Bad weather and dodgy flights did their best to mess things up, but our entire crew – including staff from our sister sites – arrived in Las Vegas in anticipation of CES. The show officially opens its doors this morning, but we've already been tracking down manufacturers and checking out new products in meetings, press conferences, and pre-show events held yesterday.
Wednesday evening was a night of hands-ons, with several manufacturers giving us early access to their latest releases. We'll be providing more detailed write ups and lots more photos once we get to spend a little more time with the newest tech when the show floor opens, but a few of our brief pre-show encounters with the new release were worth mentioning.
First look: Samsung HZ10W
With its unique combination of performance-focused features, the Samsung HZ10W is looking like a strong contender for the most exciting camera release of the show. It certainly has a lot of potential, and while Samsung doesn't enjoy the reputation of a Nikon or a Sony in the imaging space at the moment, one need only look to the case of Panasonic to see how quickly a few solid, sophisticated cameras can change all of that.
Could the HZ10W, with its 10x wide-angle lens, be that camera? Samsung had a production-ready HZ10W out in the open on Wednesday evening, and were kind enough to let us check out its features and grab a video walk-around of the new model.
First impressions are overwhelmingly positive: the camera is solidly built, responsive, easy to use, and seems, at first glance, to avoid much of the cheesiness that has sometimes plagued Samsung's entry-level cameras.
Inevitable comparisons to the Panasonic TZ cams are only furthered by some actual hands-on time with the metal-bodied HZ10W. It's clear that Samsung knows who their primary competition is for this model, and the HZ has a similar form factor and overall feel to the TZ5. But with slightly better, less brick-like ergonomics than the TZ5 and what seems to be a very good interface, this camera is certainly no clone.
All white K2000 LE spotted "in the wild"
You've seen the press photos, but here's the real deal: Pentax's very unique K2000 Limited Edition.
Love it or hate it, the all-white LE body and matching kit lens doesn't look like anything else out there.
If anything, the all white K2000 is even more visually arresting in person: with a high-shine composite finish, it's almost startlingly white. Think the finish on a bathroom sink and you'd be getting close. Hence, if incognito shooting is your thing, the K2000 LE probably isn't your camera.
We'll see if we can shake out more "when, how many, how much?" details on the Limited Edition today.
Olympus shows off new model line at pre-show event
Although announcements had been made less than 24 hours before, Olympus was showing off their full line of new models...
...including their latest Tough cameras – which, in spite of the rebrand, bear a striking resemblance to the Stylus 1030 SW.
But the 550 WP adds a unique look to Olympus's family of small cameras.
As for the rest of the new models, the new FE cameras are surprisingly attractive in person, and I'm even more impressed with the overall look and feel of the Stylus models. With at least two new 10x zoom compacts entering the market from this show, long-time dominant players Canon, Panasonic, and Sony may have their hands full: from a technological standpoint, the Samsung HZ10W is more exciting, but the Olympus has sleekness and style on its side.
The most impressive part of Olympus's new lineup is still the SP-590 UZ. Try as I might, I couldn't help but be sucked in by the "raw power" appeal of that kind of zoom range. Better still, zoom travel is amazingly quick and fluid on the latest SP, and while the camera seemed to falter on focus at the long end of the zoom range, there wasn't a whole lot of light to be had in the room at the time.
We're hoping to spend some more time with an SP-590 today, so check back for a detailed hands-on before the day is out.
Hands on with Kodak's Z980 24x ultrazoom
Kodak was drawing quite a crowd with their Z980 24x ultrazoom, and we stopped by for a few minutes to take a look.
From a handling and ergonomics perspective, the new model is dynamite, sporting the kind of vertical grip and shutter release usually reserved for DSLRs. If your frame of reference is point-and-shoots, the inclusion of a vertical shutter release may not mean a lot to you, but as DSLR shooters know, having a second set of controls for portrait-orientation shooting makes the camera easier to manage.
Kodak's Brian Fox was toting around a production-ready Z980 with the second grip attached, and we pulled him aside for a quick vertical release demo.
And it's not just the vertical grip that makes the Z980's in-hand manners so civilized: the camera is well balanced, well proportioned, and construction quality is definitely a cut above the previous-generation Z models we're familiar with.
That's about all we could tell about the Z980 at a glance, and with people waiting to get their hands on Kodak's latest, we didn't get much of a chance to scan over the camera's performance or interface. What's obvious at this point is that that 24x lens is garnering a lot of attention, and if the camera performs as nicely as it looks and feels, the Z980 may be Kodak's ticket to getting the attention of a wider audience of hobbyist shooters.