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Contax's N Digital SLR. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. A close-up look at Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera!
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, February 12, 2001 - 17:39 EST)

Exclusive Contax N Digital SLR pictures, and an added bonus to picque your interest... :)

Contax is showing its N Digital SLR digital camera under glass at PMA 2001, and once again we're proud to be able to bring you some up-close images of the camera from a hands-on session we had before the show even opened back on Saturday (we've been so flooded with work that only now have we had time to process all of the images we captured and bring you the scoop!)

First announced back in July of last year, the N Digital looks pretty revolutionary for a number of reasons. First and foremost is its full 35mm frame-sized 6 megapixel CCD image sensor, noteable not only for the resolution but even more so its size. A full 24 x 36mm size means that this camera will have no focal length multiplier, making truly wide angle digital imaging much simpler. Equally important, the increase in sensor size will mean that the sensor can capture significantly more light than a smaller sensor of equal resolution, which should translate into much lower noise levels (each N Digital pixel is about 12 microns, where most consumer digital cameras have pixels of about 4 microns in size). Our seat-of-the-pants mathematics would suggest that noise levels should likely be be on the order of 8-9 times lower than an equivalent consumer-level sensor!

The N Digital SLR also features all the same exposure control capabilities and operational layout as its film sibling, the Contax N1. This should translate into an easy transition for existing N1 users, as well as making use of both cameras concurrently much simpler (no dealing with different control locations as you switch between cameras). Included amongst these features is the 5-point autofocusing as found on the N1, which is controlled by a mini joystick-style control on the rear upper right of the camera. For portrait use, this control is duplicated on the rear lower right, so that in either position it falls under the same thumb - an example of the attention to detail that really makes these cameras fit the hands beautifully!

Another extremely significant feature is that the N Digital can use the same Zeiss lenses as its Contax 35mm and medium-format film camera brethren - meaning that photographers can share these lenses between digital, 35mm and medium-format bodies, an industry first!

Perhaps most interesting of all is the projected pricing. From our discussions with Contax, it looks like they're planning some fairly aggressive pricing, telling us that when the camera reaches the market in late summer 2001, they project a price of less than US$7000. We're not sure exactly how much less, and it is likely Contax are still judging the marketplace and deciding this themselves currently as they prepare for their launch, but we'd definitely call $7000 an intriguing price for a camera with this functionality!

At the same time as we were shown the N Digital, we also got a chance to preview a working prototype of another device which we think you'll find interesting... Browse through the photos of the N Digital below, and then read on!

Contax N Digital
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's N Digital SLR digital camera and N1 SLR film camera side by side. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
 


Alert readers will have already spotted the little extra we have for you... Whilst not, strictly speaking, digital imaging related we thought that what Contax showed us so interesting from a technical and usefulness point of view that we had to mention it. Did you notice the accessory mounted in the N1 SLR's hotshoe in the photo above? That's an LCD screen, shoe-mountable, and with provision for remotely releasing the shutter. What use is an LCD screen on a film camera? Well, the Contax FE1 viewfinder also includes a mini-camera which mounts onto the film camera viewfinder, allowing the LCD display to show the view through the viewfinder. The working prototype certainly impressed us, as making a device such as this is no small technical feat!

Note that the cable shown in the picture is not what the final product will use - the FE1 viewfinder is still very much in development and once worked will use a different cable. The ability to remotely trigger a film camera, but still be able to see through the viewfinder seems like it could be very useful to us! Here's two more pictures of the device:

Contax FE1 LCD viewfinder
Contax's FE1 viewfinder on the Contax N1. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Contax's FE1 viewfinder. Copyright (c) 2001, Michael R. Tomkins, all rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
 

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