Olympus Announces Seven New Cameras

Olympus has joined the ranks of digital camera manufacturers who avoid making big announcements at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, opting instead to introduce new models in the press vacuum after CES and before the PMA (Photo Marketing Association) show in March. And there’s nothing timid about Olympus’s announcements: seven new cameras targeting a broad range of the photography market.

Capturing the most attention is the SP-500UZ, a 7.1 megapixel shooter with an industry-leading 18× optical zoom. The SP550-UZ also sports Dual Image Stabilization, combining digital anti-shake technology with sensor-based image stabilization to eliminate blur from camera motion while taking those precious shots, even in low-light conditions. The SP550-UZ can shoot in RAW format, offers a good selection of manual controls, can shoot VGA-resolution video, and offers a 2.5-inch LCD viewfinder; a macro mode enables users to take shots from as little as 1 cm away from their subject, and a pre-capture feature enables users to store up to five frames in the camera’s buffer before the shutter is depressed. The SP550-UZ also offers in-camera editing to eliminate red-eye and enable users to crop and adjust images without needing to offload them to a computer, and comes with 20 MB of built-in memory, USB 2.0 connectivity, and the ability to store images to xD Picture Card media. Expect to see the SP550-UZ in March for $499.99; Olympus will also offer an underwater casing and accessory lenses (wide angle, telephoto).

Olympus has also introduced four new FE-series point-and-shoot cameras aimed at first-time digital camera buyers, offering simple operation and slim profiles. All four new FE-series cameras feature a 2.5-inch LCD viewfinder, built-in help guides, and preset shooting modes to help users get the right shot; the new cameras also all incorporate digital image stabilization so pictures are crisp and clear even if the hand holding the camera isn’t as steady as it could be. Three of the new FE cameras offer 7.1 megapixel resolutions: the FE-210 offers a Shooting Guide to help users get desired effects on their photos; the FE-230 is just 0.6 inches thick and is available with an optional underwater housing good for picture taking down to about 130 feet underwater, and the FE-240 sports a 5× optical zoom. The FE-250 bumps the resolution up to 8 megapixels and the ISO sensitivity to 3200, enabling photography in very low light conditions. The new FE-series cameras should be available in February; with the FE-210 carrying a suggested retail price of $149.99, the FE-230 going for around $199.99, the FE-240 coming in at $249.99, and the FE-250 rounding out the group at $299.99.

Least but not least in Olympus’s new offerings are the Stylus 760 and Stylus 770. The 7.1 megapixel Stylus 760 aims to be an compact all-weather camera, offering the same digital plus sensor-based Dual Image Stabilization found in the SP-550UZ (above) in a convenient form factor designed to withstand the elements, with a durable metal body and rubber gaskets throughout the interior to help the camera resist dust and moisture. The 760 offers a 2.5-inch LCD viewfinder and an LCD backlight boost button to better display images in sunlight; expect to see it this February for $249.99. Meanwhile, the Stylus 770 is truly going after the “active photographer” market, sporting a shock resistance case designed to withstand drops from up to five feet, improved waterproof capabilities including a water-repellent lens coating and underwater shooting capabilities down to 33 feet—or 130 feet with an optional waterproof housing. The Stylus 770 is also designed to be freeze-proof down to 14°F, and to handle up to 220 pounds of crushing pressure. Combined with a 7.1 megapixel resolution and a 2.5-inch HyperCrystal LCD viewfinder, the 770 might find eager customers among sports fans and outdoor enthusiasts…or people who like to take pictures of themselves holding their breath for a really long time. Expect to see the Stylus 770 in March for an estimated price of $379.99.

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