First 2-megapixel class cellphone debuts

Casio Computer has become the first cellular telephone maker to announce a handset that can capture still images at 2-megapixel resolution. The announcement comes only been six months since the first cellular telephones to feature megapixel-class digital camera functions were unveiled and narrows the gap between cellular telephones and consumer digital still cameras.

The phone is on show at the Ceatec Japan 2003 exhibition, which opened Tuesday just outside of Tokyo.

The higher-quality image sensor on the phone means it can produce images of up to 1,600 pixels by 1,200 pixels resolution (UXGA), Casio said in a statement. That's higher resolution than the 1,280-pixel by 960-pixel (SVGA) managed by most of the latest models from competitors such as Fujitsu Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Sony Corp.

In addition to the highest quality mode there are five additional picture-taking resolutions including a 320-pixel by 240-pixel (QVGA) mode to match that of most cellular telephone screens and a 1,280-pixel by 320-pixel resolution panorama mode.

Other camera-like functions include auto focus, a digital 10X zoom, digital movie function and a number of picture taking modes, such as "close-up," "evening" or "portrait." Images can be stored in the telephone, which has a 12.8M-byte memory area for users, or on a Secure Digital (SD) memory card. The built-in storage is enough space for 32 images taken at the highest resolution, said Casio. Images can be moved to PCs or other devices via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) connection or the SD card.

By moving to 2-megapixel resolution and with the addition functions, the phone is getting closer in specification terms to a conventional digital still camera, particularly lower-end models. For example, Casio's Exilim EX-S2 has a similar resolution image sensor but a 4X digital zoom. But some useful features are missing on the cellular telephone, such as a flash.

Current top selling digital camera models generally have a higher resolution, between 3 megapixels and 5 megapixels, and have many more complex functions. That means the Casio phone, and other 2-megapixel handsets that might be launched in the future, won't replace your digital still camera but they can do a pretty good job as a substitute.

Other features of the clamshell-style handset include a 2.2-inch (5.5 centimeter) main display with QVGA resolution and a 1.1-inch (2.75-centimeter) sub display. It measures 51 millimeters by 102 millimeters by 26 millimeters and weighs 120 grams, said the statement.

The A5403CA has been designed for use on KDDI Corp.'s CDMA2000 1X network in Japan and is not compatible with other networks, either in Japan or overseas. It is expected to go on sale in Japan in early December for between ¥10,000 (US$90) and ¥20,000 after a retailer subsidy.

Ceatec 2003 takes place between Oct. 7 and Oct. 11 and Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan.

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Martyn Williams

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