Magazine Article


Digicams Can, Part 4

Digicams Can, Part 4:

5 Megapixels? Already?
What's Planned as an Encore?

By Don Sutherland

November 2001

Einstein was wrong.

Sorry, Albert, but you told us words to the effect that the faster an object travels, the more slowly time within it passes.
That may be true everywhere else in the cosmos, but it certainly is not among digicams.
Even as digital cameras hurtle through the market space at ever-increasing velocities, the time it takes for them to change grows less, not more.
You're holding the proof in your hands. When I began the "Digicams Can" series, it was gonna have four parts. Well, this is the fourth part, and guess what? Turns out there'll be a fifth part next issue.
That installment will cover the things I planned to mention this time. But newer, additional things have come up, and they won't be ready for discussion until next time.
So this time, we should examine something that seemed rather remote when this series began, four months ago. We should examine the 5-Megapixel digicam.
It changes a lot of things.
When this series began four months ago, I'd already had extensive use of the first "prosumer" 5-MP digicam, the Minolta Dimage 7. I'd also seen mock-ups and prototypes of two 5-MP models from Nikon. Olympus wasn't carrying theirs around, but they told us what to expect - their built-like-a-tank E10 boosted to 5-Megapixels, renamed E20.
It all made interesting talk, but what were the market realities when this series began four months ago? I seem to recall one 4-MP camera of tenure, the aforementioned Olympus E10. I believe Toshiba was just announcing their first 4-MP model when this series began. Olympus brought out their C-4040, and Casio began passing their comparable QV-4000 around to reviewers.
Notwithstanding Minolta's promise shipping the Dimage 7 after PC Expo (last June, when this series began), the world we inhabited seemed infatuated with the 4-Megapixel CCD.
Had we not, after all, dwelt a good year or so, in the 3-Megapixel park? Hadn't we spent a good year or so in the 2-MP and 1-MP arenas each year before? Didn't we spend about a year each in the XGA and VGA fields?
So a year per Megapixel seemed fitting and logical. It kept the market on a steady trajectory - growing by leaps and bounds, but always leaps and bounds of about equal size. And conforming to that size, we should now be in the thick of the 4-Megapixel age.

A five-Megapixel picture makes the biggest picture, with the most pixels, of any camera under $7000. Does it take extra-big eyes to see so much? Clearly, our author, the all-seeing Digiru (or digital guru) was taking no chances.

What Happened to 4-Megapixels?
Olympus was quite far ahead of things when they announced the E10. That was at a bodacious bash in the Spring of 2000. The camera was shipping by about this time last year, and it was quite a feather in its maker's cap. A true SLR with a sharp 4x zoom, it was arguably the most advanced camera this side of the interchangeable-lens digital SLRs. Also arguably, the E10 surpassed those models — it was more compact, and sold for a third to a quarter of their prices. If that didn't establish 4-Megapixels as the high-water spec of the year, nothing could.
Except for the Olympus models, the Toshiba and Casio, however, 4-MP got leapfrogged.
We can probably assume that more 4-MP cameras will arrive, even as we can assume the arrival of new 3-MP, 2-MP, and VGA cameras even in the 5-Megapixel age.
But as a market leader, the 4-MP specification came and went in a wink, with nowhere near the fanfares accorded other CCD sizes — before and since. Suddenly 5-Megapixels is the buzz. Suddenly, its ubiquitous.

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