Six-megapixel cameras focus on consumers

Remember when a 6-megapixel digital camera was a professional tool? No longer. Olympus and Konica Minolta Photo Imaging are both announcing consumer-friendly 6-megapixel cameras priced under US$500.

Olympus's C-60 Zoom will ship in the US in April, with a US$450 estimated street price. Konica Minolta's DiMage G600 won't be out until May in the US, with pricing expected to be "under US$500," the company says. Olympus also is announcing a low-end, 3.2-megapixel camera. The D-395 will also be available in April, with an estimated street price of US$150.

Both companies are aiming their 6-megapixel cameras at enthusiastic hobbyists and professional photographers. The DiMage G600 is designed for "advanced amateurs, very serious amateurs," says Jon Sienkiewicz, Konica Minolta's vice president of marketing.

And while neither camera is good enough to be a pro's main tool, both companies hope they can sell them as important, secondary cameras. "Every professional photographer I've ever known has always had a small camera in their pocket," says Oympus product manager Sally Smith Clemens.

Judging from the companies' respective announcements, Olympus's C-60 Zoom is more squarely aimed at the pros. Unlike the G600, it can save images as uncompressed .tif files, as well as standard .jpg. The C-60 also sports complete aperture and shutter control, customizable settings, and a histogram to show you a picture's tonal values before you snap the image.

And, of course, either camera can take simple point-and-shoot pictures as well.

Picture This

The cameras are similar in other ways, too. Their dimensions are almost identical: The Olympus measures 3.9 by 2.22 by 1.6 inches, and weighs 7 ounces without batteries or media. The Konica Minolta is 3.7 by 2.2 by 1.16 inches, and weighs 6.9 ounces. They both come with a 3X optical zoom and have a macro mode for shooting extremely close objects.

Both also claim to be extremely fast. The Konica Minolta announcement says that the G600 can start up in 1.3 seconds, and Sienkiewicz told us that the time between photos will be "well under a second."

Olympus gave a name to the technology that speeds up the processing, TruePic Turbo, but couldn't tell us how fast the camera will be.

Both cameras come with a proprietary, rechargeable lithium ion battery and a charger. While these batteries will probably be exceptionally long-lived, they will not be standard-sized. That means you won't be able to buy emergency replacements at a drugstore.

On the other hand, Olympus's beginner-friendly D-395 will run on standard AA batteries. Measuring 4.3 by 2.4 by 1.5 inches and weighing only 5.4 ounces, the D-395 will be small as well as inexpensive, but it will still shoot an impressive 3.2-megapixel image. It will not, however, have an optical zoom.

All three cameras will support the PictBridge standard for printing directly from camera to printer. In order to facilitate this bypassing of the computer, they all offer certain special effects, such as black-and-white and sepia tone, as options within the camera.

It is unclear if the cameras will ship to Australia.

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