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The numbers are in and, as expected, digital cameras racked up another strong growth year at retail in 2003. According to Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm NPD Group, digital still-camera unit sales (excluding Wal-Mart) grew 29 percent over 2002. Sony retained the No. 1 spot, fending off challenges from a surging Kodak at second with 20 percent of the market, and Canon at third with 16 percent.
It was with an eye toward the $3.6 billion revenue pie served up by digicams in 2003 that vendors came to PMA, held here last month, to showcase the 2004 lineups.
Argus, a division of Hartford Computing (which acquired Argus Camera in July 2003) introduced the 1700 Series of entry-level digital cameras, shipping in April.
The Argus DC 1770, for a suggested $44.99, is a 1.3-megapixel model with a 4x digital zoom, a text-based status LCD, an SD card slot and 8MB of internal memory.
Hewlett-Packard launched the Photo-smart R707, incorporating a host of new technologies (branded "HP Real Life Technologies") to improve camera performance. The 5.1-megapixel R707 features a 3x optical/8x digital zoom lens, 32MB of internal memory, SD/MMC card slot and PictBridge support.
Among the many Real Life technologies incorporated into the camera is in-camera red-eye removal. Another is Image Advice, a feature that scans a photo in playback mode and diagnoses problems in the image and provides advice on the LCD screen to help consumers correct a future shot.
The R707 is compatible with a new Photosmart R-series dock ($79) which features a second battery charging bay. Kyocera brought its RTUNE processing technology to the ultra-zoom category with its new Finecam M410R, a 4-megapixel model with a 10x optical zoom lens for $499.99.
Thanks to RTUNE the M410R can fire off 3.3 frames per second to the length of the SD card. A new Auto Focus mode allows the camera to shoot at 2 fps while tracking a subject in motion.
Microtek introduced three new cameras under its Take-it line. The D3 is a 3.2-megapixel model with a 4x digital zoom, 8MB of internal memory and an SD card slot. The D3 is shipping now for a suggested $129.99.
The M-300 builds on the D3 by adding a 2x manual zoom; a larger, 1.8-inch LCD screen; and a macro mode. It will ship at the start of the second quarter for a suggested $149.99.
Finally, the M-330 ($199.99) is a digital video/still camera with 3.2-megapixel still resolution and PictBridge compatibility. Movies are captured in .ASF format at 640 by 480 resolution at 10 fps, or at 320 by 240 at 25 fps. The model will ship in the second quarter.
Nikon also brought in-camera red-eye reduction to its two newest Coolpix models: the 5-megapixel 5200 and the 4-megapixel 4200. Both models will ship in the spring.
Both cameras are PictBridge-enabled and feature Nikon's ED glass lenses (Extra-low Dispersion), 12MB of internal memory, and SD-card compatibility.
The 5200 can capture VGA movies at 30 fps while the 4200 captures movies at 15 fps. Both record to the capacity of the SD card. The 5200 will retail for a suggested $499.95 and the 4200 will retail for a suggested $399.95
Olympus introduced the C-765, a 4-megapixel model with a 10x optical zoom and 1.8-inch high-resolution LCD. Featuring 12 shooting modes, the C-765 will ship in May for a suggested $499.
Olympus will also ship the 10x optical zoom C-770 in May. The camera builds on the C-765 with MPEG-4 video capture, a hot shoe for accessory flashes and compatibility with accessory conversion lenses. It will carry an estimated street of $599.
Panasonic debuted its newest Lumix model, the 5-megapixel DMC-LC1. The camera features a 3.2x optical/3x digital zoom lens, a 2.5-inch LCD screen, RAW image capture and burst shooting mode. Focus and aperture can be manually controlled by ring settings on the lens. The LC1 ships this month for a suggested retail price of $1,599.
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.