2011 Innovations Awards Honorees: Digital Imaging

3D lenses, translucent mirrors, super-powered sub-$1000 DSLRs... they're all here. See some of the most innovative cameras, camcorders, and imaging products of the year.

2011 Innovations Awards Honorees: Digital Imaging

The Consumer Electronics Association has been rewarding forward-thinking technology with its Innovations Design and Engineering Awards for 35 years, honoring hardware and software products that do things differently.

Here's a closer look at some of the 2011 honorees in the Digital Imaging category. For a complete list of winners in all 35 categories, visit the official 2011 CES Innovations Awards page. And be sure to see our roundup of the 2011 Innovations Awards honorees for computer hardware, and see which products had the highest scores across the board in our CES 2011 Best of Innovations slideshow.

Sony Alpha SLT-A55

The difference between the Sony Alpha A55 and a traditional DSLR is that Sony has placed a translucent mirror in front of the image sensor. It doesn't move like the mirror in an SLR, and because it's mostly transparent, the bulk of the light coming through the lens passes on to the sensor. A tiny bit, though, gets bounced upward to the camera's autofocus sensors. The result is that this camera can do what few SLR models can: continuously autofocus in Live View mode. When shooting video, this makes for a camera that handles like a point-and-shoot, but that offers the flexibility and superior image quality of an SLR. --Ben Long

Panasonic HDC-SDT750K

The three-CMOS Panasonic HDC-SDT750 is the first high-definition 3D camcorder aimed at consumers, and it uses a dual-lens setup to capture 3D video footage. However, you're not locked in to the third dimension: The 3D conversion lens included with the camera is detachable, and the dual-lens 3D attachment mounts onto the HDC-SDT750's f/1.5, 12X optical-zoom Leica lens. With the 3D-conversion lens attached, the HDC-SDT750 shoots 960-by-1080 video with each of the two lenses, recording separate footage for the left-eye and right-eye channels. When viewed on a compatible 3D HDTV with compatible active-shutter 3D glasses, videos and 14-megapixel stills shot with the camcorder will show a three-dimensional effect. --Tim Moynihan

Nikon D3100

Nikon has sweetened the deal for entry-level DSLR buyers with the 14-megapixel D3100, which features continuous autofocus in its 1080p video-recording mode, a wide array of shooting modes, and in-camera guides for novice shooters. At $700 as a kit with Nikon's image-stabilized AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens, it's a versatile, easy-to-use weapon for both stills and video in the realm of powerful-but-not-too-pricey DSLRs. --Tim Moynihan

Samsung NX100 and 20-50mm iFunction Lens

Samsung's NX100 is the company's second (and smaller) interchangeable-lens compact camera, packing in a 14.6-megapixel APS-C sensor and a 3-inch AMOLED screen, with 720p high-definition video capture. But its most innovative aspect is its i-Function lens, which offers access to in-camera settings by pressing a button on the side of the lens. It's designed so that shooters don't need to take their hand off the lens to navigate menus, which usually forces a photographer to reframe and refocus a shot, often missing the shot entirely in the process. --Tim Moynihan

Casio Exilim EX-H20G

The GPS-enabled Exilim EX-H20G pocket megazoom literally goes several steps beyond its geotagging competitors, thanks to embedded accelerometers and motion sensors that record location data even when the camera is turned off. Casio claims that the Exilim EX-H20G is the first camera of its kind that can accurately geotag images taken indoors, and its in-camera mapping interface is also a point of interest: Besides being able to display images on a map on the camera's 3-inch LCD screen, the EX-H20G's in-camera mapping software is preloaded with sightseeing tips. If there's a landmark or photo-friendly vista nearby, the camera will let the wandering photographer know where to go in order to snap a photo of it. --Tim Moynihan

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 Bundle

Adobe's consumer image- and video-editing applications--Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9--get minor makeovers in their latest versions. Both gain Facebook upload capability and, of course, additional editing capabilities, but each still relies on a separate, bloated organizer, so you'll have to run two (or even three) Adobe applications at once. Nevertheless, the dual-app bundle represents a notable value: At $150, the Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements package knocks $50 off the cost of buying the two apps individually. The odds are good that you'll need both apps at some point--and if you do, you'll be glad you bought them as a bundled duo. --Alan Stafford

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Touchscreen controls are normally reserved for small, stylish point-and-shoot and smartphone cameras, but the Lumix GH2 puts easy-to-use touch controls behind a powerful lens, sensor, and image processor. The Micro Four-Thirds Lumix GH2 boasts a mighty three-core CPU and a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor to get the most out of its touch-based focus, menu navigation, and playback controls, and lightning-fast autofocus means there's little lag time between touching on-screen objects and snapping a well-focused shot. You can also use the camera's touchscreen controls to switch between focus points on the fly while shooting 1920-by-1080 high-definition AVCHD video at 60 interlaced frames per second. --Tim Moynihan

Panasonic H-FT012 3D Lens for Micro Four-Thirds Cameras

Panasonic's Micro Four-Thirds-system 3D lens is compatible with the Lumix GH2, Lumix G2, and the upcoming Lumix GF2, and it turns each of those compact interchangeable-lens cameras into 3D-capable shooters. The dual-lens 3D attachment offers two 25mm f/12.5 prime lenses; the lenses shoot two 3-megapixel images that the camera processes as a single .mpo image. At this time, the camera supports shooting only 3D images, not 3D video. You can view the photos in 3D when displaying them on Panasonic's 3D Viera line of 3D HDTVs and using Panasonic's active-shutter glasses. --Tim Moynihan

Kodak Pulse Digital Photo Frame

Gone are the days when getting pictures onto a digital photo frame required cables, passwords, and your precious time. Possibly one of the smartest digital photo frames available, the Wi-Fi-connected Kodak Pulse Digital Frame lets you create a unique e-mail address for your frame so you can easily send pictures to it from your PC, your phone, or a Kodak EasyShare camera. Your friends and family can also send photos to the frame, and the frame also automatically links to your friends and photo albums on Facebook and the Kodak Gallery site. It doesn't look too shabby, either, thanks to an 800-by-600-pixel LED display with touchscreen controls. --Ginny Mies

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