available in several colors, including silver, blue, black, white, red, and copper.
5. GLASS LENSES, MOVE OVER Casio is about to release its small (3.5x2.2x0.7 inches with lens retracted) EX-S100 ($399.99 MSRP) a 3.2MP, 2.8X zoom digicam. It's the first camera in the world with a Lumicera transparent ceramic lens element. Casio announced the impending release of ceramic lenses earlier this year, touting the new material's high refractive index and strength, and its ability to transmit light as well as optical glass. The company claims that ceramic lenses can be made thinner than today's glass lenses, without compromising image quality. That sounds like a challenge worthy of the Pop Photo Test Lab.
6. DIGITAL FRAMER In July, we showed you Epson's planned digital rangefinder, the R-D1. Not one to cater only to collectors, Epson also has plans for some more mass-market digicams. First up is the PhotoPC L-410 ($399 expected street) with a 4MP CCD sensor, 3X optical zoom, and 1.5-inch LCD. It also has Epson's PRINT Image Framer (PIF), which can add customized digital frames to your image files while you take pictures or afterward, without connecting to a computer. The camera comes with frames preloaded and ships with software to make your own frames.
7. LEARNING TOOLS Fujifilm followers have been focusing a lot of their attention on the FinePix S3 (Pop Photo's October 2004 cover camera). Meanwhile, Fuji has launched a new line of compacts, the E-series, for photographers who aren't ready for a DSLR, but have outgrown fully automatic digital point-and-shoots. As the top E-series dog, the E550 ($400 street) packs 6.3MP, 4X optical zoom, 2-inch LCD, a shutter lag of only 0.05 sec, and click-to-click time of 1 sec. The 5.2MP E510 ($300 street) and 4.1MP E500 ($250 street), both with 3.2x optical zoom, fill out the line.
8. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE Hewlett-Packard surprised everyone this year with the sleek little 5MP Photosmart R707 (reviewed September 2004). Here comes its little brother. The R607 ($300 expected street) is a 4.1MP camera with 3X optical Pentax zoom lens and 1.5-inch LCD. Like the 707, it includes HP's Real Life in-camera editing suite, such as redeye removal, panorama preview, and HP's Adaptive Lighting exposure adjustments.
9. MORE MEGAPIXEL Kodak is updating its EasyShare line with the new DX7590 ($500 expected street), raising the EasyShare resolution bar to 5MP. Like its predecessor, the DX6490, it sports a Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 10X zoom lens (38-380mm equivalent, f/2.8-3.7), an EVF (311,000 pixels) instead of an optical viewfinder, and uses Kodak's Color Science image-processing chip, which is claimed to help keep colors accurate.
10. SMALL BUT STABLE Panasonic was one of the first companies to build image stabilization into its compact cameras. Now, it's proving that IS can come in really small packages. The 3.7x1.9x1-inch, 0.3-pound 5MP Lumix DMC-FX7 ($499.95 MSRP) not only has image stabilization, it also includes a 3X (35-105mm equivalent) Leica zoom lens and 2.5-inch LCD. Panasonic has also unveiled three new 12X zoom IS digicams: the 3MP DMC-FZ3, 4MP DMC-FZ15, and 5MP DMC-FZ20 (MSRPs: $399.95, $499.95, and $599.95, respectively).
11. ALL ZOOM, NO VIBRATION Earlier this year, Nikon took the Coolpix line to 8MP and 8X zoom with the 8700 EVF. Now Nikon is adding a step-up 8MP-the Coolpix 8800, with Vibration Reduction (VR) technology and a 10X zoom lens (35-350mm equivalent, f/2.8-5.2). Nikon's also adding the 3.5X zoom (24-85mm equivalent), 8MP Coolpix 8400 EVF and 8.3X zoom (36-300mm equivalent), 4MP Coolpix 4800.