Posts Tagged ‘cameras’

2012: The year in gear

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Every year the Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ) ranks the year’s best new products and services like a sumo tournament, naming a “yokozuna” (champion) for eastern and western Japan. We combed through that, as well as magazines like Trendy (also from Nikkei) and Dime, for the game-changing gear of 2012 in Japan. Some trends we’re noticing are compact, cheaper goods that offer a comparative experience to the full size ones they’re designed to replace and “smart” appliances that work in tandem with smart phones, which had a big year too.

Honda N Box

The kei car from Honda doesn’t look like a kei car. Kei, or “light,” cars are ubiquitous in Japan; unless you’re planning to log long hours on the highway (for which you could just use the train), a small, light car with no power is perfect for traffic-clogged, narrow streets. Also, they cost a lot less to register and insure. But the innovation of the N Box – some 200,000 were sold this year – is that it is much roomier than your average kei. Not American-style minivan roomy, but maybe mini-minivan roomy. Ranked #3 for eastern Japan by NMJ and #12 by Trendy.

Panasonic “smart appliances”

Panasonic launched a new series of appliances that can be controlled remotely by an Android smartphone – meaning you can use your phone to turn on the rice cooker or the air conditioner before you get home (or check that you’ve turned them off). There’s also a scale that sends data to your phone, so you can track your weight-loss progress. We’re not sure what you’d want to communicate to the fridge that’s also part of the lineup, though. Featured in Dime’s “My Valuable Products 2012.”

Mirrorless cameras

2012 saw the market for mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras explode. Mirrorless cameras offered an affordable, compact alternative to a comparatively bulky DSLRs. Pretty much every major manufacturer now has a model out, and this year the prices fell under that crucial ¥50,000 mark. Gear magazine Dime name checks Nikon’s 1 V1, Olympus’ PEN Lite E-PL3, Panasonic’s Lumix GF5X, and Sony’s NEX-C3D in its best buys of 2012 roundup. Featured in Dime’s “My Valuable Products 2012.”

7-inch tablets

Smaller, cheaper tablets won over consumers who had been reluctant to buy into the first generation of full-size tablets. The market was just full of them this year, including imports like Apple’s iPad mini, Samsung’s Galaxy, and Google’s Nexus 7 along with domestic offerings like Toshiba’s Regza AT570 and Sharp’s Aquos Pad SHT 21. Ranked #1 for western Japan by NMJ.

Toyota Aqua

This compact hybrid edged out Toyota’s pricier Prius this year to become Japan’s top-selling car, with 24,192 units sold in October alone. Ranked #16 by Trendy.

Sharp Cocorobo

Not only can this “next generation” cleaning robot be controlled remotely by your smart phone, but it also has a built in camera and wifi so you can actually watch it work through your phone (if you have absolutely nothing better to do), seeing what it sees. You could even get it to send you before and after photos of its handiwork. Ranked #29 by Trendy.

Sony 3D Headset

Sony’s futuristic 3D personal viewing headset, the HMZ-T1, which actually came out late last year, proved more popular than Sony anticipated and the company announced in February that production couldn’t keep up with demand. The company has since launched the lighter HMZ-T2. Ranked #24 by Trendy.

Nintendo WII U

This one came out too late to make the yearly round-ups, but Nintendo’s new high definition system that includes a tablet-like controller that also works on the TV looks to be another game changer.

Toy cameras use digital to keep it analog

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Hot on the heels of the toy camera trend, which saw photography buffs embracing cheaply made vintage cameras like the Lomo and Holga for their blurry over-saturated aesthetic, comes the toy digital-camera (トイデジカメ) boom, in which hobbyists bypass the expense of developing film while still achieving the same analog effects.

Although purists may turn up their noses at such inventions as the Digital Harinezumi, whose shape recalls a old-school film cartridge, the camera has been a such a big hit in Japan that its maker, Tokyo-based SuperHeadz, has released the Harinezumi 2++. Shots can be framed the old-fashioned way by using the square, plastic viewfinder above the lens, and pictures and film can be shot in monochrome or Super-8 style color. Because the image is deliberately grainy and fuzzy, image quality is not a priority with these types of cameras: Harinezumi 2++  shoots its nostalgic pictures at only 3 megapixels. And, in case you were wondering, harinezumi means “hedgehog” in English. Go figure.

SuperHeadz has also cannily promoted the toy-camera trend by publishing photography books via its publishing arm, PowershovelBooks. Titles include books such as “Toy Camera Zoo,” which is filled with bright, fuzzy images of animals captured by toy-camera enthusiasts. To further fuel the fire, SuperHeadz will be putting on a special Harinezumi photo fair, Aug. 20-29, at Laforet’s event space in Harajuku, where new colorful versions of the Harinezumi will be available to buy and a new product is set to be unveiled.

SuperHeadz isn’t the only Japanese company producing toy digital cameras. Vistaquest recently released the waterproof VQ8950, the latest in their toy digicam range, which includes the VQ1005, a miniature 1.3 megapixel camera that clips onto a key ring. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the big-name camera manufacturers throw their hats into the ring?

While the charm of these cameras is undeniable, we do have to point out that it’s possible to achieve the same toy-camera effects on iPhone apps or with image software such as Analog Color, so it’s hard to say what edge the lo-fi digicams have, excepting, of course, their cool retro designs.

Toy-camera enthusiasts hungry for more info on the Japanese scene should visit the Toikamera (トイカメラ) website, which is filled with camera news, forums and photo galleries.

Japanese agency projects their message well

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

One of the most interesting and innovative new features in the digital camera market is the built-in projector. Right now, only one camera (the Nikon COOLPIX S100pj) has it, but if it takes off, it won’t be the only one for long.

There’s much to love about this promo video put together by Japan’s GT Inc, a creative agency whose work is frequently brilliant. Take, for example last year’s “Love Distance” commercial, which won big ad the Cannes Lions, the advertising world’s version of the Oscars.

Seriously, have you ever seen a commercial for condoms that could make a grown man weep? I’ve only seen one, and this is it.

Thanks to Jean Snow for pointing this out.

 

NYT’s David Pogue chimes in on the S100pj.

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