By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE:Are megapixels as relevant as they used to be for a first-time buyer? Can we expect continued improvements over 8-megapixels?
Sienkiewicz: Megapixels don't matter as long as it has results. If you hit the threshold where you are getting results that are adequate, you're happy. There will always be people who want an 8-megapixel or a 10-megapixel camera.
Young: We are learning something as Sony is also a major manufacturer of sensors.
The difference in an 8-by-10 between an 8-megapixel and a 4- or a 5-megapixel image is hardly discernable.
But what we have noticed is that while the assumption is that noise goes up with higher pixel density and there is a decreased signal-to-noise ratio, there is also greater information. The greater information allows us to ultimately not just increase the picture detail, but to decrease the effect of noise in the resulting image as you manage the image processing.
I think David referred to these cameras as being computers with lenses and they absolutely are.
The megapixel race is not over. Silicon being what it is, it is not a whole lot more expensive to produce a 10-meg sensor in the same amount of silicon space than to produce the five once the fab is there.
So what to do with that extra information, and how do you present that as a benefit to the consumer is the question that will be grappled with.
Ryan: What a lot of people are looking for when they are looking for a higher number [of pixels] on a camera is investment protection. They are putting money into a product, and they don't want to be out of date two or three years from now.
An interesting analogy [to the megapixel war] comes from the scanner world. A 600 dpi optical scanner is absolutely all you need to get a good image and we knew that several years ago. Yet today you have 2,400 and 3,200 dpi optical scanners on the market, the benefits of which are marginal at best. That is stating it generously. Yet no vendor out there can successfully sell a 600 dpi optical scanner.
However, the ability to have higher megapixel cameras creates new opportunities in the area of zoom for example. Today, the benefits of digital zoom are somewhat limited because you are reducing the effect of the megapixels. If you had a 10-megapixel ultra compact camera without significant noise challenges, you could do amazing things with zoom. You could do away with optical zoom completely and use digital zoom to reach into the moment, thus creating a true credit card-sized camera.
Sienkiewicz: If you looked at any one of our value equations as to how much we value a megapixel increase, that number has been shrinking and it continues to shrink. The value difference between 3- and 4- and the difference between 4- and 5-megapixel resolution is shrinking, while the value for things like zoom or better processing seem to be growing over time.
Lee: Anytime someone asks me [about megapixels] I say that is for the consumer to decide and for us to influence. The sensor manufacturers will continue to develop technology and push it down to camera manufactures, but we spend more of our time trying to see what else we can do with a digital camera to develop features for consumers that hit price points.
Marketing a camera based on megapixels for any manufacturer can't be that exciting. All our brands stand for something stronger than that. But it is right up there with price. Some say it is even more important than price.
We think that other features will impact purchase decisions, movie modes, LCD size, LCD quality, those are going to come to the forefront more and more, but megapixels, you can't take that away.
Scott: What I notice here is that we are all talking about cameras, but consumers are also looking for solutions. They are buying a means to an end. Bundles are one area that is going to become very important to people, an easy purchase decision that gives them that net result, which is a picture they can share — whether it is a hard copy or an e-mail copy or an online copy.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.