Technology: Digital video camera set to snap up the market

日期:2019-02-28 10:11:01 作者:挚僭面 阅读:

By BARRY FOX TOSHIBA and Fuji have joined forces to start selling in Japan a new still video camera which stores its pictures digitally. Their announcement, which is causing a major upset in the emerging field of fully electronic cameras, seems designed to sabotage the market for the first generation of this technology. Electronic cameras take still video pictures that can be replayed through a television set and processed by computers, such as desktop publishing systems. The existing type of electronic camera – such as one called Ion that Canon has just launched in Europe and the US – records analogue pictures on a rapidly rotating magnetic disc. But the new camera, called IC Memory Card, makes the others look obsolete. It has no moving parts, stores its digital pictures in its solid-state memory, and produces a much better picture. Until now, the camera trade had thought that the IC solid-state system was far from ready for its commercial launch. But now, in a move that seems clearly aimed at spiking Canon’s guns, Toshiba and Fuji say that they will put their camera in the shops in time for the Christmas trade. The two companies aim to create a new standard for electronic cameras with the superior digital pictures. IC Memory Card will initially cost much more than other electronic cameras – several thousand pounds compared to Pounds sterling 500 for Canon’s Ion. But Toshiba and Fuji hope that people will be convinced that the quality of the new camera is so good that they will be prepared to wait a few years and buy it when its price has fallen, rather than buying a magnetic-disc camera now. Sony has already delayed the European launch of its own disc camera, called Mavica, until next year. Canon’s Ion camera adopts a standard that the Japanese electronics industry agreed last year for video still photography using magnetic discs. A motor in the camera spins a miniaturised, 5-centimetre floppy magnetic disc at 3000 revolutions per minute. The disc can record 50 video pictures. Although this camera is adequate for snapshot photography, Canon compromised on its picture quality in order to squeeze the 50 pictures onto a disc that would normally record only 25. The camera records only half the horizontal scanning lines that make up a TV picture, then reproduces each line twice during replay. This creates the illusion of a full picture, but its definition is halved. The Ion camera relies on precision mechanics to spin the disc. The disc can record pictures only as a frequency-modulated analogue signal, which takes up less storage space than digital code. But this hampers its use with a digital computer. The IC Memory Card camera, meanwhile, needs no precision mechanics, just a card containing 18 individual 1-megabit chips. This is enough to store 12 very good pictures. They hope eventually to increase memory capacity to store 50 images in a single card. The user can connect the camera to a computer for picture processing or for transmitting them by a telephone line without the need to convert from analogue to digital format. The camera also connects to a digital tape recorder which can archive over 1000 pictures on a single audio cassette. The IC camera is able to resolve more than 400 vertical lines in a picture, compared with the 300-line resolution available from disc cameras. Canon has been exhibiting its system in Cologne, Chicago and Berlin. On each occasion, Toshiba and Fuji demonstrated their solid-state camera on a stand close to Canon. Toshiba and Fuji will initially restrict their sales of the camera to professional photographers. Canon’s system, by contrast, is aimed at domestic users. But Toshiba and Fuji claim that the falling price of memory chips will bring their systems within reach of domestic users within two or three years. Toshiba and Fuji joined forces after they found they were developing similar systems separately. Fuji exhibited its prototype in September 1988; Toshiba followed in March 1989. Immediately,