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PictBridge Standard Picks Up Steam

New York – In the not-too-distant future, digital cameras and camcorders will be able to connect directly to photo printers through the USB cable to produce a photo print regardless of manufacturer, thanks to the technology standard called PictBridge.

In fact, for consumers buying the latest introductions from Sony, Olympus, Pentax and Canon, the future is now thanks to these vendors’ adoption of PictBridge.

The standard, developed by the Tokyo-based Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) and formally announced in February of this year, was originally proposed by Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Seiko Epson, and Sony in an effort to drive sales in the imaging market by making the process of printing digital images easier.

The manufacturers were guided by industry data that shows consumers currently prefer to make digital prints in the home by large margins over competing alternatives such as printing at retail or online development services. According to the Norwell, Mass.-based marketing research firm InfoTrends, 82 percent of digital camera users print digital photos at home and 81 percent of those who plan to purchase a digital camera expect to primarily print their digital photos at home.

PictBridge will allow these consumers to directly print via a USB connection to any photo printer without a computer from any camera or a camcorder, regardless of brand, so long as both products are PictBridge-enabled. Consumers are able to control print functions (like the number of prints desired) from the camera’s LCD screen.

PictBridge-enabled products have already begun to seep out onto retail shelves, led by Canon and will soon to be followed en-masse by a host of other major digital imaging vendors in 2004.

Most major camera and printer vendors have expressed support for the standard.

The direct printing standard is an expansion of several proprietary technologies that manufacturers have incorporated in their own product lines to increase ease of use between their specific cameras and printers. Canon, for instance, offers Direct Print capability on its Bubble Jet photo printers and recent digital cameras, as does Hewlett-Packard and Sony. Epson’s technology, USB Direct Print, has been embraced by camera vendors but only works with Epson printers.

A spokesperson for Epson said the company plans to support PictBridge in future models.

‘These solutions have proven to be limiting for consumers, as they are unable to achieve the same convenience and ease of use when using a combination of products of different brands,’ said a CIPA spokesperson. ‘By offering those wider choices to consumers through PictBridge, we expect to grow the digital imaging industry as a whole.’

According to the CIPA spokesperson, the uses of the standard can extend to any input or output device that receives, views, and send digital still images, including PDAs and camera equipped cellphones.

Here’s a snapshot of PictBridge-enabled Products that are currently shipping:

Olympus P10
Canon: i900D, i960,i455, i475, i860, i560

Sony U10
Olympus D560 (with firmware upgrade)
Canon A80, EOS Rebel Digital, SD10
Pentax Optio 555

Sony Handycam PC330, PC300K, DCR-IP1
Canon Optura Xi, Optura 300