This year, cameras costing between $500 and $1200 have generated a lot of news, particularly with the introduction of D-SLRs with even better features and higher megapixel counts. Yet with the highly competitive holiday season fast approaching, the major camera manufacturers have now turned their focus to the other end of their product lines: consumer-friendly point-and-shoot digital cameras. For example, Olympus on Wednesday announced nine new point-and-shoot digital cameras, ranging in price from $149.99 to 399.99.
At the low end sit four new six-megapixel FE series cameras, the basic FE-170 ($149.99 list), the FE-180 ($179.99 list) with extended battery life, the ultra-thin FE-190 ($199.99 list), and the FE-200 ($249.99 list) with its long zoom. All come with 2.5-inch LCDs and 16 scene modes. And while the FE-170, FE-180, and FE-190 each feature a 3X optical zoom lens, the FE-200 sports a 5X optical zoom lens, which starts at a wide angle view of 28 mm (35-mm equivalent).
Olympus has also launched four new Stylus-line cameras. Three of these are 7.1-megapixel cameras; the Stylus 730 ($399.99 list), Stylus 740 ($349.99 list), and Stylus 750 ($399.99 list); and Olympus has also unveiled the 10-megapixel Stylus 1000 ($399.99 list). Like the FE series cameras, all the Stylus cameras except the Stylus 730 use a 2.5-inch LCD (the 730 features a slightly bigger 3-inch LCD display). In terms of lenses, the Stylus 740 and 750 have 5X optical zooms while the Stylus 730 and Stylus 1000 have just a 3X optical capability. What distinguishes the Stylus 750, though, is that it includes both electronic and sensor-based mechanical image stabilization.
One of the nicest innovations that Olympus has included in the FE series cameras as well as in the Stylus 740 and Stylus 750 are built-in help guides. In an era where so few people read the included manuals for any electronic device, these built-in quick manuals are a welcome addition. They're filled with short captions for scene modes, plus abbreviated tutorials for techniques like brightening a subject and shooting in backlight situations.
And while it's true that the Stylus 730 does not include the help features on this camera, it uses a new easy-to-read graphical user interface that Olympus says is targeted at an older crowd. This interface relies on enlarged text and graphical icons. And although I've only seen sample shots of the camera's screens, I'm encouraged by the company's interest in serving this community. I'm also happy that Olympus is making this move, since none of its nine new point-and-shoot cameras have a glass viewfinder, a fact that many seniors have complained to me about. Stay tuned for my hands-on review to see if Olympus delivers on this feature.
The last camera Olympus announced today is the Stylus SP-510 UZ, an inexpensive ($329.99 list), 10X optical super zoom that is outfitted with a 7.1-megapixel CCD, a 2.5-inch LCD, and 28 shooting modes. The camera also has full manual settings for more control and creativity.
All nine cameras use the small xD flash memory cards for storage, and you can look for them all to hit store shelves in September.
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