Olympus camera upgrades further SmartMedia demise

CeBIT: New cameras from Olympus are smaller than their predecessors and cheaper, but drop the SmartMedia support in favour of the xD memory format
Written by Jonathan Bennett, Contributor

Olympus has announced three new digital cameras at the CeBIT 2003 show in Hannover. Based on existing models in Olympus' range, the C-150, C-350 and C-750 bring higher resolutions and lower prices to consumer digital cameras. The new cameras also break with the past by only supporting the xD digital media card standard -- SmartMedia no longer features on Olympus cameras.

The C-150, the successor to the C-120, is a 2 megapixel compact digital camera with a fixed focal-length lens. It is 15 percent smaller than its predecessor. It has many features common to many recent digital cameras -- including movie clip recording -- but will sell for the relatively low price of £139.99 (inc. VAT), which will put digital photography within the grasp of many who would have previously thought it too expensive. The C-350 Zoom is a middle-market 3.2 megapixel camera, aimed at more demanding digital photographers, costing £249.99 (inc. VAT).

The C-750 Ultra Zoom is an update of the C-730 (reviewed by ZDNet UK) and features the same 10x optical zoom lens, but now with a 4 megapixel sensor. This camera too has become smaller, primarily by losing its SmartMedia capability and only supporting xD cards. Other changes include the addition of a hot shoe for an external flash gun for when the camera's built-in fill flash isn't up to the job.

In addition to its smaller size, Olympus favours the xD card format for its potential capacity -- the technology is expected to reach 8GB without problems. However, since only Olympus and Fuji currently support the standard, it remains to be seen whether it will succeed in a market already awash with media formats.

Olympus also gave details of a new professional digital camera system, called 4/3 after the 4/3rd inch size of the sensor format used. The aim of 4/3 is to allow interchangeable-lens digital cameras with lenses designed specifically for the smaller sensor size, rather than reusing existing 35mm SLR lenses. The standard is an open specification, which should ensure lenses and camera bodies from different manufacturers can work together. At present Olympus, Kodak and Fuji are the main promoters of the standard, but they stress that any manufacturers are welcome.

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