Digital Camera News, 3/27/08

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Olympus updates firmware for two Zuiko lenses

Olympus has released a new firmware version for two of its Zuiko zooms, the 14-42mm and 40-150mm. The update makes the two lenses fully compatible with the contrast-detection auto focus system in Olympus’s new E-420 DSLR.

Olympus Zuiko 14-42mm

Instructions for installing the latest firmware via Olympus’s Master 2 software can be find on the company’s product support page.


New Western Digital portable hard drives released

Western Digital has released a pair of new compact, portable hard drives marketed to digital photographers and others needing moderate-capacity external storage in a compact package.

Western Digital My Passport Elite

WD’s My Passport Elite 250 and 320GB drives are slim and sculpted. Power for the drive is drawn directly from the USB 2.0 connection, eliminating the need to carry a separate power adapter. A unique "capacity gauge" shows at a glance how much space is available on the drive as soon as it’s connected. The Elite drives also provide automatic backup solutions as well as remote file access courtesy of MioNet Key software.

At around .6 inches thick and weighing in around 4 ounces, the nearly pocketable drives provide a decent amount of photo backup space in a package that makes a lot of sense for mobile photographers needing to deliver files to clients or edit their images on the road.

Retail prices for the new drives, which are now available for purchase, are $169 (250GB) and $199 (320GB).

DSLR development cycles getting shorter

This may come as no surprise to many of us, but PMA News Line is reporting this week on a recent industry analysis from a Japanese trade publication that claims manufacturers are actively working to shorten development cycles on DSLRs.

Traditionally, DSLRs have been reworked on cycles of 1.5 to 2 years, largely following Canon‘s highly prescribed development cycle. With increasing numbers of general consumers replacing their compact cameras with DSLRs, expectations of the typical one-year lifecycle for consumer goods seem to be fueling new development. "Camera makers have different ideas of the timing to put in new models according to their planned formation of the DSLR lineup," according to PMA’s analysis, "but many agree the lifecycle is much closer to a year now…."

The ability to bring technology "down" from longer-lived advanced cameras combined with consumer interest in moving "up" from entry-level models into increasingly advanced or feature-rich offerings have made shortening camera lifecycles – even if only to provide relatively minor updates – nearly a competitive necessity of late. New offerings for this cycle from Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus, especially, have drawn more heavily on previous models than any new DSLRs to hit the market in recent memory, and the report suggests that meeting the constraints of these shortened development cycles may ultimately determine which manufacturers will thrive in the long run.

While all of this makes a lot of sense, as manufacturers scramble to create new "update" models, they’ll (presumably) be forced to skimp on substantive features development for each iteration. Ultimately, given the amount of R&D that DSLR development requires, even a behemoth like Canon may not be able to offer innovative updates at the pace demanded by the consumer market. And wouldn’t we rather see more "real" improvements from one model to the next at the expense of longer wait time between them anyway?

To get PMA News Line’s summary and analysis of the report, check out the full story on their website

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