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DigiCams Ride High Into PMA

Las Vegas -The Photo Marketing Association’s annual trade show and convention has kicked off with the PMA’s long expected news that 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.

Into 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 retail prices.

Casio formerly unveiled the Exilim EX-S3 (tentative details were given at CES), the 3-megapixel next generation model in its ultra-compact Exilim line. The will feature a 2.0-inch LCD screen and a .46 inch thin configuration. The EX-S3 will be available at retail in April for a suggested retail price of $349.99.

A lens barrier protects the lens from impact and dust by opening and closing whenever the camera is turned on and off. The case is made of lightweight magnesium alloy, with a body that weighs 2.54 ounces (without battery). It also sports a high-speed startup time and a 0.01 release time lag for quicker shot-to-shot performance.

Hewlett Packard took aim at recapturing market share ground 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 the selected destinations (e-mail addresses, printers or HP’s fulfillment site:

The latest version of HP Instant Share adds a photofinishing ordering capability, allowing consumers to tag photos for online photofinishing by Shutterfly. Additionally, HP’s Instant Share now includes 34 destinations, from the previous 14.

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 32 MB 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.

Both cameras feature automatic and manual controls for ISO, exposure and white balance. They can also record video clips and audio messages with still photos.

HP also introduced a new Instant Share camera dock, the Photosmart 8886, which is compatible with both new cameras and serves as a battery charger and a connection to transfer images from camera to PC. Additionally, the dock allows users to view digital photos on a TV with a wireless remote. It will ship in April for an estimated street price of $79.

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 printer/dock can also be connected to a computer to serve as a traditional EasyShare camera dock, for picture transfers and battery recharging.

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. Kodak has designed the printer so that the amount of ribbon matches the amount of paper so users will never run out of ink supplies in the middle of a project.

The printer dock 6000 will be available in May at a suggested retail price of $199. Combined refill paper and ink cartridge packs will have suggested retail prices of $14.99 for 20 prints, $24.99 for 40 prints, and $39.99 for 80 prints.

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 lens design of the camera’s 3x optical zoom lens can 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’s macro mode allows the lens to focus down to 3.1inches for close-up photography.

The E223 provides fully automatic features for focusing, exposure metering, flash, and white balance and has a USB connection for downloading of image files. The camera has 8MB of internal memory, making it the first from Minolta to feature that much internal storage. It also has a slot for SD/MMC memory cards.

The DiMAGE E223 is also capable of recording movie clips up to 60 seconds in length with audio. The 320 by 240 size (QVGA) images can be played back with the camera’s color monitor and built-in speaker.

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 a 3x optical zoom and Panasonic’s Venus Engine LSI for a 50 percent improvement in diagonal resolution compared with previous Lumix models.

The LC43 will ship in the Spring for a suggested retail price of $399.95, while the LC33 will ship in April for a suggested retail price of $299.95.

SiPix introduced a new technology at the show which 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 technology also automatically adjusts brightness across different parts of an image, resulting in more natural looking photographs, even in difficult lighting conditions.

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. The movie mode allows users to capture digital video to the capacity of the memory card. The camera also doubles as a PC cam. It has a suggested retail price of $129.99.

Sound Vision introduced a new product under its Armchair Electronics brand, callled 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 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 and manual controls for white balance, exposure compensation, manual exposure, light metering (center, spot), ISO sensitivity (100/200/400), and continuous shooting. An AVI Movie Mode allows the camera to capture 320 by 240 video clips at 15 frames-per-second.

The PDR-4300 ships with a 16MB SD card.