Casio updates small, thin Exilim camera range

Casio Computer Co. Ltd. has taken the wraps off five new digital still cameras it will begin selling worldwide in the run-up to this year's end-of-year sales season. The models include a slimmer version of its flagship Exilim camera that is the first to use a recently developed transparent ceramic lens.

The Tokyo company first launched its Exilim range in 2002 and the credit-card-sized cameras soon began to steal market share from competitors. Canon Inc., Pentax Corp., Sony Corp. and others soon launched their own models into the small-size sector and this area now leads the digital camera market. For the first week of August, small-size models from Casio, Canon and Sony held the top four positions on a domestic sales ranking of all digital still cameras in Japan compiled by GfK Marketing Services Japan Ltd.

At the head of the new cameras announced Wednesday is the latest version of Casio's credit-card size Exilim Zoom family of cameras. The EX-S100 camera retains the same height and width as other cameras in the Exilim range -- similar to a credit card at 88 millimeters by 57 millimeters -- but is thinner than previous models at 16.7 millimeters, Casio said in a statement.

This reduction is thanks in part to a newly developed lens that is part of the camera's 2.8X optical zoom system. The lens is made from Lumicera, a transparent ceramic material developed by Japan's Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd., and is around 20 percent thinner than a comparable glass lens, said Casio.

Other features of the camera include a 3.2-megapixel CCD (charge coupled device) sensor and a 2.0-inch TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor. Casio said the rechargeable lithium-ion battery can provide enough power for around 180 pictures and the camera weighs 113 grams.

The company also unveiled two additional Exilim cameras, the EX-Z50 and EX-Z55. Both have a 3X optical zoom lens and 5-megapixel CCD image sensor. The main difference between them lies in the TFT LCD monitor on the rear, which is a 2.0-inch model on the EX-Z50 and a 2.5-inch model on the EX-Z55. Other common features include support for the PictBridge standard, which allows users to directly connect their cameras to compatible printers and bypass a PC, and a function that allows HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) photo albums for viewing from a Web browser.

Casio has reduced power consumption compared to the previous model, the EX-Z40, so the EX-Z50 can support around 390 pictures and the EX-Z55 can support around 400 pictures, both on a full charge.

All three new Exilim cameras have 9.3MB of built-in memory and accept SD (Secure Digital) or MMC (Multimedia Card) memory cards.

The EX-S100 will be launched in Japan on Sept. 25 and in major world markets during October and will cost ¥50,000 (US$457) in Japan and US$400 in the U.S. In Japan, the EX-Z55 will go on sale on Sept. 3 and the EX-Z50 in mid-October priced at ¥55,000 and ¥50,000 respectively. Both cameras will be launched in the U.S. in October and will cost $450 and $400 respectively.

The three cameras will be unveiled in Europe at the Photokina exhibition scheduled to take place in Cologne, Germany, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 and be available in shops during October. European pricing was not announced by Casio.

Casio also announced two additional models for international markets.

The Exilim Pro EX-P700 is a 7.2-megapixel camera with a 4X optical zoom. Bulkier than the other Exilim cameras, the model follows on from Casio's EX-P600 and measures 97.5 millimeters by 67.5 millimeters by 45.1 millimeters and weighs 225 grams. Other features include a rapid shooting mode that can take three photos per second for up to five shots and a 'business shot' mode that will automatically record images taken at an angle as if they were taken straight. It will be available in major world markets from October.

Also announced on Wednesday was a new flagship model for Casio's QV-R mid-range family of cameras. The QV-R61 features a 6-megapixel CCD image sensor, 3X optical zoom and 2-inch LCD screen. It also includes the business-shot mode and its battery will support the taking of about 280 pictures. It measures 88.3 millimeters by 60.4 millimeters by 33.4 millimeters and weighs 168 grams. It will be launched in Europe in October and will cost €349 (US$422).

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