Digital SLR prices fall within reach

Photo enthusiasts may soon find some relief in their quest for an affordable single-lens reflex digital camera with interchangeable lens. While the SLRs are still pricier than standard digicams, several vendors showed breakthrough products at the Photo Marketing Association conference in the US this week.

Canon announced the EPS 10D, a 6.3-megapixel SLR with a suggested retail price of US$1999. It's already being advertised on the Internet priced at US$1500 (for the camera body only). Pentax is preparing to enter the digital interchangeable SLR arena this summer with the *ist D, a 6.1-megapixel model. And long-time holdout Olympus Optical announced a digital SLR "system."

These newest entries are a far cry from the typical high cost of admission and limited selection. For example, Canon's pioneering EOS-1D costs around US$3999, not counting the lenses. Nikon's lower-priced D100 carries a price tag of US$2000 for the camera body.

Canon, Pentax Plunge

A replacement for the Canon D60, the EPS 10D has a magnesium body and high-end controls, such as an adjustable color space and white-balance bracketing. It accepts the same EF series lenses used by Canon's older digital and 35mm SLRs.

What the EPS 10D lacks is the weather resistance and the 100 percent viewfinder accuracy of the EOS-1D, introduced last fall. The 10D's viewfinder covers only 95 percent of the true image area. Nor does the 10D have interchangeable focusing screen. Canon plans to release the 10D in March.

This summer, Pentax steps into the digital interchangeable SLR arena with the release of the *ist D. Based on a model shown at PMA, the 6.1-megapixel D may be the lightest camera in this class of SLR. Like the Canon and Nikon models, it will use the same lenses as Pentax's 35mm cameras. No price has been set yet, but Pentax representatives say the company hopes to price it under US$2000.

Olympus's Super System

Olympus revealed its first digital interchangeable lens SLR, the E-Series Digital SLR System. Show-goers couldn't touch; it was locked in a glass case; and Olympus representatives say it has no model names, prices, or specifications yet.

Due for release in the fall, the Olympus system is targeted at professional photographers--meaning it will likely carry a high, pro-level price tag. At launch, it will consist of a body, four lenses, and a flash that are specifically designed to work together.

The lenses will not come from Olympus' lineup for 35mm cameras, but will be a new series designed exclusively for the digital format, says Olympus. The new lenses will also have a light path that's best for CCD sensors.

The E-Series will support the new 4/3-System standard that uses a larger CCD and wider lens-mount design, and should, in theory, significantly improve digital image quality. One incidental advantage of the 4/3 System is an easier way to translate focal length--the new 300mm telephoto Olympus showed with its SLR is equivalent to a 600mm 35mm lens.

SLR Alternative

Sometimes a bulky SLR just won't do. For serious digital photographers who want to travel fast and light, Kyocera introduced the five-megapixel, US$1000, silver, Titanium bodied Kyocera Contax Tvs Digital.

It's a digital twin of the highly-regarded Tvs film cameras, and is possibly the most expensive digital point-and-shoot you can buy. If you just run though its basic list of features, it wouldn't seem to offer much more than cameras half its price. But the camera comes with the same Zeiss optics as its 35mm counterpart--and that camera is legendary for the quality of its glass.

The Kyocera Contax Tvs Digital also has a no-frills, ruggedly constructed feel to it. Whether the digital version of the Tvs will live up to the reputation of the 35mm version will be the question before the market. It's scheduled to ship in March; a black-body version is expected to be released in April and cost US$100 more.

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Tracey Capen

PC World
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