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Sony unveils palm-sized digital still camera

Sony has unveiled its smallest digital still camera to date and has taken its first steps into the booming market for low-cost, low-price models.

The DSC-U10 easily fits in the palm of the hand. It measures 8.5cm by 4.0cm by 2.9cm and is also light on your pocket, weighing 118g (with batteries, Memory Stick and wrist strap) or about the same as one of today's cellular telephones.

Of course, its light weight and small size is not without cost. In terms of features, the camera does not measure up to other models in Sony's range.

It has a 1.3 million-pixel CCD (charge-coupled device) pickup which is capable of a maximum resolution of 1,280 by 960 pixels, which is around one-half to one-third the resolution of other cameras the company makes The movie model is limited to 15 seconds of MPEG-1 images (with no sound) at 160 by 112 pixel resolution.

However, the camera is not trying to compete with those higher-end models but instead is aimed at beating a growing number of 1 megapixel-class cameras launched in recent months by other manufacturers.

"The target market for the cameras is young people and women," said Sony spokeswoman Mami Imada.

"There are many people who do not already own a digital still camera and we want this to appeal to them. The target is also people who already have a higher specification camera but who want a second camera that they can carry around in the pocket or keep in their bag."

Some of these potential users are using cameras embedded in their cellular telephones; however the quality of those devices is much lower, at between 100,000 and 300,000 pixels.

Other features of the DSC-U10 include a one-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) for viewing images, a USB socket for transferring images to a personal computer and a slot for Memory Stick memory cards.

There are three scene selection modes available, a function that allows five images at 640 by 480 pixel resolution to be taken at half-second intervals, and a single battery providing enough power for 70 minutes of use or 1,800 images.

The camera, which is available in silver, blue or pink, will go on sale in Japan on 20 July and will cost around ¥25,000 (£138). Sony plans to put it on sale overseas, although it has not yet decided on timing for international markets.

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