We were fortunate to get hands-on with a lot of cameras at PMA in Orlando this year. While most of the new camera announcements occurred before the show (see list at the end of this article), there was plenty of news during the show, including the announcement of Panasonic's first digital SLR. Below are the highlights and commentary from some of the manufacturers that we visited. As usual, we'll do our best to get as many of these cameras reviewed as soon as they come out!
At PMA, Canon did a refresh of its SD line with 3 new cameras, refreshed the A line with 4 new cameras, and announced the Powershot S3 IS, and EOS 30D. Nothing too revolutionary, but prices just seem to be getting better (the A series starts at $179). We got a chance to get hands-on with the cameras and chat with a Canon representative to get the scoop.
All of the new SD/Digital ELPH cameras shoot at 6 megapixel resolutions. The highlights of the line are the SD700 IS and the SD630. (For additional info, see our previous coverage of the new models). The Powershot SD700 IS adds image stabilization to the line and a 4x optical zoom. The image stabilization was very effective and will aid in minimizing blur in those dark bar shots that people like to take with this camera. The Powershot SD630 gets rid of the optical viewfinder to make room for a nice bright large 3 inch LCD that looks great in person.
Canon also had a Powershot SD430 model there to let folks know that they are planning a firmware update for the WiFi-enabled camera that will allow camera to camera transfer of images.
The new A-series models, the A430, A530, A540, and A700 are targeted at the entry level user with ease of use and AA battery use across the board. See our previous coverage (link at the bottom) for a rundown of the new A models.
The Powershot S3 IS is a simple update to last year's S2 IS, adding a 6 megapixel sensor and 2 inch flip-out LCD.
Casio had a press conference on February 26 where they announced three new cameras and an arrangement with ebay to provide an "ebay Best Shot" setting in the new cameras. The Best Shot modes are what Casio calls scene modes. The ebay setting decreases the resolution of the camera down to 2 megapixels and enables Auto Macro so the image doesn't need to be resized as much and closer detailed shots can be made.
Samsung had their latest cameras at their booth. We previously covered the Digimax L85, Digimax L60, and GX-1L here. The big news here was the HDMI output from the Digimax L85, so you can display your images on a high-definition display.
Like Canon, Nikon updated several of their lines. The entry level L (or Life) line was updated with the Coolpix L2, Coolpix L3, and Coolpix L4. The S (or Style) line was updated with the Coolpix S5 and Coolpix S6. The P (or Performance) line was updated with the Coolpix P3 and Coolpix P4. See our previous coverage for more details (link at the bottom).
For a little commentary, Nikon has added some great features to their cameras as opposed to just updating the hardware. Their Face Priority AF will follow a moving face around the frame and make sure the focus and exposure is set correctly for the face. Frankly, I think their entry level models are more attractive and have a better feature set than Canon's entry-level A line. The L2, L3, and L4 are very compact and take AA batteries for the entry level users. The new "wave" design for the Coolpix S5 and Coolpix S6 is very attractive.
In my opinion, Pentax has one of the most unique line-ups of cameras. Their cameras tend to be targeted at a specific niche as opposed as to having a camera for each price point in the spectrum. If you want a good waterproof camera, they have one (Optio W10). If you want to have fun with a touch screen camera with lots of editing features, they have one (Optio T10). They also showed off their Tracking AF which tracks an object throughout the frame (once you've locked focus on that object). As we covered previously, they have a new naming scheme that has successfully simplified things.
They also showed a couple goodies under glass. The first is the tentatively named Pentax 645 digital medium format camera that they expect to shoot at 18 megapixels. The second is a new Digital SLR that will shoot at 10 megapixels. Look for both of these models later this year.
There was some big news from Panasonic, in addition to the Lumix DMC-TZ1 and Lumix DMC-FX10 announced on 2/17. They introduced their first digital SLR, the Lumix DMC-L1 (along with a new Four Thirds lens from Leica). For more details see our previous coverage. We did get a chance to get hands-on with a prototype and give some feedback to several product manager folks.
The camera is very substantial and solid. It will definitely appeal to those who like a camera that looks like older film cameras. A shutter speed dial and aperture ring on the Leica lens adds the "retro" touch. The grip was a tad too small for me, but the controls were laid out well. The Lumix DMC-L1 will be available towards the end of the year and pricing has not been set.
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