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Female Market Focus Expected At PMA Show

When the doors of the Orange County Convention Center open to usher in attendees to the annual Photo Marketing Association trade show on Feb. 26, the photo industry will try to be more appealing to women.

New digital cameras will be increasingly capable of higher light sensitivities and retail printing solutions will feature a pronounced emphasis on welcoming imaging’s core female demographic back into the fold with solutions for the more creative photo applications such as albums, scrapbooks, and hard-bound photo books.

The show will play host to roughly 700 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees, not to mention dozens of new digital cameras, retail printing solutions, imaging software and accessories.

Among the highlights will be the introduction of Panasonic’s first digital SLR, developed in conjunction with Olympus. The model is based on the 4/3 system for lens and image sensor design, which means the Panasonic camera will work with Olympus’ line of Zuiko “digital specific” lenses and lenses from Sigma.

Sony, on the other hand, will keep mum about its forthcoming d-SLR, which it had developed in a partnership with Konica Minolta. According to a spokesperson, the company is still planning on introducing its first d-SLR “later in the year.”

Even with the strong growth in the digital SLR market, it will still occupy a small niche in the overall digital photography market through 2009, said Ned Bunnell, Pentax marketing manager. What has enticed manufacturers, Bunnell added, is that in the same year with d-SLRs representing roughly 15 percent of all camera sales, they will account for 36 percent of unit revenue.

On the compact digital camera side, more vendors will embrace both image stabilization and improved sensitivity for photographing in low light or with slower shutter speeds. Specifications such as ISO sensitivity and optical vs. electronic stabilization will take their place alongside resolution and LCD size. Indeed, many manufacturers will seek to brand their low-light, stabilized solutions just as Canon branded its image processor two years ago.

As vendors move to compete on blur reduction, companies such as Panasonic that had anchored their product differentiation in image stabilization now encounter a competitive field brimming with similar specifications.

“If the terminology becomes common, that’s good for Panasonic because consumers will start to demand that feature,” said Monica Helmer, optical group product manager. “When they do their research in preparation for buying a camera, they’ll be looking for the models that have the most advanced optical image stabilization systems,” which will redound to the company’s benefit, Helmer added.

(For more on PMA see p. 14.)