CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
Manufacturers halfheartedly buff up their images
By Lori Grunin
(January 13, 2004)
There was a decided lack of genuine enthusiasm surrounding digital photography and video at this year's show, unsurprising considering the dearth of genuinely interesting new products. Given that CES is sandwiched between Photokina, the largest photo trade show on earth, and the Photo Marketing Association show next month, we're amazed that manufacturers had any new products to announce. And, frankly, how can any camera hope to compete with not one but three of the world's largest TVs?
Even the most notable new camera at the show, the Kodak EasyShare One, failed to whip up the kind of buzz in which CES specializes. Photo-oriented show goers almost universally agreed that its large display and Wi-Fi transfer capabilities represent the wave of the future, but no one seemed in any particular rush to catch the wave. Perhaps the idea of a 4-megapixel camera priced at $600 provided the buzz kill. In fact, the 5-megapixel Pentax Optio WP, which you can submerge as deep as three feet underwater without a housing, seemed to be the biggest buzz generator; a moderate hum surrounded Pentax's display of the camera immersed in a fish bowl.
Olympus fleshed out its product line with a 7-megapixel addition to its Wide Zoom models, the C-7070, and a follow-up to the sluggish C-5000Z, the C-5500 Sport Zoom. The company also brought out its sub-basement-priced, fixed-focal-length D-425; we expect to see a flood of $150, 4-megapixel models over the course of the year. Sony practically yawned out its two new cameras. The T33 is a marginally slimmer version of the T1 without the sliding lens cover, and the P200 is pretty much the P150 with a 2-inch LCD. There was more, but you get the picture.
Let's go to the videotape
The camcorder news was slightly more energizing. We look forward to checking out Panasonic's new group of consumer three-CCD camcorders, which now incorporate optical image stabilization, and Sony has a new three-CCD model that's designed similar to the popular PC330 and PC350. With two new ultracheap models, Sony also reminded us that Digital8 isn't dead yet, but a very ultracompact MiniDV model, the DCR-PC55, raised our hope that the MicroMV format is. Furthermore, it looks like almost everybody's going widescreen in 2005.
On the other hand, the near future looks grim for DVD-recordable camcorders. Panasonic made a big deal about its partnership with HP to support DVD+RW and its big plans for Blu-ray, neither of which made it into the company's DVD camcorders. Sony's designers, clearly frustrated with the aesthetics of grafting an 8cm mini-DVD onto a camcorder, simply tossed the camcorder part: the DCR-DVD7 looks more like a Walkman than a Handycam. Let's just say we're skeptical about the viability of that design.
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