GW-54

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
G A D G E T W A T C H
A Free Newsletter Covering the Latest Cool Stuff in Japan
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Issue No. 54

Thursday, March 28, 2002
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

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Writer's note: Benq sent me one of its Mini300 credit card digital
cameras for a one-week trial after seeing the news piece I wrote last
week and I can confirm it has some serious 'wow!' factor. Mostly
because it comes on a strap so you can hang it round your neck, and
it's hard to credit it as a camera at all. The pictures are OK -- not
great -- and about as grainy and slightly unfocused as you'd expect,
but they're fine for very spontaneous snapping. The Mini300 does do
one very clever thing, too: It refuses to take a picture if the light
level is too low, thereby saving you the frustration of downloading
the pics later and discovering they're all, well, crap. The Mini300
at least is a great alternative to buying a Polaroid instant camera
and then being stiffed every time you need to buy a new film. And no,
I don't get to keep it.

-- Max Everingham

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Name: Minolta DiMAGE 7i
Category: Digital camera
Price: 155,000 yen
Release date in Japan: End April 2002

The Gist: Minolta's DiMAGE 7i is a 4.95-million pixel digital still
camera (5.24 million-pixel CCD) and the first digital camera to
feature direct manual focus.

The 7i is an update to Minolta's acclaimed DiMAGE 7, which was
released in the middle of last year. Described as a 'brush
up' of the previous model, the DiMAGE 7i is better as well as a bit
cheaper, with a 7x optical zoom and 28-200mm 35mm-equivalent lens. It
records to CompactFlash media and also takes P-in type PHS cards.
The new model has the same magnesium body color as the DiMAGE 7, but
has an AF shutter speed that's twice as fast as its predecessor
(capable of up to 1/4,000 of a second) and a color viewfinder
compatible with sRGB playback. The 'Ultra high speed mode' adds
another two frames a second capability, rocketing the number of
consecutive 1,280 x 960 dot shots the camera can take up to seven per
second. Other features include a real-time histogram, USB PC
interface and LCD playback monitor with much faster response speed
and improved contrast.

More info: http://www.minolta.com/japan/press02/dp/02-03-19-1_j.html

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Name: Minolta DiMAGE F100
Category: Digital camera
Price: 88,000 yen
Release date in Japan: End April 2002

The Gist: Filling in at the other end of the consumer scale is the
company's petite DiMAGE F100 digital still snapper.
The F100 has a 400,000 pixel CCD and has a (38-114mm equivalent) 3x
optical zoom lens. In a grand and somewhat shocking departure from
tradition, Minolta has given its digicams names that actually mean
something, with the 'F' in this case signifying 'Fashion, Function
and Future.' Cunningly, by sticking to just the one 'F,' the company
also avoids any potential lawsuits instigated by the Official Formula
3 Association (FOTA), which I bet is just waiting for such an
opportunity to present itself.

The F100 has full auto focus as well as a 'full auto digital
photography scene selector,' which is a world first, Minolta claims,
and which automatically selects the appropriate exposure program for
the scenario. In another world first for consumer digital cameras (go
Minolta!), the F100 also features area auto focus that can lock on
and then actually track the subject. It saves the shots (or rubbish
20x240 pixel Quick Time movie clips) to a 16MB SD memory card as
JPEGs or TIFFs and, as befits its low-end consumer status, the F100
comes in two attractive colors: silver or indigo blue.

More info: http://www.dimage.minolta.co.jp/f100

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Name: Sony SDR-4X
Category: Robotics
Price: "About the same as a small luxury car"
Release date in Japan: NA

The Gist: Surf's up, robot dude! Sony, hell bent as it is on
producing a bipedal robot that doesn't actually look toooo much like
a human and scare the bejeezus out of everyone, has produced yet
another version of its Entertainment Robot.

Looking even cuter than the last of the company's dream robots, the
SDR-4X stands only 58cm high and weighs 6.5kg. Movement is more
sophisticated than ever, with 38 joints which are controlled by a
stunningly smart 'Real-time Integrated Adaptive Control System' so
that the little guy constantly makes tiny adjustments as he toddles
along and can thereby handle all manner of irregular surfaces.
The SDR-4X is a clever little robot too, recognizing all manner of
sounds and even its owner's face by way of seven embedded microphones
and a couple of CCD cameras for eyes. But OK, the thing can walk on
surfaces that vary by up to 10mm (hmmm, not that impressive) and can
handle inclines of up to 10 degrees. It can sing and dance and even
has distinct short- and long-term memories. But at the end of the
day, it's just a little tin guy moving around a bit like your
90-year-old grandpappy does and it doesn't actually do anything. By
design. So, given that Sony anticipates the selling price of the
SDR-4X to be "about the same as a small luxury car" and, in spite of
all the wizard technology it doesn't actually DO anything useful, it's
hard to see many people going for it.

More info: http://www.sony.co.jp/SonyInfo/News/Press/200203/02-0319

Name: Sony DSC-P9/DSC-P71/DSC-P31
Category: Digital camera
Price: Around: 75,000 yen/50,000 yen/30,000 yen
Release date in Japan: Out now

The Gist: Anyhow, just to come full circle again since this week's
a bit of a digital camera week, we should also note that Sony has
beefed up its Cybershot P-series consumer digicams, with the P9
flagship model in the series tipping over the four megapixel mark.
The P9 also has a 3x optical zoom and the only other big change is
the camera's ability to record 90 minutes of MPEG HQX movies, onto a
128MB Memory Stick, where before it did MPEG EX movies. We've heard a
lot about digital cameras this time around, so I'll leave it at that.

More info: http://www.sony.jp/sd/CorporateCruise/Press/200203/02-0312

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STAFF
Writer: Max Everingham (max@everingham.net)
Editor: J Mark Lytle (mark@japaninc.com)

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