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Photo Biz Pins Hope On New Technology

LAS VEGAS — The photo industry is pinning its hopes on the power of new camera technology and the pull of emotional, personalized products to see it through the stormy seas of the coming year.

The Chapter 11 filing of Ritz Camera, the nation’s largest photo specialty chain, shortly before the opening of the PMA show here put the industry on notice that declining revenues from processing cannot easily be recouped and will continue to claim more victims.

“The retailers that have [transitioned from] analog processing had a good year, and those that have not acted quickly are struggling,” said Kalle Marsal, retail publishing solutions marketing director, HP.

The demise of Circuit City and the troubles at Ritz are a “wake-up call” to retailers, said David Lee, Nikon’s executive VP/sales. “They need to be lean with their inventories and make clean transitions,” he said.

The industry continued to shift its retail print solutions to inkjet-based models alongside a greater diversity of in-store merchandizing solutions. Noritsu announced at the show that it had acquired Lucidiom in a move designed in part to bolster the former’s ability to sell toner-based printing technology into retail markets.

The faltering economy did not stop digital camera makers from debuting high-end camera models at the show. Both Panasonic and Samsung made a bid to chip away, or even redefine, the d-SLR market with “hybrid” interchangeable lens cameras that offer many (if not more) of the features of an SLR in a more compact package.

Panasonic used the show to promise a rededicated effort in the camera market, unveiling its new Lumix GH1 interchangeable lens camera (see p. 6). Samsung, too, said it would position itself for market leadership in the emerging “hybrid” category with a forthcoming NX-series model of its own design.

And while International CES enjoyed most of the digital camcorder introductions, JVC used PMA to introduce its new Everio X HD camcorder. The camcorder will be geared toward a new market segment for JVC: early adopters willing to part with $999 to get a 10-megapixel unit with still photo burst modes, a new design, and a new image stabilization system.