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CES 2008: Monday Run-Down
by David Rasnake -  1/8/2008

With the traditional photographic companies opting to wait until the PMA show at the end of the month for major releases, new digital imaging offerings today centered on high-style models and consumer-friendly features from the rest of the pack. We had a full day of meetings and booth tours, and here’s a quick overview of what caught our eye.

Panasonic teases WiFi-enabled compact

Panasonic was busy giving demos of a new in-camera WiFi option for its compact line, and followed up with a full press release outlining the project to add wireless file-transfer capability to its Lumix camera line.

CES Monday Run-Down
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Though one of the on-hand WiFi demo cams was a modified Lumix TZ3 (with a cut-away to show where and how the WiFi radio was integrated into the compact’s body), the press release offers no model names or release dates.

CES Monday Run-Down
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What is known, however, is that the system will be integrated with T-Mobile Hotspot service and Google’s Picasa image-sharing system. We’ve yet to see the long-predicted move into on-board wireless file transfer for cameras on a large scale, but whatever actually comes of this announcement in the way of new Panasonic hardware represents another step in that direction.

Polaroid photo printer fits in a pocket, purse

In spite of those who claim that photo printing for mainstream consumers is a dying industry, there was a fair amount of interest around Polaroid’s inkless, battery-powered photo printer.

CES Monday Run-Down
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The Polaroid Digital Instant Mobile Photo Printer prints full-bleed 2x3s onto special ZINK inkless photo paper using a thermal imaging process. The paper, which prints dry to the touch and is capable of reproducing full-spectrum color, has pigments embedded in the sheet itself. Print speeds run at a slow-but-steady one page per minute.

If your camera is PictBridge enabled, mobile printing from the lithium-ion powered device is as easy as connecting to the printer via your camera's USB cable. The printer can also receive photo files from cell phones and other mobile devices (and potentially digital cameras) via Bluetooth.

The biggest disappointment here? Only 15 prints per battery charge.

More tiny photo frames from Digital Foci

Digital photo frame maker Digital Foci has unleashed a torrent of new products of late, and they've earned some press attention at the show for their latest Pocket Album key-chain and pocket-size photo frames.

CES Monday Run-Down
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Yes, they really are that small, and feature super-sharp OLED displays with outrageously high contrast ratios. Retailing around $50 for the key-chain frame and $100 for the pocket model, the viewers aren't exactly cheap for what is essentially a novelty item, but they are pretty to look at.

Hands-on with the Sony Alpha A200

We got a chance to handle the new Sony Alpha A200 for a few minutes this afternoon, and the final verdict on the overhaul is mixed. First thoughts on the redesigned control and menu systems are that they seem to improve overall functionality and ease of use somewhat over the previous A100 (no more double dials!), but the menu system is still classic Sony: thick, engorged with features, and not always quick to navigate.

CES Monday Run-Down
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The A200 also promised to remedy its predecessor’s slightly lagging AF system, but we didn’t have the tools or the time to quantitatively evaluate this claim. We’ll be working to get our hands on a test model for review in the near future.

Colors are the theme for 2008 compacts

Finally, on the style front one theme seen across the spectrum of new and upcoming compact releases from every major manufacturer was the addition of body color options. Examples seen ranged from classy and conservative to trendy and wild.

While color options have been a mainstay for some makers – especially in the higher-end ultra-compact market – it’s fair to say that the growing emphasis on camera style in general that has permeated further into and across makers’ product lines this year, and branched out into every possible photo accessory as well: colorful printers, memory cards, cases – you name it.

The bottom line, then, is that if color options will be a part of your compact camera buying decision, seemingly limitless choices are on the way in the coming months. Stay tuned.