Hitachi joins TidBITS this week as a sponsor to publicize the release of the MPEG Cam, a new camera for Macintosh users, which debuts at Macworld Expo (Booth 1530). The MPEG Cam – aimed primarily at digital professionals – comes with a 260 MB PC Card that stores 20 minutes of digital video (at 30 frames-per-second) in full-motion MPEG format, 3,000 still-image JPEG images, 1,000 still-image JPEGs with 10 seconds of audio, or 4 hours of digital audio. Video resolution is 352 by 240 pixels; JPEGs are 704 by 480.
The camera has a small "media navigation" screen that enables file management tasks like moving files into different folders, playing them back, or deleting them. The camera comes with a battery charger plus two batteries (each should last for 40 minutes and has a 100-minute recharge time). Files can be transferred to any PowerPC-based Macintosh (with System 7.5 or later and 10 MB of free RAM) by way of the SCSI port or – for some PowerBook users – via a Type III PC Card. Fully loaded with a battery and PC card, the camera weighs 19 ounces.
Rob Burr, webmaster for the Hitachi MPEG Camera Network, described the camera as "the multimedia webmaster’s secret weapon. I used the MPEG Cam recently to capture 1,024 images and a number of VRML movies for a Web site about the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The cost of traditional film, developing, and Photo CD scans would have exceeded $4,000 on this job."
Although the $2,400 suggested retail price puts the MPEG Cam out of reach of general consumers, those who work with photographs or movies for a living, and especially those who work for news-related Web sites, may find it a must. I’m pleased that Hitachi released a Mac version of the camera and welcome them as a sponsor.