Snap-happy: Digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes. With their interchangeable lenses and reasonable prices, entry-level digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras are a halfway house between a cheap pocket-size point-and-click camera and a full-on pro shooter. The best-selling of the entry-level beasties of late has been Nikon’s very successful D40X model. Nikon is now bringing out a new entry-level model, the D60, essentially an upgrade of the D40X. It has virtually the same smallish body with only a slightly bigger 10.2-megapixel photographic sensor. The key enhancements are the addition of a built-in dust-fighting system and a new antishake (VR, or vibration reduction, in Nikonese) version of its 18-55 mm lens as the D60’s “kit lens” — the lens that you can buy as a set with the camera body. The D60 is due to hit the shelves on Feb. 22 with a price tag of ¥74,800 for the body only, ¥89,800 for the body and kit lens combo, and ¥119,800 when the Nikon 55-200 mm VR lens is thrown in with the kit lens to form a zoom lens combination.

Canon, Nikon’s main rival, is releasing a new consumer model, the EOS Kiss X2, due out in March, following on from its popular predecessor the EOS Kiss X. Canon has upped the sensor from 10.1 to 12.2 megapixels, adding live-view ability (which lets you aim through the LCD screen on the back of the camera, rather than the viewfinder) and changing the memory-card format to SD card. They’ve also boosted the size of the camera’s LCD screen from 2.5 to 3 inches. The new Canon will carry a price tag of ¥89,800 for the body only. The X2 kit set comes in at ¥99,800, with an updated version of the Kiss X’s old 18-55 mm lens, with image stabilization added. Adding a second lens, the 55-250 mm with image stabilization, takes the price up to ¥129,800.

Pentax is replacing its capable and popular entry-level performer, the K100D, with the K200D, due out this month. The two share essentially the same body and built-in antiblur or stabilization system, but the 200D will pack a 10.2-megapixel sensor, an improvement on its predecessor’s 6.1-megapixel version. The newer model is also notable for having weather sealing to protect it from dust and other climate invaders. The K200D hits the shelves this month priced ¥89,800 for the body-only option and ¥99,800 with the standard DA 18-55 mm kit lens.

Spy cams: Panasonic is offering cameras of a very different ilk in the form of the VL-CM140KT and VL-CM160KT. The two just-released models are both security cameras, which connect to your Panasonic Viera television, allowing you to view clandestine images on your TV screen. Both are fixed-focus cameras with fairly basic 320,000-pixel CMOS sensors that are rainproof and intended to be set up outside for monitoring such areas as garages and entrances. A remote control allows the cameras’ images, sent as frame-by-frame still photos, to be relayed to the TV for perusal at your leisure, and the 160KT includes a light that comes on when the sensor is activated. The cameras are slated for release on April 21. Currently they will work with the following Viera TV models: TH-50PX80, TH-42PX80, TH-37PX80, TH-32LX80, TH-26LX80, TH-20LX80 and TH-17LX8. Panasonic lists the cameras as open price, with more details at panasonic.co.jp/corp

Keitai culture: AU has announced a raft of 10 new mobile phones for release this month. Two of the more interesting models are the W61SA from Sanyo and Hitachi’s W61H. The Sanyo is notable for making use of a 3-inch OLED screen in its slider design. OLED is expected to be the next big thing in TV-screen technology, rendering plasma and LCD obsolete as it offers a leap forward in picture quality. In this miniature picture format, you get a 1seg TV tuner, GPS and Bluetooth in a package weighing only 139 grams.

Hitachi’s contribution also includes a 1seg TV tuner, but the innovation with this model is a second screen on the back of the phone. The sub-display uses e-paper, the great technological hope for electronic books and newspapers. It uses far less power than regular screens and so offers the promise of mobile phones with longer battery life. Unfortunately, this model is more promise than performance, as the subdisplay only shows a choice of patterns, rather than caller information or even the time of day. Still, it is a small sign of things to come. More information can be found at www.au.kddi.com/collection/08spring/.

Diamond sound: SoftBank is also into providing mobile alternatives, and dazzling ones at that. In collaboration with Tiffany & Co., it is bringing out a 3G handset covered in more than 400 diamonds totaling more than 20 carats. The girl whose phone is her best friend had better have around ¥10 million to spare for this limited-edition wonder.

Golden computing: Not wanting computer users to be left out of the Bling stakes, Zeus Computer has crafted the Jupiter PC, which comes in a case made from pure platinum and carries an ¥80-million price tag. Those on a budget can have the Mars PC and its solid-gold case for a mere ¥60 million. Both models include inset diamonds representing zodiac constellations and the Milky Way. Each of the cases contains a 3-gigahertz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850-powered machine with a 1-terabyte hard drive, 2 gigabytes of memory, a Blu-ray HD-DVD optical drive and the Windows Vista Ultimate. The dazzling duo are on display at www.pc-zeus.com/bto/bto-jewelry-spec1.html.


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