Olympus Cameras, Printer Aim High

SAN FRANCISCO (08/31/2000) - Come October, you'll be able to choose between two new Olympus cameras that push digital photography technology in different directions. The Camedia E-10 RS takes still pictures at a speed more often associated with video, while the Camedia E-100 RS pushes the limits on resolution and has a lens Olympus claims will provide a sharper image. Olympus announced both cameras last week and is showing them, along with others, at the Seybold show here.

At an estimated street price of $1999, the Camedia E-10 is not your father's digital camera--unless your father is a professional photographer. This camera is clearly meant for people who take photographs for a living.

What do you get for that price? To start, you get a huge 4-megapixel resolution. That's enough to crop a picture to your heart's content and still get a great-looking enlargement.

It also means a very large picture, typically 12MB in the uncompressed TIFF format. Luckily, the E-10 comes with a 32MB SmartMedia card.

Mimics a Lens

In many ways, the E-10 handles itself like an old-fashioned 35mm single-lens-reflex camera. Its focus, zoom, and aperture settings are on the lens. You can attach a separate flash with either a hot shoe or PC flash attachment (which has nothing to do with PCs). And the optical viewfinder looks through the same 4x zoom lens that the CCD sensor does.

According to Olympus, that lens is one of the E-10's revolutionary features. Most lenses direct light toward the center of the picture-taking element; light therefore reaches the edges of the picture at an angle. This is not a problem for film, but it is for a CCD. Olympus promises that light going through the E-10's lens will hit every corner of the CCD at a direct 90-degree angle.

The E-10 will also have an adjustable LCD screen that you can view from three angles. In addition to the traditional straight-on view, you can tilt it upward 20 degrees, or upward 90 degrees for looking straight down at the camera.

Olympus Offers Quick Pix, Printing

In many of its features and capabilities, Olympus's other new camera, the Camedia E-100 RS, resembles the soon-to-be-released C-2100 Ultra Zoom. It comes with the same 10x zoom lens, LCD reflex viewfinder, and assorted options for controlling how your pictures turn out.

So what's the difference? Speed. Hold down the shutter, and you can take up to 15 pictures each second. We're not talking movies--but 15 full-resolution stills. (The RS stands for rapid shot.) Speaking of movies, Olympus promises to offer 640 by 480 video at up to 30 frames per second--numbers that suggest DVD-like quality.

Of course, you pay a price for this speed. With an estimated street price of $1499, the E-100 will cost $500 more than the already expensive C-2100. The other price you pay is in resolution, which is a lackluster 1.5 megapixels. For now, that's the best you can get if you want to take 15 shots per second.

Photojournalists, as well as sports photographers--either professionals or highly devoted amateurs--are likely customers for a camera such as this. But then, neither of these cameras is for the average enthusiast. You have to really love photography--or be economically dependent on it--to pay this much for a camera.

Printing on the Fly

Digital cameras offer instant gratification in that you can view your photos in the camera's LCD display right after you take them. But you still have to wait to get prints.

Olympus may have an answer with the Camedia P-200. Also coming in October, the P-200 is a small (about the size of a double CD jewel case), portable photo printer that prints 3-by-4-inch images on A6 paper.

"Priced at $599, the P-200 uses dye-sublimation printing and has a resolution equivalent to 320 dpi," says Richard Pelkowski, an associate product manager at Olympus America. "It's designed for business people at remote locations like real estate and insurance adjusting, but it could be used by anyone."

Prints from the P-200 run around 80 cents each, Pelkowski adds. The camera comes with both a CompactFlash and a Smart Media slot for printing from memory cards.

"Or, you can connect it to the PC to use it as your regular photo printer," Pelkowski adds.

It offers a better resolution than the Olympus C-211 Zoom, also scheduled to ship in October. Olympus developed that camera with technology from Polaroid, so it can produce "instant" prints. However, the unit is about twice the size of typical digital cameras.

(Cameron Crouch of PCWorld.com contributed to this report.)

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