Fuji has released two cameras integrating technology its scientists have developed to deliver higher-quality images from smaller cameras.

The first cameras to use Fuji's fourth-generation Super CCD HR (High Resolution) are the FinePix F700 and F410 Zoom. Both will be exhibited at the Photo Marketing Association event in Las Vegas, beginning March 2.

Fuji claims Super CCD HR sensors deliver finer-detailed images, are more sensitive, and support a higher signal-to-noise ratio. Devices integrating the technology will be more compact, support ultra-high resolution images and movies, offer faster shutter speeds and give better image capture in low-light conditions.

Super CCD HR involves fitting more photodiodes on the CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) without impairing the sensor's light-collecting ability. Fuji achieved this by amplifying the intensity of light reaching the sensor - making for smaller sensors.

As well as the new technology, the FinePix F700 offers a compact but high-resolution 3X zoom lens. The new technology means this camera offers 6.2 million effective photodiodes (3.1 million pairs) to record just as many pixels. The camera starts up in just 1.2 seconds.

Fujifilm's director of consumer products Adrian Clarke said: "Photographers will revel in the camera's ability to render images of magnificent tonal depth. Never before has such imaging capability been available in such a straightforward camera."

Other features include the capacity to capture motion at 30frames per second (fps) with sound; a RAW (uncompressed image format) mode; high-sensitivity settings (up to ISO 800); a USB PictureCradle, which combines image downloading with battery recharge functions. The camera uses the new xD-Picture Card format for data storage. Pricing will be announced in spring.

Fuji's FinePix F410 Zoom is another compact devic. The camera is encased in a metal finished case, has blue flashing activity lights and a sliding lens cover. Like the F700, the unit offers three million actual for six million effective pixels.

The camera offers an AVI digital video mode for recording short film clips with sound, and has is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket.

Operational features include a 'Photo mode' ? access to main menus through a single button for fast access during time critical shots; a 3X optical zoom lens with up to 3.6 digital zoom; and an improved autofocus function.

Like the F700, the camera uses Fujifilm's new USB Picture Cradle and the xD-Picture Card format for data storage. It also ships in spring. Pricing has been undisclosed.

FujiFilm marketing manager Will Rolls believes Fujifilm's new CCD technololgy means the end of the "frantic race" for megapixels.

"Discussions will now turn to the sensor's ability to record detail in highlights and low-light areas, rather than simply resolution," he said.

In a Gartner Group report published last October, analyst David Hauter suggests several areas on which he believes manufacturers should focus: build quality; the development of accurate electronic viewfinders; and better LCD displays.

He said: "Digital cameras are notoriously power hungry. Camera vendors should work not only on developing cameras that consume less power, they should also work with battery manufacturers to develop longer-life batteries."

Rolls explained how Fuji's technology works: "Fujifilm's engineers have identified that the average individual photosensor is overstretched in trying to record the full range of light intensities. Consequently, a secondary photodiode records light at a lower frequency in order to pick up subtle detail distinctions in the highlight areas. This frees up the primary photodiode to concentrate on recording the dark-to-mid-tones.

"The benefits are clear when photographers work in bright sunlight, under skies with cloud detail, and in flash photography, which covers most photographic situations."

The company sees the mobile telephony and video markets as growth areas for digital-imaging technologies. "Fuji sees any market development that prompts a discussion on the best methods of image capture as an opportunity, not a threat," Rolls observed.

Gartner Dataquest predicts that US digital-camera sales will reach ten million in 2003, with worldwide sales reaching 32 million.