Epson announces new photo gear

Epson announced two digital cameras and a photo viewer at last week's PhotoPlus Expo. The company expands its camera family with the US$399 L-500V point-and-shoot and the US$2999 (price excludes lens) R-D1 digital rangefinder camera. Epson also unleashed an upgrade to its photo viewer, the US$499 P-2000. The three devices will be available in November.

The L-500V and the P-2000 share Epson's exclusive Photo Fine LCD technology, which displays three primary (red, green, blue) colors per pixel compared to one color per pixel on a typical digital camera LCD. Epson explains that the Photo Fine technology offers a higher density of 212 pixels per inch as opposed to competing technologies that offer 80 to 100 pixels per inch. The end result is far better color saturation and smoother image quality on-screen than those on competing camera LCDs. (This technology was first introduced with Epson's first photo viewer, the US$599 P-1000 viewer with a 10GB hard disk.)

Based on the demo units I saw at PhotoPlus, the Epson LCD's quality was very impressive. The colors looked brilliant, the images appeared crisp and smooth, and the screen maintained a good field of view at almost any angle.

Camera and Viewer With Epson's New LCD Technology

Besides sporting a great screen, the 170-gram L-500V camera touts features that most intermediate users will enjoy, including a 5-megapixel resolution, 2.5-inch display, 3X optical zoom lens (which is 34 to 102 millimeters in 35mm equivalent), and 30-second video capture.

The P-2000 photo viewer boasts a 3.8-inch LCD, 40GB hard drive, USB 2.0 port, and slots for CompactFlash and Secure Digital memory cards. The P-2000 can read various types of files, too: For images, it can view JPEG, TIF, and RAW files; for video, it can play back MPEG4 and MJEG formats; and for audio, it can play MP3s and AAC files. The P-2000 has a video interface (NTSC and PAL are supported) and, with an optional cable, users can plug the device to a TV, monitor, or projector to view content. The device also features a menu system that lets you organize files in folders or albums.

At US$499, the P-2000 costs less yet has a higher storage capacity than the first-generation P-1000, which costs US$599. Epson is aiming the P-2000 for photographers and casual users who want to share their images on a portable, high-storage device. It could also come in handy for those who want to quickly offload images from their memory card.

Pricey Digital Rangefinder

Epson enters the high-end digital camera market with its R-D1 rangefinder, which the company says is the world's first of its kind. Aimed at photo enthusiasts, the nearly 1.5-pound R-D1 sports a black magnesium alloy body and has a 1.x viewfinder and an interchangeable lens mount. The R-D1 is compatible with over 200 M mount and, with an adapter, L mount lenses.

Although it lacks Epson's Photo Fine LCD technology, it offers other desirable features including a 6.1-megapixel resolution and a good-size 2-inch LCD. It captures images in JPEG and RAW formats and supports Secure Digital media. At almost three grand (US), the R-D1 costs more than some digital SLR cameras such as Canon's AUD$1699 Digital Rebel.