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Casio announced numerous new cameras powered by its improved EXILIM engine.

Most noteworthy was the sleek transforming Tryx.
Company also works closely to offer optimized support for Eye-Fi SD cards, allow one-touch uploads over Wi-Fi

Casio made some announcements today that may make Adobe a bit nervous.

The company unveiled Casio Imaging Square, a cloud (server-based) software suite that offers Adobe Photoshop-like image editing and alterations.

The company showed off several image alteration utilities that are part of the suite, including HDR-Art Craft and Virtual Painter.  

HDR-Art performs simulated high dynamic range alterations to a photograph.  A Casio representative assures us that this is not merely a linear bump to saturation, but rather an algorithmic alteration of the image on a pixel by pixel image.  While the results obviously aren't as good as true HDR, which requires multiple images with different exposures, they promise to make poorly lit photos (too bright, too dim) look a bit better.

By contrast, Virtual Painter is a bundle of filters, similar to some of those found in Photoshop.  You can take your photos and apply a filter to yield a "painted" look.  The Virtual painter also offers blur/distortion options. Most of the resulting "art" is rather unsightly (think budget Dali), but it may appeal to some.

Imaging Square's other two key components are My Atelier, which offers image storage, and Gallery, a service that allows you to display your best photos.

Interestingly, the online image editing suite will launch free of charge in Japan and the U.S. in February.  Casio says that it will not monetize it service via advertising or data mining.  It also plans to offer the service free of any digital rights management (DRM) scheme, so you can upload and edit photos from any camera.

With Imaging Squared, the company's hope is to monetize the service primarily by selling customers the idea on a print service.  The company also said it would likely offer customers the option of buying a larger storage folder or premium image editing features.

While this suite is unlikely to appeal much to hardcore photographers and artists, who typically used a full-fledged install of Photoshop, it's price (free) may allow it to steal a significant chunk of business away from Photoshop Elements, which is cheaper and targeted and entry level users.

Casio aso announced its new photo engine, dubbed EXILIM Engine HS (not to be confused with previous generations of EXILIM), which it will be packing in a broad lineup of new cameras.  One key improvement in the engine is the inclusion of onboard (true) HDR, which combines multiple images with different exposures to offer improved image color and quality.  A button press will instantly take three images of different exposures and the camera's onboard processor will merge them in to one improved image.

Also onboard is streamlined support for a promising product called Eye-Fi.  Eye-Fi has been around for a while, but is only slowly grabbing attention and interest.  The Mountain View, Calif. company's premise is simple -- it offers SD cards with Wi-Fi built in (current generation models support full 802.11n transmission), which allow one-touch photo uploads to Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and PhotoBucket and one-touch video uploads to YouTube.

The cards are still a bit pricey.  On Amazon a 4 GB model sells for $47, while 8 GB models command $82 or more.

What Casio has done is to work closely with Eye-Fi to make the menu system on the company's new camera lineup friendly with the cards.  While the Eye-Fi card eats up some battery life (as uploading raw images is a relatively expensive chore), the pair also worked to try to make the process as power efficient as possible.  For example, if an upload would kill the camera, the upload request is denied.

Casio announced a number of camera models at its presser, but the most interesting of the pack was its flagship EXILIM model, Tryx.  The camera's specs are reasonably impressive.  It packs a 12.1-megapixel resolution 21mm wide-angle lens and a brilliant 3-inch LCD display into a slender 0.59-inch thick package.  The camera is capable of shooting full 1080 HD video at 30 fps.

But the real show-stealer is its unusual body design.  Like a transformer, this camera can switch to a variety of configurations, via a rotatable lense region, rotatable screen and fold-out outer handle/frame, which surrounds the screen.  These multiple degrees of freedom allow users to master all kinds of photo angles, including the kinds of "self-shots" that often show up as certain users' profile pics on Myspace.  It also offers motion-triggered pictures, useful with group shots.

Tryx also has the company's virtual painter filters built in to the camera itself.

The Tryx will go on sale in March to April, depending on your location worldwide, according to a Casio representative.  A price was not announced.


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