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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

TECH_JAPAN

GADGETS

Pick of the pixels from this year's CP+ show


One of the highlights of this month's CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2012 in Yokohama was Nikon's new D800 digital SLR camera, aimed at multimedia photographers and videographers. The 36-megapixel monster is once again spurring the debate over how many megapixels is too many megapixels.

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The D800 is the successor to Nikon's D700, which was released in July of 2008. That was a 12.1-megapixel camera, and the D800 is exactly three times that, with a 36.3-megapixel FX sensor, and is capable of shooting at 7360 x 4912 pixel resolution. It has a native ISO range of 100-6400, but is expandable to ISO 25,600.

The company's director of marketing, Bo Kajiwara, noted that the D800 is a response to the quality that consumers are demanding from cameras these days: "The Nikon D800 re-imagines what is possible from this level of D-SLR, to address the needs of an emerging and ever-changing market; this is the camera that is going to bridge the gap for the most demanding imaging professionals, and provide never before seen levels of SLR image and video quality."

While I'm sure there are many photographers who can use that kind of image quality, I can't claim to be one of them. But that said, even I sometimes find myself trying to crop parts of images and finding that the resulting quality is just not good enough. By putting image quality first with this new model, Nikon notes that photographers can "crop liberally with confidence." All the same, I'm sure many folks are wondering whether Nikon's megapixel push is more about marketing, or if it's actually intended to meet a real consumer need.

With the chassis composed of a lightweight magnesium alloy, the D800 is compact and portable. The camera features two card slots, one for Compact Flash (CF) and one for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, giving photographers the to ability to backup, have overflow storage for when one card fills up, or even have still photos go to one card and video to another.

On the video side, the camera can shoot 1080p at 30 fps or 720p at 60 fps, and for your audio there's a built-in mic plus stereo mic and headphone jacks. There's uncompressed HDMI output too for those who want to watch their video on an external display.

The D800 will be selling for about ¥300,000, and will be available in late March. The D800E, without the anti-aliasing filter (which trades off some image quality to prevent undesirable Moire patterns), will follow in April with a price tag of about ¥350,000.

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Of course, not everyone is going to want that sort of power, and there were more than a few alternatives for the casual shutterbug at the CP+ exhibition. Just a week before the event, Panasonic had announced a number of new Lumix point-and-shoot cameras, so it was no surprise to see them featured at the show. One of the standouts is the Lumix DMC-TZ30 (known as the ZS20 in America), the successor to the TZ20. Panasonic is pushing this one as a portable, yet powerful travel camera that gives very high-quality images thanks to its 14.1-megapixel sensor, but with far less noise than the the TZ20.

The camera is capable of full HD video recording, as well as high-speed continuous shooting at 10 fps. It also boasts a 20x optical zoom Leica DC lens, with a 24mm wide angle of view — a big plus for capturing landscapes while traveling. It's equipped with a new touchscreen LCD display, and for those who do opt to take the TZ20 on the road, its Global Positioning System is upgraded with map information covering 203 countries that can be installed via DVD. The TZ30 will arrive in mid-March and is expected to be priced at about ¥40,000.

For those who prefer something a little more stylish, Panasonic also has the DMC-FX80, another great portable solution which just went on sale with a price range of about ¥21,000 to ¥25,000 (varies by retailer). This also brings a touchscreen and 24mm f.25 wide-angle view to the table, but the optical zoom is just 5x. It has a 12.1-megapixel sensor, and can also shoot full HD video.

The FX80 features an array of photo filters, like retro, miniature effect, toy effect, and soft focus — perhaps in response to the huge popularity of smartphone photo-filter apps. There's also touch autofocus, so if you're a user who wants something that's a step up from your smartphone, this might be the ticket.

Rick Martin is an editor at Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.


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