Kodak has announced the Easyshare C513, a 5 megapixel compact camera with a 3x optical zoom (36-108mm) and 61mm (2.4 inch) screen. 'So what?' we thought, 'another bog-standard compact that's exactly the same as all the others'. But wait, there's a difference -- the C513 uses a CMOS sensor.
CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensors convert light into information by reading the value of light hitting each pixel on the sensor surface. This makes them more flexible than CCDs (charge-coupled device sensors), which appear in most compact cameras today. CCDs collect the information from all of the pixels and then read it in one go. Until now, CCDs have been considered superior in terms of image quality, as CMOS sensors have been more susceptible to noise.
So what's the point of adopting CMOS now? The technology has matured, to the point that Kodak feels it can compete with CCD on image quality. And Kodak's not alone -- Sony and Canon have both recently invested in CMOS. Canon plans to open a new ¥55bn (about £221m) CMOS factory in Japan next year, while Sony is topping that with ¥60bn investment. CMOS sensors are cheaper and easier to produce, so it makes financial sense for the manufacturers.
But what about us? Picture quality of the new breed of CMOS point-and-shoots is unproven as yet, and the C513 only manages to limp to a maximum ISO 200. But CMOS does have a couple of clear advantages for the end user: substantially lower power consumption and lower cost.
As such, the C513 will be available in the US next month for a paltry $99 (£49). We don't have pricing and release details for the UK yet, but as soon as we do we'll let you know. -Rich Trenholm