DSLR with video: Change is rarely as dramatic as it appears. In the world of camera makers, the digital onslaught has seen the rise of electronics firms such as Sony, Panasonic and Samsung, while that venerable creator of cameras Minolta has disappeared, sold to Sony.

The usurpers have not completely taken over, with traditional giants Nikon and Canon still slugging it out for the crown of No. 1 digial SLR maker, the upper echelon of digital cameras. Nikon’s much-forecasted latest blast in the seemingly never-ending exchange between the pair is its newly revealed mid-level DSLR the D90.

This succeeds Nikon’s hugely popular D80, which has soldiered on for two years, an extremely rare longevity for a digital camera. The D90 looks very similar and takes over the difficult but crucial mantle of trying to be all things to almost all people, including beginners.

The D90’s headline feature D90 is that it is the first DSLR with video. It shoots 1280×720 pixel resolution video at 24 frames per second for up to five minutes. The catch is that the focus can’t be changed while filming video and the sound recording is mono. Still, the video capability works with whatever lens you use, from a telephoto to a fish-eye, opening the door to some pretty cool effects.

As a straight photography tool, the D90 borrows features from its upmarket stablemates, the D300 and the startling D700 and D3. These include the advanced scene-recognition system from the D3 and D300, a 3-inch LCD screen and the D700’s D-lighting, which automatically adjusts the camera’s settings to get the most out of highlights and shadows. The D90 also has a sharper autofocus and faster continuous shooting. Most importantly, the D90 incorporates a new sensor, a 12.9-megapixel CMOS (up from the D80’s 10-megapixel CCD) that Nikon developed itself. The sensor is expected to offer improved low-light ability. The D90 also includes the increasingly obligatory live-view and dust-cleaning functions and adopts the user-friendly interface of its lower-level cousin, the D60.

Frankly, the video function is more gimmick than arresting advance. The D80 was justly acclaimed in its time, and considering the buzz the D700 and D3 have generated, the idea of the D90 borrowing some of their abilities suggests it is a terrific photographic tool.

The one real downside is cost. The D90 costs ¥119,800 for the body and ¥169,800 as a kit with Nikon’s new 18-105 F3.5-5.6G ED VR lens. By contrast, the D80 body sells for ¥77,500; it sells for ¥105,300 as a kit with the older 18-135mm F3.5-5.6G lens. Moreover, Nikon will keep producing the D80 for a while yet, and its price may drop further. But quality costs, and there is no doubt the D90 is quality.

It is certain to be a success when it comes out Sept. 19. www.nikon.co.jp

Photo player: Epson is another firm that produces top-notch photographic equipment, but in its case there is no great rival.

Better known outside of optical circles for its printers, many photographers deem Epson’s P3000 and P5000 as the best photo-storage devices around. In particular, their 4-inch screens are exceptional, reproducing photos beautifully. While their displays are their great strength, they also have enough capacity to store a huge number of photos, and they do it reliably.

If you are looking for a music and video player, then opt for an iPod or something similar. But if photography is crucial to you, in particular the ability to view your photos on the move or to show them to others, then Epson is the name to remember.

Building on this heritage, Epson is bringing out successors to the pair, the P6000 and P7000 Photo Fine Players.

These offer incremental improvements, keeping the same fabulous screens while basically just boosting the memory capacity, with the P6000 offering 80 gigabytes and the P7000 packing 160 gigabytes (doubling the storage of the P3000 and P5000 respectively).

The prices rise in step with the capacities, with the P6000 costing ¥64,980 and the P7000 setting you back ¥79,980. The new pair hit the market Sept. 4. www.epson.jp

Plug and vegetate: It’s probably fortunate that Apple computers don’t come with a TV tuner as a standard feature — imagine the specter of NHK fee collectors shaking you down at the store after buying a shiny new Mac. OK, that’s far-fetched.

Or not. Seriously, how would your Mac feel? It wants to entertain you “on-demand,” not just play whatever comes over the air.

The urge to watch TV on a Mac, especially a sweet iMac screen, is understandable. And you can be forgiven if you mistakenly believed that the pricey Apple TV (¥36,800) accessory would let you do this — it can’t. (Apple TV has no TV tuner; it connects to the Mac to play video from your hard drive and iTunes on your TV.)

Among the growing number of USB-based options to dumb down your Mac into a TV, none so far have the Apple-esque elan of IO-Data’s just-announced GV-MACTV for the Japanese market. This svelte white box measures 98×92×25 mm and can be operated via Apple’s iconic remote.

Tech-wise, the MACTV, the release date for which has not yet been announced, receives digital TV and high-definition signals.

Unfortunately, IO-Data has not offered any word on the cost yet, but prices for comparable devices vary between ¥11,000 and ¥22,000. The fact that the MACTV works with the Apple remote will make this a shopping list item for some. www.iodata.jp


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