The last few days have been chock full of new digital camera releases from several major players, and things only got more exciting as last night turned into this morning. To make your life easy, a quick run-down of the biggest pre-PMA releases to this point – including a brand-new Canon Digital Rebel, flagship ultra-zooms from Fujifilm and Olympus, and a new Sony touch screen model – is all right here.
Canon Digital Rebel XSi
At the eleventh hour (quite literally, if you live in the eastern United States), Canon stole the show with the surprise announcement that a new consumer-oriented Digital Rebel DSLR – the Canon Digital Rebel XSi (a.k.a. EOS 450D) – was on the way.
A new 18-55mm kit lens with stabilized optics was announced concurrently, further sweetening the Rebel's $899 kit deal. The XSi's 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and live view system, in addition to 14-bit image processing and slightly faster shooting speeds have, at least on paper, answered the challenge raised by the...
Pentax K200D and K20D
For most of the evening, Pentax dominated the camera news with the much-anticipated official release of its K200D and K20D digital cameras.
The 10.2 megapixel K200D shoehorns most of the former K10D's tech into a K100-sized package. As with previous Pentax models, the K200D features in-body Shake Reduction, custom image functions, dynamic range tools, and weather and dust sealing. Even with an optically redesigned 18-55mm kit lens, the K200D will undercut the slightly more powerful but clearly competitive Canon XSi by $100, retailing for $799 in kit form.
In the semi-pro arena, Pentax's K20D came to the plate with a 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor. With live view, custom functions, Pentax's noted PRIME image processing, and weather/dust resistance, it offers serious, step-forward improvements in most key areas. The K20D's Achilles' heel, if it has one, may prove to be shooting speed: even in their advanced offering, Pentax is stuck for the moment at 3 frames per second, which will continue to be a source of complaint for sports shooters, especially. Kit pricing with the new 18-55 lens will begin around $1300.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300
Sony didn't do a lot of serious hardware upgrading to create the replacement for its wildly popular T200 touch screen camera, the new and improved T300. In this move, the company is banking on the fact that: 1) demand for the T200 remains high, and 2) the gadget-savvy potential purchasers who make up the T200/T300's primary market love features with cute names and unusual functions (think Smile Shutter). There are so many new soft features for the T300 – like the post-shot function that superimposes frowning faces with smiling ones (no joke) – that it's hard to keep them all straight. $400 will be the expected cost of having what hopefully, for Sony's sake, will continue to be one of the trendiest gadgets around when it makes its retail debut in a few months.
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
Fujifilm turned over several models first thing this morning. Three new, generally impressive ultra-zooms – the S100FS, the S1000fd, and the S8100fd – all rolled out, but the flagship S100FS model looks to test the appeal of a premium fixed-lens camera from a major manufacturer.
While there are some similar offerings out there, the 14.3x, 11 megapixel FinePix has the specs to dominate if buyers can get over potential hang-ups over paying $800 for a fixed-lens camera. We'll be watching closely to see what happens when the camera comes to market next month.
Olympus SP-570 UZ
On a related note, Olympus looks to tap into a slightly smaller-dollar market with its new 20x zoom, 10 megapixel SP-570 UZ. It has a combined mechanical/electronic zoom control that may be the frustrating turn off that bad menus were to its predecessor, though further judgment will be withheld until we can spend more time with the new model. At $499, the March-release SP-570 UZ could go either way in terms of sales, depending on whether it's viewed by potential consumers as a bargain DSLR replacement or a too-heavy, too-expensive fixed-lens camera.
Canon PowerShot A470
Finally, this unlikely best pick hasn't been generating as much traffic as some others on the list, having been overshadow by a veritable smorgasbord of new high-tech tech.
But the stylish, color-inset design, DIGIC III processor, and range of shooting features make a favorable first impression, and what really seals the deal is the price. MSRP for this camera is only $129.99, meaning that there's a decent chance this could, in a few months, be the best camera $100 can buy.