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From small size to high definition, cameramakers tout their latest

It's a small world in digital photography this year: An empty tin from Altoids mints can be used as a camera carrying case for Pentax's tiny Optio S, which has 3.2 megapixels and a zoom lens.

It's a big world in digital photography this year: The Olympus Camedia C-740 has a zoom lens that stretches from 38mm to 380mm. And that doesn't include the digital zoom that can triple the range.

And it's a breakthrough year in digital photography: Digital cameras are expected to outsell traditional film cameras for the first time, according to the Photo Marketing Association, which held its annual trade show here last week.

The industry is cranking out more cameras and peripherals to meet the increasing demand. In addition to new gadgets, the industry is addressing technical issues that have made some people shy away from digital photography. Virtually every company used the words "simple," "easy," "affordable" and "convenient" to describe its new offerings.

In particular, sharing photos was a hot topic, with companies showing how their cameras or software made it simple to print, e-mail or send photos to the Web.

Here are some of the things that caught our eye:

Small is big: Pentax gave out tins of Altoids to emphasize the size, weight (3.5 ounces) and lens (35mm-105mm zoom) of the Optio S ($399). That helped it stand out in a crowded field of new compact and point-and-shoot models from a number of companies.

Not all have the features of the Optio S, and some could be considered novelties. New to the U.S. market is an entry-level line from Digital Dream (www.digitaldreamco.com). Its cameras start at $39 and go up to $189.

A first in camcorders: JVC grabbed attention with its Digital Hi-Def Camcorder, which it billed as the first high-definition camcorder. It records on a minicassette and is expected to be available in May for $3,499.95.

A more affordable high end: A few years ago, getting a digital SLR, or single lens reflex, camera that gave the photographer the capability to change lenses cost thousands of dollars. But Canon introduced a model that's bound to get a lot of interest from a range of photographers when it goes on sale today.

The EOS 10D Digital packs 6.3 megapixels and can handle any Canon lens. And its $1,495 price tag is about $1,000 less than a comparable camera from a year ago.

Rival Olympus says it has designed a new digital SLR system from scratch, including four lenses, but it won't announce more specifics until at least June.

Olympus' 3.2-megapixel C-740 received attention because of that long zoom lens, and its suggested price of $599. It's due in April.

Help on the small screen: Nikon and Hewlett Packard showed models that make a digital camera's LCD viewfinder more useful.

Nikon's new Coolpix 2100 (2 megapixels, $249) and 3100 (3 megapixels, $349) give people a hand in framing their pictures. It puts little graphics on the screen to help line up the subjects.

For example, if you're shooting a picture of Mom, pushing a button while in portrait mode will add a circle to the screen. Put Mom's face in the circle and snap the picture. (It also has settings for a small group photo). If you're shooting a scenic, it will put a line across the screen to give you a horizon.

"Digital cameras change the way people focus," said Jerry Grossman, Nikon's vice president of marketing. With this, "You don't have to worry about taking a bad picture."

Nikon also set up a new Web site called Coolpix 101 (www.nikonusa.com/coolpix101/) that is a primer on digital photography. While its emphasis is Nikon, much of the information is applicable to any brand.

Hewlett Packard takes a different approach to the LCD on its Photosmart 935 (5.3 megapixels, $449) and 735 (3.2 megapixels, $299). It has Help functions that display detailed instructions right on the LCD screen. The type is small, but readable.

Olympus identifies the icons that appear on the LCD in words, rather than letting the user guess what a lightning bolt or a mountain range represent. Kodak showed a new EasyShare camera with a big 2.2-inch LCD that's brighter and easier to view from different angles. While that particular model may not be available in the United States, the company indicated that other models may include it this year in the United States.

On the road: A new gadget from a Fort Myers company won an innovation award. SmartDisk's FlashTrax (www.smartdisk.com) is a 30-gigabyte gadget that lets people transfer photos from their cameras to a hard drive without lugging a notebook computer on trips. The palm-size device is pricey at $499, but it also includes an LCD screen to view the stored photos and an MP3 music player.

Road warriors might be interested in Canon's i70 Color Bubble Jet Printer ($299). It weighs only 4 pounds but has enough battery life to print more than 400 text pages.

Film lives: Even though film sales are declining, film is not disappearing from the market. Kodak introduced its High Definition Film that it says produces crisper, more detailed prints than its current consumer products. It's also a few dollars more expensive than regular film.

In addition, the company came out with the one-use DigitalPlus camera. While it has digital in the name, it uses film. The difference is that a Picture CD is included in the price to store the resulting photos digitally.

Skip the PC: Several companies showed devices that let people go from camera to printer, or even a slide show on the TV, without having to use a computer.

Kodak displayed a new printer dock ($199) for its EasyShare cameras. Putting the camera in the dock allows the user to make 4- by 6-inch prints and recharge the camera battery.

The TV PhotoAlbum ($149.99) from Sound Vision Inc. (www.soundvisioninc.com) connects directly to a TV and accepts six types of memory cards. It can be run with a remote control, and it can store slide shows on the memory cards or transfer them to a computer with an included USB cable. It's expected to go on sale soon.

_ Dave Gussow can be reached at gussowsptimes.com or (727) 445-4228.

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