Snappier snaps: A good-quality digital camera can take perhaps four or five photos a second, but Casio has left the competition in its wake with its just-announced Exilim Pro EX-F1, which boasts a staggering pace of 60 6-megapixel photos a second. It can also record video at an equally outlandish rate of 1,200 frames per second. Casio is rumbling that it is going to eliminate the shutter button from cameras. It is difficult to set up a photo and take the shot in time with the old custom of pressing a button, and the act of hitting the shutter causes vibrations in the camera that can blur photos. By taking shots buttonless and in rapid succession, the photographer can be confident that at least one of their string of pictures is the money shot. At this point in time the camera is a niche product, but it may help prompt other camera-makers to crank up the speed of their products. Apart from its blazing sequential shooting speed, the camera is a pretty standard compact, packing only a 6-megapixel sensor and with a lens that offers a generous zoom range equivalent to 38-432 mm in 35-mm terms. Speed costs, though, with the price tag expected to top ¥100,000 when it is released in late March. More details are at www.casio.co.jp.
Godzilla of lenses: Sigma has produced a lens that, in size at least, more closely resembles a rocket launcher than a conventional lens. The new Sigma APO 200-500 mm is the first ultra-telephoto zoom lens to boast a fast aperture of F2.8 at the 500 mm focal length. The “F number” tells you how large the aperture of the lens is, which, like the pupil of the human eye, determines how much light is let in. It is a simple rule in photography that the lower the F number, the wider the diameter of the front end of the lens has to be. When you get up to the rarefied lengths that this lens reaches, you need a truly massive piece of glass at the front, and a prodigious bit of optics behind it. The lens weighs just under 16 kg and needs its own battery to power its auto-focus mechanism. It also comes with a special attachment to offer a focal length of 400-1,000 mm, with a maximum aperture of F5.6 at the 1,000 mm length, allowing 30-times magnification. The lens comes out in a version for Canon cameras in April, with models for Nikon and Sigma cameras out in June, each priced around ¥2,500,000. Details are available under “new announcements” at www.sigma-photo.co.jp
Silver lining: Sony has never doubted the power of style, and its PlayStation 3 games console is certainly no stranger to fashion. A new, satin-silver version of the PS3 should hit the shelves on March 6, priced at ¥39,980. Sony is also offering a new DualShock 3 wireless controller in the same silver finish to go with the console (¥5,500).
Living-room arcade: Sony’s video-game rival Microsoft is bringing to Japan a deal for its Xbox 360 console that it has offered in the U.S. for some time already. The Xbox 360 Arcade package includes a stripped-down Xbox 360 console (with no hard drive), five classic games, a wireless controller and a 256-megabyte memory card, priced ¥27,800 from March 6. More information is online at www.xbox.com.
Sound cubes: JVC is releasing sets of small cube-shaped external speakers for use with computers. The two-channel SP-A440 speakers have an output of 1.75 W per channel, measure just 61.5×61.5×65 mm, weigh 163 grams each and come in various colors, including black, red, silver and white. They hit the market this month at ¥4,480 a set. For details, see www.victor.co.jp.
Fake fire: A real open fireplace is hardly an option in the average Japanese apartment. But you can always opt for the next best thing — a smart impersonation. The Real Fireplace Illuminational Heater is an otherwise standard electric-powered room heater featuring an LCD display that shows a picture of a “real” fireplace. Why, you can almost feel the toasty glow. The item is available now at Hammer Price for ¥25,800.
Solar strap: Cell-phone straps are fashion items of sometimes dubious aesthetic value and almost invariably no practical use. StrapYa has at least addressed the latter problem with the Solar Charge Eco Strap (¥1,995) released Feb. 9. Looking like a miniature solar cell, it is just that, and can be used to recharge your phone. Good for up to 500 recharges, if it is a no-sun day, an AC adapter will recharge the strap itself in three hours, allowing you to store power in the unit to transfer to your phone later. More information, including compatibility with various handset models, at item.rakuten.co.jp.