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Nikon's "enigma" makes an early debut (UPDATED)
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Saturday, February 8, 2003 - 15:49 EST)

Regular readers will remember that we told you on Tuesday of plans from Nikon to unveil a new digital camera.

At that time , little was known - we posted a link to a brief teaser item on Nikon's site which suggested a roughly square camera with rounded corners, but if there were any other hints in the teaser they weren't immediately obvious.

The plans for a gradual launch with a series of 6 teasers in a number of languages has now been well and truly blown wide open, though. Yesterday morning, we received an email from IR reader Mats-Åke Larsson who had uncovered the fact that Nikon Japan had goofed by placing the five upcoming Shockwave Flash files onto the server early, with filenames that apparently weren't too difficult to guess.

Since we're under a non-disclosure agreement with Nikon on this camera, we opted to tread carefully and not publicly acknowledge this leak at the time. We are frequently aware of camera announcements well in advance of the actual launch dates, and before we can see the cameras, must sign agreements that we will not discuss them publicly until that date arrives. Such agreements allow us to bring you in-depth details of new announcements literally within seconds of the official launch time, and frequently even to have first-looks or full reviews ready at launch.

We spoke to Nikon, and were aware that they were working to contact somebody in Japan and have the error corrected and the files removed. Non-disclosure agreements do normally contain opt-out clauses that allow us to go ahead should the information become public knowledge elsewhere first, but since the sites involved in this leak were (relatively) lesser known, we felt it prudent to continue to wait for the official launch.

As Nikon has found, in the Internet age where anybody can publish a web page and make it available worldwide in a matter of minutes, it is impossible to put the cat back into the bag. Images copied from Nikon's leaked teasers were posted on numerous sites around the Internet, and finally our friendly competitors at Steve's Digicams posted a copy on their own news page.

Since Steve's site is unquestionably one of the "major players", so to speak, we feel that the leak has progressed to its logical conclusion - and hence we can now acknowledge it as well. Honestly, it still doesn't tell us much beyond the form factor, but that in itself is interesting.

Nikon's "enigma", apparently to be named the "Coolpix SQ", looks to be a compact camera with (as the teaser had suggested) a flat, square design reminiscent of cameras such as Minolta's DiMAGE X series, but with rounded-off corners. However, Nikon has combined the square design with a central swivel mechanism that allows the rightmost third of the camera (containing the lens and flash unit) to rotate 90 degrees - mimicking the format of cameras such as the Coolpix 9xx series and allowing the lens mechanism to be contained entirely inside the camera. One of the other flash files shows what appears to be a camera dock that will presumably cater for battery charging and image transfer.

We do not intend to reproduce images of Nikon's Coolpix SQ on this news page until the official launch date, since those images are not in the public domain and presumably are the copyrighted property of either Nikon or a company or individual affiliated with Nikon. To the best of our knowledge Nikon has not given permission for the files to be reproduced elsewhere at this time. The original Shockwave Flash files have now been removed from the server in Japan on which Mats-Åke found them, but screen captures of the Coolpix SQ can be found on Steve's news page , as well as the Coolpix Forum , Digitalkamera.de and photoxels.com websites, amongst other.

UPDATED 2003-02-08 18:00ET: Another site replicating the Nikon flash files (in animated GIF format) is Foto-Erhard.de , which has placed the last four teasers (the last two of which show the cradle and camera) in its "Neue Downloads" section.

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