By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The Photo Marketing Association's annual trade show and convention kicked off with news from PMA long expected by many in the industry, but potent nonetheless: Digital camera sales will eclipse analog camera sales in 2003.
According to PMA's Photo Industry Review and Forecast, released last week, this year will "likely be a pivotal one for the industry," when film cameras finally cede dominance to digital cameras — which have penetrated into approximately 21 percent of U.S. households by the close of 2002, according to PMA.
Backed by this upbeat forecast, vendors made a slew of 2003 digital camera introductions at the show, driving new features, higher resolutions and novel capabilities into sub-$500 suggested retails.
Casio formerly unveiled the Exilim EX-S3, the 3-megapixel next-generation model in its ultra-compact Exilim line. It features a 2.0-inch LCD screen and a .46-inch thin configuration. The EX-S3 will be available in April for a suggested retail of $349.99.
The case is made of lightweight magnesium alloy, with a body that weighs 2.54 ounces without battery.
Hewlett-Packard took aim at recapturing market share lost this year to more traditional photo manufacturers like Canon and Fujifilm, with two higher resolution models featuring Pentax lenses, a new camera dock and new Instant Share software features.
HP's Instant Share is an Internet-based software application that allows consumers to select destinations from the back of the camera then, by connecting the camera to a computer, instantly send images to selected destinations (e-mail addresses, printers or HP's fulfillment site, hpphoto.com).
The latest version of HP Instant Share adds a photofinishing ordering capability through Shutterfly.
On the equipment side, HP introduced its first 5.3-megapixel camera, the HP Photosmart 935. It sports a 21x total zoom (a Pentax 3x optical zoom lens and a 7x digital zoom). The camera ships in April with a 32MB SD memory card and an estimated street price of $449.
The compact HP Photosmart 735 features 3.2-megapixel resolution with a 15x total zoom (Pentax 3x optical zoom lens and a 5x digital zoom). The 735 offers 16MB of internal memory and an SD memory card slot. It will ship in June with an estimated street price of $299.
Kodak made additions to its EasyShare system, including the first ever printer/ camera dock, as well as a new camera and new stand-alone docking station.
The Kodak EasyShare printer dock 6000 is the first printer-and-camera dock combination which enables users to print borderless 4-by-6-inch photos directly from their EasyShare camera simply by placing the camera into the printer's dock, without the need to connect to a PC.
The thermal printer can produce a waterproof 4-by-6-inch print with Kodak's XtraLife laminate coating in approximately 90 seconds with ink that dries instantly.
The printer dock 6000 will be available in May at a suggested retail price of $199.
The 3.1-megapixel DX6340 zoom camera is the first model compatible with the printer/dock. It features a Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon 4X optical zoom lens, and an all-new high-speed precision auto-focus system that allows focus lock in almost complete darkness. The camera sports a flash range of approximately 20 feet. It has 16MB of internal memory and an SD/MMC expansion slot.
The DX6340 will ship in May at a suggested retail price of $329.
Kyocera added two new models to its Finecam series, the 3-megapixel L3V and the 4-megapixel L4V. Both cameras feature the company's proprietary DayFine 2.5-inch LCD, which improves viewing images on the LCD in extreme lighting conditions.
Each model is equipped with a 3x optical zoom, five flash modes, and a movie mode with voice recording capability. The included CR-V3 lithium battery can provide up to three-plus hours of battery life. The suggested retail price for the L3V is $449.00 and $549.00 for the L4V.
Minolta announced an entry-level DiMAGE, the E223 — a 2-megapixel camera with digital video with audio.
The DiMAGE E223's nine-element, six-group 3x optical zoom lens allows a range from wide angle for landscapes to telephoto for portraits. It also has a 3x digital zoom that extends the optical zoom's performance in 0.2x increments. The camera has 8MB of internal memory, making it the first from Minolta with that much internal storage, and accepts SD/MMC memory cards.
Panasonic made two more additions to its Lumix line of digital cameras, the 4-megapixel DMC-LC43 and the 3-megapixel DMC-LC33. Both offer 3x optical zoom.
The LC43 will ship in the spring for a suggested retail of $399.95, while the LC33 will ship in April for a suggested retail of $299.95.
SiPix introduced a new technology at the show that it will incorporate into its new StyleCam Groove and Extreme digital cameras that ship to dealers in March.
The technology, called Picture ALIVE, is an image-processing technology that uses color-processing algorithms to add saturation to true color images when the photo is taken.
The Groove is a 1.3-megapixel camera with digital video, video conferencing, PC cam and audio recording functionality. The camera can take 55 seconds of digital video with audio and saves to 16MB of internal memory. The Groove will have a suggested retail price of $69.99.
The Extreme sports 2.1-megapixel resolution, a 1.6-inch color LCD, 16MB of internal memory, an SD/MMC slot, macro mode and a 4x digital zoom. It has a suggested retail price of $129.99.
Sound Vision introduced a new product under its Armchair Electronics brand, called the ShareCam TV. The system is comprised of a VGA-resolution digital camera, a TV docking station and a remote control. The camera features a strobe flash, auto-white balance and exposure and internal memory that can store up to 100 photos. It also has a slot for SD memory.
Toshiba's newest entry was the PDR-4300 a 4-megapixel camera expected to ship in mid-March with a suggested retail price of $349. The camera features a Canon 2.8x optical zoom lens. An AVI Movie Mode allows the camera to capture 320-by-240 video clips at 15 frames per second. It ships with a 16MB SD card.
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