Facing stiffer competition, though, is the
"Nikon is catching up," said IDC analyst Ron Glaz, adding that it still has a ways to go though. But Canon is more worried about the arrival of , which quickly entered the SLR market by acquiring Konica Minolta's camera assets. Sony offers the A100 today, but two more models in its Alpha SLR line are due in coming months.
"I know Canon is always worried about Sony. Sony is a powerhouse in Japan," Glaz said. Sony makes its own image sensors and image processors, making them--like Canon--an integrated business. "They have a lot of technology in-house. They're very similar to Canon, except more diverse."
The 40D can shoot as many as 6.5 frames per second, has better sealing against the elements than its predecessor, employs the newer Digic III image processing chip, and has an overhauled autofocus system that Canon says is faster and more sensitive. "The new autofocus sensor detects most subjects more readily than before. Additionally, the Digic III processor in the EOS 40D helps to increase its AF speed by 30 percent compared to the EOS 30D camera," Westfall said.
SLR cameras, which compared withfeature a broad array of interchangeable lenses, faster performance and better sensitivity, are a hot market. Digital camera shipments grew 15 percent overall in 2006, but , according to IDC.
The 1Ds Mark III is, along with Canon's 12.8-megapixel EOS 5D, one of only two new SLRs to employ a relatively large "full-frame" sensor the size of a 35mm film image. Manufacturing such sensors, which measure 24mm by 36mm, is more expensive, but it gives cameras the optical performance film camera users often grew accustomed to and lets camera makers use larger individual pixels.
Pixel size is a key feature in camera performance. The smaller each pixel, the more electronic noise it produces, which shows up in images as multicolored speckles. And with the race to increase megapixel counts, pixels are shrinking in general. Bigger pixels mean cleaner images and better performance in dim conditions.
The pixels on the 5D, introduced in 2005, and the 1Ds Mark II, a 16.7-megapixel full-frame model introduced in 2004, are 8.2 microns square. But the 1Ds Mark III pixels are 6.4 microns square--significantly smaller. Chuck Westfall, Canon's spokesman and tech guru, though, said sensitivity is "about the same" on the Mark II and Mark III and the latter has better overall quality.
"Despite the smaller pixel size of the EOS-1Ds Mark III compared to the EOS-1Ds Mark II, the image quality of the 1Ds Mark III is superior to that of the 1Ds Mark II due to improvements in CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensor design as well as image processing in the camera with dual Digic III (chips)," Westfall said. "Specifically, shadow noise on the 1Ds Mark III is lower, and tonal gradation is better because of the 14-bit analog-digital conversion."
The 1Ds Mark II has 12-bit analog-digital conversion, meaning that each color had 4,096 shades between bright and dark. With 14-bit digital data of the Mark III, there are 16,384 shades of tonal variation.
The 40D's sensor is based on that of the lower-end Rebel XTi, but it uses new microlenses over each pixel so that more light can be gathered. Its sensitivity reaches 3,200 compared with 1,600 for the XTI.
Canon also announced two new SLR lenses due to arrive in October: the $2,200 professional-oriented EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM wide-angle lens, which improves optical quality over its predecessor, and the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, a $199 entry-level lens similar to the basic model that ships with most Rebel XTi cameras but that adds up to four F-stops' worth of image stabilization help to counteract camera shake.
Canon also announced a raft of compact models: