Sony unveils high end, high price Qualia products

Sony Corp. unveiled Tuesday the first four products in its new Qualia family, a top-of-the-line range of digital cameras, video projectors and other products that is designed to return a little magic to the Sony brand name.

For the new range, Sony is combining functionality with design and a high level of customer service and support. The result is a range of products that are meant to touch the hearts of consumers, Sony said in a statement. Judging by the prices of the first four products, the Qualia line products will also reach deep inside the wallets of Japan's most affluent consumers.

The project was started in May 2001 and first disclosed publically in April this year, when Nobuyuki Idei, Sony's chief executive, told a Tokyo news conference that the high-end product family would be launched in June. At the time he did not detail the products, but promised that consumers "will have delight in just holding these products."

Among the four products announced Tuesday is only one which can literally be held.

The Qualia 016 digital still camera is a 2-megapixel device much smaller than Sony's Cybershot U digital still cameras. It measures 69 millimeters by 24 millimeters by 17 millimeters and weighs 50 grams, which is just over a quarter of the volume of the Cybershot U and less than half the weight.

Qualia 016 camera

In exchange for the small size, consumers will find the camera lacks several features compared to other models in Sony's Cybershot range. The monitor is 0.55 inches in diagonal width, there is no internal flash, although an external flash unit can be connected, and battery life is 50 minutes. There is no optical zoom, although the camera does have a 4X digital zoom feature and comes in a kit that includes a telephoto lens and wide angle lens. It stores images on Memory Stick Duo.

The kit, which includes the camera, will go on sale in Japan on June 24 priced at ¥380,000 (AUD$4,930). That's roughly 15 times the Japanese street price of Sony's Cybershot U and more than four times the price of its high-end Cybershot F717.

Also announced Tuesday was the Qualia 004 high-definition video projector. The unit uses the SXRD (Silicon Crystal Reflective Display) LCD projector technology announced by Sony in February this year, which promises to deliver a high quality, high contrast and brighter image than has been possible until now. The projector accepts either analog or digital video inputs and will go on sale in Japan August 1, priced at ¥2.4 million.

The other two products are the Qualia 007 Super Audio CD player and the Qualia 015 Trinitron high-definition color monitor. The former will go on sale in Japan on August 11 and cost Â¥800,000 for the main unit and ¥700,000 ($9,085) for matching speakers. The latter will be available in Japan from June 24 and cost ¥1.3 million ($16,874).

Sony said it has no present plans to sell Qualia products outside of Japan.

As can be seen from the first four products, Qualia devices each carry a number. The numbers are assigned as each prototype is approved for production, and Sony says 17 such products have already been approved. After approval the products face further testing and in some cases may not pass muster, which means some of the 17 products may never be commercially launched.

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Martyn Williams

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