Toshiba is pushing the boundaries of consumer digital still cameras with the announcement this week of a new 4-megapixel class camera.
The Allegretto M81 is equipped with a 4.2 megapixel, 1/1.8 inch optical system CCD (charge-coupled device) image pickup - the highest resolution pickup yet to be seen on a consumer digital still camera. This means the camera can produce images at a maximum resolution of 2,400-x-1,600 pixels.
Other features include a 2.4 times optical zoom and a 2.2 times digital zoom, which combined together mean a maximum six times zoom, and a new auto-white balance function. Like many digital still cameras, the Allegretto can also record video.
The camera can be connected to a personal computer via USB (universal serial bus) or hooked up to a television via a PAL/NTSC output.
The higher-quality images mean larger size files and this in turn means users will need higher capacity memory cards if they are to store many images. The camera accepts Smart Media cards and Toshiba says a 128MB card can hold 83 images taken in the camera's highest quality maximum resolution/fine mode. This increases to 124 and 249 images in normal and basic modes respectively.
The Allegretto M81 will be available from mid-July in Japan and has an estimated street price of £400.
Main competition for the new camera will come from the increasing range of 3-megapixel class cameras on the market, although none of them can match it in terms of image resolution. Several vendors are selling digital still cameras that boast similar or higher resolutions to the new camera from Toshiba although they are largely priced above £1,000 and are classified as professional or semi-professional cameras.
Fuji is currently the only other company with a 4-megapixel consumer camera although the device requires the use of FujiFilm's honeycomb pickup to increase the resolution to four million pixels.