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PMA Illustrates Transition From Analog To Digital

ORLANDO, FLA. -Digital cameras, photo printers, software and printing solutions for retailers were the big stories at the 77th annual PMA trade show and convention held here earlier this month.

The product introductions in these categories showed how the photo industry continues its migration from analog to digital: Not only do technologies converge, but markets do, as well.

A number of manufacturers, including Samsung and Olympus, chose to make digital camera introductions earlier during CES, rather than at PMA. Kodak chose to launch its new mc3 product at the Demo Show, with a formal photo industry introduction the second day of PMA.

“PMA has traditionally been an analog show, even though we’re moving toward digital,” said Sally Smith Clemens, Olympus’ consumer products group, “We launched our digital products at CES because we didn’t want to be competing with the film guys. Let them have their 15 minutes,” she said, laughing.

Jonathon Rosenzweig, managing director and analyst, U.S. Equity Research for Salomon Smith Barney, echoed this sentiment as he outlined ways in which members of the industry are fighting to maintain the viability of their businesses as digital encroaches.

Photography, he said, is now competing with high-tech devices such as cellular phones and PDAs. “The industry needs to embrace these technologies and find ways to leverage them,” said Rosenzweig. “Don’t fight the trend, rather, find a way to ride the wave.”

Opportunities will exist for photography to become an integrated feature with other devices, he added, as opposed to an independent solution.

Another trend showcased by PMA was digital output. “Digital cameras are penetrating the mass market now,” said Brad Bramy, director of retail and e-tail development at Shutterfly, “but there’s still a gap in consumer awareness of where to go to get prints from these cameras. We’re trying to change that.”

His company announced a major partnership with Best Buy to provide back-end support for Best Buy’s Photo Center website, which will provide services such as online albums, photo sharing and printing. It’s Bramy’s hope that retailers of all sizes who are involved in selling digital cameras, but not involved in photofinishing, will partner with Shutterfly to give their customers a printing option.

Sony unveiled its entry into the retail printing market with a kiosk-based print station tentatively named the Digital Photo Finishing Center. This scalable solution was launched alongside “Print By Sony,” a national branding campaign that signals Sony’s full-scale commitment to digital printing. Available in the summer for less than $15,000, this product is aimed to digital imaging retailers, CE retailers and mass merchants.

According to product manager Phil Cathcart, the entry-level incarnation, which consists of a touch-screen computer and a printer, is uniquely suited for CE retailers who sell digital cameras but don’t offer a printing solution.

TWICE reported earlier that Minolta would be showing 5-megapixel digital cameras, which proved to be correct as Minolta showed the Dimage 7, a 5.2-megapixel digital camera, under glass. Executives were tight-lipped about pricing and availability but said more information should be available in the summer.

Canon launched three new digital cameras: the PowerShot S300 Digital Elph, the PowerShot A10 and PowerShot A20.

The PowerShot S300 Elph features 2.1-megapixel resolution, 3x zoom and movie clips with audio, and comes bundled with a lithium battery pack, charger and an 8MB CompactFlash card. It will ship in the second quarter for a suggested retail price of $699.

The PowerShot A10, $499 suggested retail price, and A20 ($599) feature 1.3- and 2.1-megapixel resolution, respectively. Both incorporate a 3x optical zoom lens and will ship in the second quarter. The A10 will also be available in a Photo Print Kit from Canon, which will include the new CP-10 printer for $699.

Kyocera introduced its smallest digital camera, the Finecam S3, claiming it is the smallest 3.3 million-pixel digital camera on the market at 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches and weighing 5.6 ounces. The camera’s features include automatic exposure control, exposure compensation, white balance controls, various types of shooting modes, playback function and a 1.5-inch color LCD panel.

Shipping in April with a $699 suggested retail price, the camera is equipped with an optical 2x-zoom covering wide-angle to telephoto. Combined with a 2x digital zoom at shooting mode, a maximum of 4x zoom (38-152mm) can be achieved. A 2x digital zoom can be also used during playback mode, with recording mode at Super Fine or Fine.

Kyocera also introduced the EZ Digital 1.3, featuring 1.3-megapixel resolution, built-in internal memory, 2x-digital zoom lens and 24-bit color. The camera will be available in April for a suggested retail price of $299.

Eastman Kodak and Olympus Optical announced a cross-licensing agreement designed to expand the market for digital photography. The agreement includes the mutual cross-licensing of patented digital camera technologies. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Sanyo Electric Co. announced its intention to license FlashPoint Technology’s Digita Photivity technology to create digi-cams compatible with FlashPoint’s wireless imaging platform. The cameras will be compatible with the wireless imaging service to be offered by Sprint PCS, which has licensed FlashPoint’s Photivity platform. Customers will be able to send images wirelessly using a Sanyo digital camera connected to a Sprint PCS Internet-ready phone and data cable.

In response to higher-megapixel cameras, which create larger image files, Delkin and SanDisk announced higher-capacity flash memory cards. SanDisk introduced a 512-megabyte CompactFlash Card to retail for $799, touting it as the highest-capacity type 1 card on the market. It also introduced a 128MB SmartMedia card for $189. Both cards will be available in the second quarter.

Delkin introduced a 128MB SmartMedia card that is currently shipping, although the price was not available at press time. Delkin also announced its line of CompactFlash cards would include models with 256MB and 448MB capacity.

Iomega Corp. announced that LifeWorks Photo Album software powered with Active Disk technology is now shipping in English. LifeWorks Photo Album, the first of many titles in the LifeWorks portfolio, enables digital photography users to organize, edit and share images using Iomega software technology that runs completely from a Zip disk.

Iomega’s new LifeWorks Photo Album software package includes LifeWorks Photo Album software on a Zip 100MB disk, Active Disk Technology, and an additional blank Zip 100MB disk for $29.95. The software bundle is currently shipping.

Adobe displayed a new addition to its Photoshop family, the Photoshop Elements. Geared toward the enthusiast but less complicated than the full suite of Photoshop Deluxe products, Elements delivers many of the same features of the more advanced programs. The Hints palette, for example, provides context-sensitive illustrations and tips that help users learn to use Photoshop tools and palettes.

The suggested retail price is $99, and Photoshop Elements is expected to ship in the fourth quarter.