With the somewhat smartphone-shaped Tryx camera due to hit stores and the Web quite soon, Casio and Best Buy delivered a lively pre-launch lift-off in Times Square this week, and I was there in New York City to try out the variable frame design and other distinctive features of the upcoming point-and-shoot camera.
As throngs of teens and 20-somethings queued up outside the Best Buy Theatre for a hip hop concert later that night, officials - along with a celebrity spokesperson, rapper Nicki Minaj - told reporters and paparazzi gathered indoors for a press conference that the Tryx is different from any other camera out there today.
The Tryx camera will let users "stand out and capture their lives in ways they never could before," contended Toshi Iguchi, senior general manager in Casio's Digital Imaging Division.
Minaj posed with a pink model of the Tryx, announcing that she plans to auction off the custom edition of the camera to benefit Japanese disaster relief. A couple of hours later, the rapper took to the stage again for a musical performance with the Grammy award-winning Roots.
Originally unveiled at CES 2011, the Tryx measures about 4.8-inches high by 2.3-inches wide by one-half-inch thick, and you can't help but notice its first-of-a-kind "rotating frame" form factor.
Also at the press conference on Thursday, Zachary Teske, senior merchant at Best Buy explained that Casio developed the original concept for the "totally differentiated" camera. The two companies then worked together to incorporate some unspecified tweaks proposed by Best Buy.
Casio's Iguchi summed up how the Tryx departs from other point-and-shoot cameras not just in design, but also across the dimensions of "creativity and sharing."
To take photos or videos from just about any angle, users can rotate the body of the camera 360 degrees vertically and 270 degrees horizontally around the frame.
The camera includes a 3.0-inch LCD touchscreen containing touch-operated camera controls; an ultra-wide 21mm lens; dual-core processors and Casio's Exlim Engine HS, for fast image processing; and a 12.1 megapixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor, meant to provide enough low-light performance to eliminate the need for flash.
Priced at $249, the Tryx also incorporates Casio's HDR (High Dynamic Range)-ART technology, for optionally producing surrealistic-looking photo art, along with software for automatically uploading images to sites such as Facebook, Picasa and Flicker for online photo sharing.
Not ‘Just a Box'
"Other cameras are all the same, more or less. They're just boxes," said Nick Vilelt, a national tech rep for Casio, talking with me during a hands-on demo session later.
"The Tryx's ultra-wide angle lens lets you fit lots of people into the picture for group shots", he elaborated.
Unlike other point-and-shoot cameras, the Tryx is skinny enough to fit into the back pocket of your jeans. While the same can also be said for the iPhone and tons of other smartphones with built-in cameras, I quickly experienced a lot of functionality with this dedicated camera that you won't find in other smartphone cameras.
Playing around with the Tryx and its limber little frame, I shaped the frame into a tripod for holding the camera upright and unmoving on the table. I then pulled the body of the camera through the frame to form a handle that might be used to hang the Tryx from a doorknob, for instance.
I also learned how you can use the Tryx's built-in motion sensor technology to walk away from the camera and then remotely activate the shutter whenever you're ready to snap a photo of yourself.
All you need to do is wave at the camera, or make any other kind of motion. To keep the touchscreen shutter from going off when you wouldn't want it to, you can use your finger to assign only a certain portion of the screen to motion detection.
Alternatively, if you prefer a conventional timer, you can touch set the timer to go off in either 10 seconds, 2 seconds, or two-tenths of a second.
I also took a gander at a gallery of HDR-ART work - ranging from seascapes and cityscapes to group portraits - lining the walls surrounding the demo area. The original photo was posted beneath each piece of framed art, so visitors could easily figure out how the special effects can make a difference.
Returning to the demo room, I asked about HDR-ART. Essentially, I was told, HDR-ART works by automatically combining continuous shots with various exposures and then using image analysis to offer new contrast and color saturation levels to users.
Vilelt showed me how you can then choose from any of three processing levels for adding special effects.
He also told me that, on the video side, the Tryx offers full 1080p HD resolution, along with a slow motion mode that works at speeds of up to 240 fps (432x320).
Other features include 360-degree slide panorama, contrast detection autofocus, 4x digital zoom and high-speed SR Zoom, aimed at capturing multiple still images at high-speed for sharper and clearer pictures.
Is anything missing?
Is anything important missing from this cleverly designed point-and-shooter? Personally, I'd like a zoom lens, for taking close-up shots from beyond the front rows at concerts and sporting events.
Also, I don't see why Casio's HDR-ART technology couldn't be expanded to offer more types of choices in special effects. HDR-ART might let you seem kind of like an artist, but at the moment, it isn't exactly Adobe Photoshop.
The color of a camera doesn't matter to me much. If it matters at all to you, then I should probably tell you that the Tryx will not be sold in pink. "There are only two pink Tryxes in existence, and Nikki Manaj has both of them," Vilelt revealed.
On April 17, the black edition of the Tryx will start being sold in Best Buy's brick-and-mortar stores, according to Vilelt. Some time over the next few weeks, both white and black models will begin to show up on BestBuy.com.
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