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Camera makers frame new standard

Olympus and Kodak ally on a proposed industry standard to let owners of high-end digital SLR models swap out lenses from different manufacturers.

Camera makers Olympus and Eastman Kodak announced a new standard Tuesday to ensure that high-end digital cameras can swap lenses.

The 4/3 System is aimed at digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, models typically used by professional photographers in which the camera body can be separated from the lens, allowing photographers to swap out lenses for wide-angle or close-up shots. To date, manufacturers have mostly used proprietary lens-mount designs based on their 35mm film cameras, meaning cameras will only accept lenses from the same manufacturer.

Kodak and Olympus said in a statement from the Photokina trade show in Germany that adoption of an open standard will help drive down equipment costs, allow the creation of smaller lens systems and lead to improvements in image quality. The two companies make up the newly formed Universal Digital Interchangeable Lens System Forum to encourage adoption of the standard, which has already been accepted by Fuji Photo Film.

Kodak also announced several new digital camera models at Photokina. The EasyShare LS443 is a high-end consumer model with resolution of 4 megapixels, a high-quality Schneider-Kreuznach 3x zoom lens and an enhanced LCD screen that allows photos to be viewed clearly even in bright sunlight. The camera is set to go on sale next month for $500.

Kodak also announced the DCS Pro 14n, a professional SLR digital camera with resolution of 14 megapixels, the highest yet offered in professional-level digital cameras. The camera will cost about $4,000 when it goes on sale in December.

Also pushing the megapixel envelope is Canon, which unveiled the EOS-1Ds, an 11-megapixel professional SLR that will sell for around $9,000 when it begins shipping in November.