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PMA Framing Digital Future, And It's Bright

2/12/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

ORLANDO, FLA. -The 77th annual Photo Marketing Association's (PMA) trade show and convention began here yesterday, unfurling a host of new digital imaging products that will be making their way to market throughout 2001.

The photo industry is currently enjoying success, especially at the retail level where digital camera sales continue to grow rapidly. As an industry goes, so goes its trade show.

According to Chad Munce, PMA digital markets director, as of Feb. 5, the show was on pace to exceed last year's show attendance, which was the biggest ever at more than 30,500. At last count there will be 800-plus exhibitors-300 in the digital imaging market, and more than 100 displaying digital cameras.

What will PMA have in store? Digital camera prices will continue to fall, offering consumers a chance to get higher-resolution models for less. FujiFilm and rookie manufacturer SiPix (see p. 34) will have 2-megapixel cameras coming out in the sub-$300 range, Samsung will have a 2-megapixel model for $349, and Kodak will have a hybrid digital still cam/video recorder/MP3 player expected to retail for about $229.

Also, there are indications from some industry sources that Minolta will be showing a 5-megapixel camera that will retail for less than $1000.

Peripherals will be plentiful. Concurrent with the increased market penetration of the digital camera comes the need for such peripherals as inkjet or dye-sublimation printers, memory card readers, digital frames and imaging software.

Improved inkjet printers will be on display from Epson and Hewlett-Packard. Ceiva Logic, Kodak and Polaroid will show digital picture frames that can also connect to the Internet. SanDisk and Lexar Media will be displaying their removable memory cards and card-reader peripherals. New image-editing software from NuWave, E-Book and Adobe will be vying for space either bundled inside a manufacturer's camera box or on store shelves.

Many firms throwing their hat into the digital fray are considered relative newcomers to the photo industry. The cross-pollination of computer and imaging technologies enabled by the digital photography revolution has spurred such companies as Sony (the market-share leader in consumer-level digital cameras), Adobe, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Texas Instruments to branch into this nascent and fertile outgrowth of the photo industry.

"I think it's great for the industry to have these non-traditional companies making an impact," said Munce. "They bring different skill sets and expertise to the table, they develop technology in different angles, and force the industry to be more competitive."

No one can argue with the results. Recent figures from NPD Intelect indicate that digital camera unit sales from this past holiday season increased by 75 percent from the previous year.

"Retailers are having tremendous success in the category," said Munce. "Was 2000 a good year? 2000 was a great year. Retailers on our DIMA board [Digital Imaging Marketing Association] were reporting terrific sales in the category."

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