PMA Spring 2003 Show
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Premier's DC2A30 digital camera mockup. Copyright © 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved. Vivitar / Premier show 10x optical zoom and pen-style digicams at PMA (UPDATED)
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Friday, March 14, 2003 - 15:42 EST)

One of the interesting opportunities we have at industry trade shows is to directly compare products on different booths.

Frequently, we notice similarities in product specifications or control layout that suggest certain companies have cooperated on product designs, or are having camera models manufactured for them by a third party. Some companies - generally those occupying the entry-level area - make no attempt to camouflage the cameras they sell, though, and such is the case with Vivitar. A number of the company's cameras can be easily identified in the product catalogues of a handful of Taiwanese manufacturers - as was the case with two new models we saw at PMA.

The Vivitar ViviCam 3545 is an attractive pen-style digital camera which will go on sale in April at a cost of $59. The camera is a rebadged version of Premier Image Technology's DC-1000, a 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera with digital still, digital video and tethered webcam modes, 16MB of built-in memory and USB connectivity.

Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Vivitar's ViviCam 3545. Click thumbnails for larger images.

Potentially a much more interesting announcement though, is the Vivitar ViviCam 3696. For a while now, we've seen a number of Taiwanese manufacturers beginning to catch up with their better-known rivals from Japan, with cameras from manufacturers like Premier now sporting imagers with resolutions up to 5 megapixels. These cameras have pretty universally stayed with either fixed focal-length, or short zoom lenses, though - the 3x optical zoom lens being about as far as most Taiwanese manufacturers have taken things.

That is apparently to change, with Vivitar showing another Premier-sourced design with a whopping 10x optical zoom lens - 5.7 to 57mm, F2.8 - 3.7. The Vivitar ViviCam 3696 is planned to reach the market in July, but these plans are apparently very fluid - we were told at the PMA Sneak Peek event that the camera would be offered in two versions (differing only in sensor resolution), but during the show itself, booth staff told us that since our previous conversation, it had been decided that only one version would be offered. Premier themselves told us that the camera would be offered in two versions with a choice of two or three megapixel imagers. Neither company could provide further specifications, although hints as to some capabitilities can be gleaned from the photos below of mockups on the Vivitar and Premier booths (for example, you can see a pop-up flash, microphone and speaker, Secure Digital card logo, etc.)

We'll be very interested to see how this camera performs, particularly since projected pricing we were given by Vivitar ($299 for the possibly cancelled 2 megapixel version, and $399 for the 3 megapixel version) seems quite aggressive. We don't currently know if that 10x optical zoom lens is to be an in-house design by Premier (whose brochure touts a modern R&D facility and factory), or has been bought in from another company. If the lens and imager prove to have good quality, this could prove to be a very attractive camera for the nature photographer on a tight budget.

We'll have details on two more long-zoom digicam announcements at PMA which we've not seen covered elsewhere shortly. In the meantime, pictures of the Premier / Vivitar camera follow:

Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Vivitar's ViviCam 3696 / Premier's DC2A30. Click thumbnails for larger images.

UPDATED 2003-03-16 12:57ET: Ack! Thanks to IR reader Jerry Oneill for catching Mike's dumb mistake - the larger versions of the Vivitar ViviCam 3696 images were all pointing to the wrong filenames. This has been corrected now...

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