Snap shot: Despite photography’s scope for creative flair, camera makers generally shy away from doing things different. Ricoh, however, has bucked the trend with its new GXR digital camera. The GXR is intended to compete with the so-called micro four-thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic as cameras that mix small size with interchangeable lenses. The shock value is in how Ricoh shrinks its camera. Instead of changing lenses, the GXR employs a slide-in mount system to switch lens, sensor and image-processing engine all in one unit. Ricoh claims the radical concept amounts to the smallest interchangeable-lens camera in existence. The greater benefit is the potential for photographers to tailor their cameras to match their needs. Ricoh is starting its new system with a pair of units. The A12 consists of a 50-mm F2.5 macro lens with a 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. It can do HD video with a resolution of 1230 × 720 P, has a burst speed of 4 frames per second and weighs 263 grams. The other unit is the S10 with a 24-72-mm F 2.5-4.4 VC lens and 10-megapixel CCD sensor. It can shoot VGA video at a resolution of 630 × 480 P, has a burst speed of 5 frames per second.

Assembled, the GXR looks like a normal compact camera. Stripped of its lens unit it appears unchanged, except for the gaping squarish gap that dominates the front left and center of the camera’s face, awaiting a unit. Thus reduced, the body, including its 3-inch LCD screen, weighs just 160 grams. Augmenting the deal is an optional optical viewfinder, a feature in keeping with its micro four-thirds rivals. Ricoh also offers wide- and tele-conversion lenses to use with the S10 unit. The GXR will cost ¥49,800 as a body only with the macro A12 unit to set buyers back a hefty ¥74,800 when the pair come on the market next month. No word yet on the pricing for the S10, which will go on sale at the same time as the others.

Ricoh is taking the ability of digital cameras to marry flexibility in lenses with variations in ISO and other photographic attributes to a logical end that is most surprising in being so unusual. It makes the innovation of the micro four-thirds system seem positively mundane by comparison. www.ricoh.co.jp/release/

Simple is best: Canon has dispensed with the idea of dictionaries shaped as rectangular clamshells in landscape mode for its newest trio of such gadgets. Instead, Canon has opted for a candy-bar style and rotated the rectangular shape into a portrait style. The Wordtank S501E and S501J are sibling gadgets with a crucial difference. The former comes with a small English keyboard while the latter has a Hiragana keyboard. Both are intended more for casual users and supplement the standard diet of Japanese-English dictionaries with sets of conversation translations from such languages as Chinese, Korean, French, Italian, German and Spanish into English. They have relatively simple 2.4-inch 320 × 240-LCD screens. The pair measure 76.5 × 142 × 16.3 mm and weigh 117 grams for the S501E with the S501J at 114 grams. Running on a pair of AAA batteries they can go for about seven hours of continual inputting. In physical terms, the Wordtank S502 is like a twin of the S501E with its qwerty keyboard. The difference is on the inside as the S502 packs a more serious lineup of dictionaries, including the Oxford. It is intended for more committed language students. Both of the English models come in black with the S501J distinguished by its silver coloring.

Language learners coveting a dictionary that does double duty as an entertainment gadget need to turn to the plethora of other choices as the new Wordtank trio follow the Canon tradition of specializing in linguistics.

They all come on the market this month priced at ¥9,980 each. cweb.canon.jp/newsrelease/

Softbank’s big gun: Sharp is providing Softbank with a cannon of a different sort with the 941SH mobile phone, dubbed the Aquos Full Touch. The centerpiece of the new slider design is its prodigious 4-inch half-XGA touch screen. The 941SH also packs in an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and the mandatory 1Seg TV tuner. The touch screen slides up to reveal a standard numerical key pad and some other controls. It measures 53 × 119 × 16.6 mm when closed and weighs about 130 grams. It can run for about 210 minutes of talking time, about 4 hours of continuous 1Seg viewing and some 350 hours when no demands are made of it.

Apart from taking advantage of free wireless hot spots, the phone will also be able to access Softbank’s VOD service and its e-book store. The latter abilities telegraph some of its key purposes, namely video-watching and e-book reading. It is also intended for surfing the Net. As a phone it operates on the W-CDMA network domestically and GSM when used overseas. Considering the effort put into loading up the phone with media features it is surprising that Sharp saw fit to only equip the 941SH with 220 megabytes of internal memory. While that can be augmented with microSDHC memory cards of up to 16 gigabytes, users shouldn’t have to go to such trouble or expense. Softbank has yet to put a price tag on the 941SH model, making it difficult to actually assess its value. Considering the nature of the hardware, it won’t be cheap. However, the screen alone may be worth the expense. www.softbankmobile.co.jp/ja/news/press/


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