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Canon boosts digital imaging line

The company introduces two digital cameras and a new photo printer, adding to its digital imaging product suite.

Canon (CANNY) bolstered its digital imaging product suite today, introducing two new digital cameras and a new photo printer.

The new PowerShot A5 digital camera replaces the PowerShot 600 as Canon's digital camera for consumers. The A5 offers 810,000 pixels at 1024-by-768 resolution in a new smaller design featuring a two-inch active-matrix LCD for real-time video display.

Both Canon digital cameras introduced today feature CompactFlash storage based on technology from Sandisk. CompactFlash serves the same purpose that film does in traditional cameras.

The PowerShot A5 can store up to 236 images with the 8MB of CompactFlash storage. Similar cameras from Hewlett-Packard and other competitors store about 56 images.

The PowerShot A5 is preconfigured with Canon's PhotoStitch software, which assists the user in creating panoramic images by melding together several pictures. Priced at $699, the A5 will begin shipping in July.

"The biggest advantage to the A5 is the 8MB CompactFlash card memory," said Carl Holec, digital imaging analyst with ARS. "It gives the user tremendous storage, unprecedented in the industry."

Holec pointed out that the resolution of the A5 is lower than other cameras in its class, a deficiency Canon counters by noting that the picture quality of the A5 is enhanced by high-quality glass lenses.

Low resolution certainly is not an issue in Canon's other new digital camera. The PowerShot Pro70 boasts 1.68-million pixel picture quality at a resolution of 1536-by-1024 pixels, making it the highest resolution digital camera on the market, according to Holec.

Approaching a resolution of 2 megapixels, the PowerShot Pro70 nears the quality of traditional photographs, Holec said.

The Pro 70 is targeted at "professional communicators," such as marketers who need high-quality images for presentations and brochures, said Sherry Snelling, spokeswoman for Canon. The Pro 70 is expected to be priced under $1,500 and will be available in the third quarter.

The Pro70 offers two slots for CompactFlash storage cards, along with many standard features of professional-quality digital cameras like the 2.5-inch zoom capability.

Canon also introduced today a photo printer for the two new PowerShot cameras that does not require a PC to print digital images. Bypassing the PC, users can select the images they want to print, insert the CompactFlash memory card from the camera directly into the new CD-200 digital printer, and print the "tagged" images without ever attaching printer or camera to the PC.

The 5-pound printer offers 281 dot-per-inch resolution. Because digital cameras do not offer resolution that high, photographs printed on the CD-200 will not reach that level of picture quality, Holec noted.

The $499 printer will be available in July.