Capture the moment: In the world of photography, the unveiling of the Micro Four Thirds lens-mount system last month was a truly historic event. This new standard for next-generation digital SLR cameras, though easily overlooked by the average consumer, is being hailed as the most significant camera-market development of the year.

Until now, interchangeable lenses and the mirror system of SLR cameras, in which light passes through the camera’s lens and is reflected into an optical viewfinder, allowing the photographer to see what the lens “sees,” have been like an old married couple — you couldn’t have one without the other.

The digital Micro Four Thirds concept — an evolution of the nondigital Four Thirds standard for SLRs — is a radical departure from tradition. The mirror is taken out and the photographer frames the picture using either an electronic viewfinder or, as is done with compact cameras, an LCD screen, making it easier to use for those accustomed to compacts.

Removing the mirror also allows a Micro Four Thirds camera to be smaller than an equivalent DSLR camera. But the Micro Four Thirds system keeps the bigger image sensors found in DSLRs and their ability to change lenses — two factors crucial to DSLR picture quality and versatility. The lenses for the new system will also be distinctly smaller than those for traditional SLRs.

Panasonic and Olympus revealed this new system last month, provoking a storm of debate in photography circles about its merits.

Much of that debate will be settled Oct. 31, when Panasonic releases the DMC-G1, the first Micro Four Thirds camera. The new 385-gram creation looks less radical than it is, with Panasonic’s somewhat conservative design giving the appearance of a small DSLR. However, it does include an electronic viewfinder (EVF). In the past, these did not match optical viewfinders for quality, but if the technology is now mature enough, as Panasonic believes, the EVF may offer a brighter view and be more versatile than the old optical standard.

The DMC-G1 also employs a regular 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor used in Four Thirds system cameras. These sensors are larger than those in compact cameras but a bit smaller than those in most DSLRs. The G1 also includes a dust- reduction system for keeping the sensor clean. The new camera can use lenses designed for the 4/3 cameras, via an adapter. Panasonic is also releasing the first two Micro Four Thirds lenses for the G1. These are the Lumix G Vario 14-45 mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH/Mega O.I.S. lens, which will be the kit lens for the G1, and the telephoto Lumix G Vario 45-200 mm F4.0-5.6 Mega OIS. Both are image stabilized.

The G1 with both lenses will set you back ¥124,800, with the body alone costing ¥79,800 and the camera and kit lens costing ¥89,800. The body comes with a choice of black, blue or red. The Micro Four Thirds concept is intriguing, and the G1 is a solid but not spectacular start. panasonic.jp/dc/g1/small.html

Cyclone style: Creative design doesn’t have to spare the lowly vacuum cleaner. Global appliance giant Electrolux proves this with the innovative and compact Ergorapido. The new model is in effect two machines in one.

On the one hand, it is a hand-held vacuum cleaner, weighing in at 1.2 kg. But when attached to its extension piece, it becomes a long, thin sweeper that weighs only 2.5 kg.

The Ergorapido is rechargeable, eliminating the annoyance of a cord, with a battery life of 15 to 20 minutes. The combination of portability and light weight make it easy to use, especially in tight spaces. It also uses a cyclonic suction power system similar to the more pricey Dyson models. The machine comes in a choice of two colors, magenta and Havana brown, and costs ¥24,150.

The Ergorapido, which goes on sale late next week, is clearly not intended to be a mainstay cleaning machine. But in a typically small Japanese apartment, it can probably serve as just that. www.electrolux.co.jp

Got tapes?: Unlike CDs, your aging VHS videotapes can’t enjoy a second life as miniature Frisbees. This rather curtails their recycling potential and typically means they get tossed out in the process of rebuilding your entire movie collection on DVD and Blu-ray.

Electronics-maker Sharp Corp. knows that some of us are going to defy sense and cling to our old VHS tapes like priceless mementos. Its new Aquos BD-HDV22 unit incorporates the cutting edge with its Blu-ray recorder, but augments it with VHS playback and recording. Rounding out the package is a 250-gigabyte hard disk and two TV tuners, one analog and one digital. TV programs can be copied to the hard disk or directly to Blu-ray, DVD or, yes, VHS. The hard disk can store about 36 hours of standard television or 22 hours of high-definition broadcasts, and recordings can be edited down before being committed them to Blu-ray.

The headline feature though is that, unlike the previous generation of VHS-HD-DVD recorders, you can dub from your VHS tapes to the hard disk or Blu-ray drive, allowing you to preserve your old recordings for posterity by converting them into a digital format.

The BD-HDV22 is due out Nov. 25 and will command a hefty ¥158,000. A cheaper option is the BD-H22 model without the VHS ability, which will cost ¥118,000 when it is released Oct. 20. www.sharp.co.jp


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