On the Show Floor
The 2009 Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show hit the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center this past week. Although many of the cameras on display at the show were announced at CES or in the weeks before PMA, the event did mark the first time the public was able to get up close and personal with the major cameras scheduled for release in the coming months. Innovative prototype cameras, creative product displays, and a few brand-new camera announcements were all on tap, as well. Let's take a look.
Although it's only a working concept at this stage, Fujifilm's Real 3D System was on display at the company's booth. The system features a two-lens camera and a separate viewer coated with a lenticular layer, which creates the three-dimensional effect. Photos and video footage displayed on the special screens really did seem to pop out of the monitor, and no dumb-looking glasses were needed. Fuji officials said that no release date, pricing information, or mass-production plans have been decided for the Real 3D System.
Fujifilm Finepix F200EXR
And now for cameras that are actually available. The Fujifilm Finepix F200EXR took home top honors at the show by being awarded the Innovative Digital Product 2009 prize by the Digital Imaging Marketing Association (DIMA). The 12-megapixel F200 EXR is the first Fujifilm camera with its Extreme Super CCD EXR sensor, and the camera has the ability to create noise-free high-ISO shots, high-resolution priority shots, and high dynamic range photos within the camera. The Finepix F200EXR is due out this month for $400.
Samsung NX Series
Taking square aim at Panasonic and Olympus's co-developed Micro Fourth-Thirds System, Samsung's NX series of cameras will drop the mirror box found in traditional DSLRs but still support interchangeable lenses. The NX is billed as a "hybrid" camera designed to woo avid photographers who aren't quite ready for a full-on DSLR. Samsung officials kept mum about the NX series' features and specs, but monitors in the Samsung booth alluded to Wi-Fi connectivity and HD video with HDMI-out -- both features that the vast majority of DSLRs don't have. The first Samsung NX camera is slated for release in late 2009 with no pricing set just yet.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
Sharing the bulk of the PMA spotlight with the Samsung NX was Panasonic's second foray into the Micro Four-Thirds System, the Lumix DMC-GH1. Like the Lumix DMC-G1 announced last year, it also drops the mirror box, supports interchangeable lenses, and offers a more-compact frame than traditional DSLRs, but adds a key feature to the mix. Namely, the ability to shoot 1080p HD video at 24p in AVCHD format. It will be available in black, red, and gold, but pricing and release-date information wasn't announced.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 with External Microphone
Here's another look at the gold Lumix DMC-GH1, this time with an optional external boom microphone.
Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Prototype
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 announcement was plenty exciting, but the coolest Micro Four-Thirds System cameras may be yet to come. This retro-looking Olympus Micro Four-Thirds System prototype shows just how thin and compact these interchangeable-lens cameras may get in the near future. Olympus officials at the booth said they expect the company's first Micro Four-Thirds System camera to be out by the end of the year.
Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Prototype Side View
Here's a side view of the Olympus prototype, just to show how thin it is: a bit boxier than your average point-and-shoot, but not by much.
On to the fixed-lens megazooms. One of a few PMA announcements, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 offers a 20x optical zoom (28mm to 560mm) Sony G lens, the company's revamped Bionz image processor, and its next-generation Exmor R sensor. Demos on the show floor showcased the Cyber-shot DSC-HX1's killer app: a "Sweep Panorama" setting, which allows you to press and hold the shutter button, pan the camera from left to right, and create an instantly-stitched panoramic image from the scene you've shot. The DSC-HX1 will be available in April for $500.
Pentax also joined the megazoom-announcement fray with the Pentax X70, a 12-megapixel camera with a massive 24x optical zoom (26mm to 624mm). The X70 has a mechanical image stabilization system that shifts the image sensor to counteract hand movement, as well as a 720p HD movie mode, face detection for up to 32 faces per shot, and ISO equivalency up to 3200. The X70 is due out in April for $400.
Nikon Coolpix P90
Also offering an impressive 24x optical zoom (24mm to 624mm) is the Nikon Coolpix P90, which was announced in the weeks before PMA. Other than that big-time zoom, Nikon is touting the lens for another reason: it features the same Nikkor ED glass found in the company's digital SLR cameras. The P90 offers a four-way image stabilization system that combines mechanical and digital methods, as well as a 15 frames per second high-speed burst mode. The Coolpix P90 is due out in April for $400.
Olympus SP-590 UZ
If 24x just isn't enough optical zoom for you, this Olympus camera is the only one with more. The SP-590 UZ, a follow-up to the top-ranked Olympus SP-570 model at the top of our advanced point-and-shoot chart, offers a staggering 26x optical zoom that reaches from 26mm wide-angle to 676mm telephoto. A booth demo also showcased some other nifty features: an accelerometer-guided panorama mode that acts almost like a video game, as well as a scene mode that lets you line up your subject with a head-shaped wireframe, keeping the subject in focus while blurring out the background of the image. The Olympus SP-590 UZ goes on sale in March for $450.
Not all high-zoom cameras are bulky, either. The Olympus Stylus-9000 packs in a 10x optical zoom lens (28mm to 280mm) and can slip in your pocket. The 12-megapixel Stylus-9000 boasts dual mechanical/digital image stabilization and will ship this month for $350.
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
Olympus may be the megazoom king when it comes to bulkier cameras, but Panasonic and Canon both announced 2009 models that pack 12x optical zoom lenses into a compact frame. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 ($400, available in April) and Lumix DMC-ZS1 ($300, available in April) both offer 12x optical zoom lenses (25mm to 300mm), but the slightly more expensive ZS3 also shoots 720p high-def video and has the ability to recognize and tag faces automatically. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS (pictured above) also has a 12x optical zoom lens that extends from 28mm to 336mm, as well as the ability to shoot 720p HD video. It's due at the end of March for $350.
Kodak EasyShare Z915
Thanks to this Kodak camera, which was announced during PMA, you can also get a 10x optical zoom camera for $200. That's recession-tastic! The 10-megapixel Kodak EasyShare Z915 has a 10x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization (but no wide-angle chops: 35mm to 350mm), runs on AA batteries, and is due out in April for just $200.
Casio Exilim EX-Z29
You don't even have to pay a lot for haute fashion anymore. The entry-level Casio Exilim EX-Z29, also announced during the PMA show, even had its price drop shortly after it was announced: from $150 to $140. The 10-megapixel EX-Z29 offers a nice range of features for the low, low price: face detection, 23 shooting modes, digital image stabilization, and a simulated wide-screen movie mode that also optimizes clips for upload to YouTube. Available in black, silver, blue, pink, and purple, it's targeted for an April release.
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS
While we're on the topic of fashion, the stylish Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS is primed to take the place of Canon's top-selling PowerShot SD1100 IS. As such, it better be good. The specs look like they're ready for the challenge: a 10-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilization, a 3X optical zoom (35mm to 105mm), Smart Auto mode, face detection, and red-eye correction. Available in April for $230, there are six color options: dark gray, light gray, orange, blue, pink, and green.
Samsung is known for making slick, futuristically designed gear all across the board, but the TL320 gives a tip of the cap to the old school. The nifty, fuel-gauge-like indicators on the top of the camera give a retro-minded slant to checking how much battery life and memory-card storage you've got left. That's not all there is to like about this point-and-shoot: with a 24mm wide-angle lens, a 3-inch-diagonal AMOLED screen (see the next slide), and 720p HD movie-shooting capabilities, the specs look good, too. It's due out in May for $380.
Samsung TL320 AMOLED screen
Here's a closer look at the Samsung TL320's active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) screen. It looked very sharp and bright during the demo time.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1
The steel-plate look on Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TS1 camera isn't just for show; this camera can take a beating and keep on meeting (your digital-imaging needs). For a rugged camera, it has great specs: a 28mm wide-angle lens, 12-megapixel resolution, a 10-frame-per-second high-speed burst mode, and high-definition video recording. It's also rated as shockproof to drops as long as 5 feet, dustproof, and...
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 underwater
...you can apparently put it in an aquarium full of water and some rocks. It's waterproof down to 10 feet underwater. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 will be available in April in silver, orange, and green for $400.
Olympus Stylus Tough In Ice
Olympus also joined the creative-display game by showing off its new Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 and Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 cameras while they were frozen in a block of ice. Both freezeproof/waterproof/drop-proof cameras can be operated with mittens on by smacking the sides and top of the camera to turn on the flash and adjust its settings. The Tough-8000 is a wee bit tougher than the Tough-6000: it's also rated as "crushproof" for up to 220 pounds of pressure. Han Solo encased in carbonite could not be reached for comment.
Sea&Sea RDX-450D Housing for Canon EOS Rebel XSi and Canon EOS 450D
If bringing your camera just a dozen or so feet underwater just doesn't cut it, you can step up to the Sea&Sea Housing systems for DSLRs such as the Nikon D60, Canon EOS Rebel XSi, and Canon EOS 450D (pictured here, next to the Canon EOS 450D itself). Designed for deep-sea use and scuba divers, the RDX housing units are airtight and custom-built for individual DSLR models. Just insert your DSLR, close the case, and snap away during your undersea journeys down to 200 feet. The cases even have oversized buttons to adjust in-camera settings and a huge shutter trigger on the casing to cut down on undersea fumbling.
JVC Everio X Series
In another one of the very few PMA announcements, JVC announced its Everio X series of HD camcorders, which pack a ton of high-end features in a frame slightly bigger than a pocket camcorder. The palmable Everio X has a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor that shoots 9-megapixel stills, optical image stabilization, a 60fps high-speed burst mode for 5-megapixel images, records full 1080p HD video in AVCHD format to SDHC cards, and offers "one-touch" uploads to YouTube over a USB cable. It's due in June for $1,000.
RCA Small Wonder EZ209HD
Announced at CES in January, the RCA Small Wonder EZ209HD is the company's latest addition to its HD pocket camcorder line. There's no on-board storage (it records to a microSD card) or integrated USB connector, but the EZ209HD does have HDMI-out and embedded software that allows for quick YouTube uploads as soon as it's connected to a PC via a USB cable. The price is nice, too: at $120, it's due in April.