Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CES 2011 Roundup

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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The annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, wrapped up this past week in Las Vegas. The great thing about CES is that no matter what type of gadget you prefer, there is something for you. It is the Mecca of modern electronics, from 3DTV’s and GPS, to computers and software, new car technology, and everything in-between. Including of course, digital photography and video. Past years CES have always had something to delight fans of photography and this year was no exception. New models in everything from point and shoots, to high definition video, to interchangeable lens cameras. Here is a taste of some of the best new photographic products CES had to offer.

Let's start out with the point and shoot cameras, because there were some interesting new entries both at the entry level, and in the high end compacts as well. Canon debuted four new models in their venerable Powershot series, ranging from a model under $100, to a very nice looking higher-end model, the A3300IS, a 16 megapixel camera that also boasts a 5x optical zoom (with image stabilization), HD video recording, and a large 3" LCD screen. Believe it or not, the "A" series cameras are actually Canon's entry level line of Powershots, and even the A3300IS will sell for under $200 ($179 street). The next camera in the series is the A2200, which has a slightly smaller LCD screen, a 4x optical zoom, and steps down the resolution to 14 megapixels. It does retain the HD video recording, however.

Below that is the Canon A1200, essentially a 12 megapixel version of the A2200. The bargain of the bunch may just be the A800. At under $100 ($89 street) it still has 10 megapixels, though the video quality goes down to standard VGA resolution and it has the smallest screen of the group, albeit still somewhat large at 2.5". At the high end the most exciting compact was easily the Olympus XZ-1.It is aimed directly at the high performance compacts currently on the market, like the Panasonic LX-5, or the Canon S95. It boasts a high quality image sensor, along with HD video recording in a small frame. But that only scratches the surface. This camera has an impressive f1.8 lens, besting its closest competition, which have f/2 lenses. It can also take advantage of accessories via the accessory shoe, giving users the option of electronic viewfinders, flashes, and more. It has a dedicated low light mode, and combined with its fast lens and high-sensitivity sensor, this one could be a serious contender for best compact point and shoot. It will be priced to match, at $499.

Canon also unleashed a slew of new consumer camcorders, further extending their Vixia line of compact, high-performance compact video cameras. I lost count around the sixth model, I think there were eight new models total. Canon has completely redesigned the image sensor in their new HD camcorders, debuting the new “Canon HD CMOS Pro Chip”. Simply put, the company promises the sensor will deliver better image quality, as well as greatly increased low light performance. Sign me up. There is really a model available at almost every price point, and if you want features like full surround recording coupled with high resolution stills there is a model for you. Most of the models are upgradeable with accessories such as video lights, external microphones, everything you would need to get the most out of a small video camera. It would take too long to cover every model here, but as these models become available for purchase, we will have all the specs and pricing information on our website.

There were a few other notable photographic announcements, Olympus has announced a successor to their wildly popular mirror-less interchangeable lens camera, the EPL-1. Incredibly well received by enthusiasts, the company has not changed too much (if it’s not broke...), but have improved the auto-focus, which I can tell you, was already pretty good to begin with. Fuji debuted their anticipated X100, a 12 megapixel camera, with an APS-C sized sensor, which will certainly have some people eagerly awaiting a chance to see this very individually styled camera in action. Lady Gaga launched a line with Polaroid, I suppose to help add some of her pop star cred to a troubled company. Let’s hope it works. Every photographer I know has a soft spot for something Polaroid, whether they’ll admit it or not.

So we’ll end it there, the wrap up of this year’s CES is complete. These new models will be coming into stores soon, and if you want to know all the ins and outs of these models and others, you’ll need to stop by and visit our experts at your local Penn Camera. Trust me, we get even more excited than our customers, and that’s how you know you’ll get the best advice. So come see us soon. Until then, keep shooting!