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DVD Insider Digital Camera Edition

Cameras that amaze, phones seriously enter the mix, print, store digital stuff By Miles Weston

If you think the world is getting better looking and easier you probably were at PMA (Photo Marketing Association International) to see the dizzying array of new, exciting and low-cost digital cameras.  Actually a camera isnt a camera anymore, at least not in the usual sense.  It is a camera on steroids. Still and video come together in a single unit with higher and higher resolution, cleaner, crisper quality photos and videos, better and better software suites and wild array of accessories to blow your money on.
We had our mind almost made up on a new camera before the show and now were back at ground zero again.  4MP, 5MP, 8MP, 4x zoom, 10x zoom, 2.5-inch LCD, 3-inch LCD, 256MB internal memory, 512MB internal memory, 1GB and larger cards (at various speeds) and more with prices that are becoming very ?consumer.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a camera snob and only consider units from Olympus, Canon, JVC, Sony, Pentax, Konica Minolta and Panasonic when you see what Kodak has done to reshape their image.  Even the new units from Concord, Fuji, HP and others we never heard of offered a blinding array of compact, ultracompact, enthusiast, zoom, superzoom, SLR and features at prices that are tough to ignore. 

Power, Quality in Your Hand
The great thing about the PMA event is that you can see what the pros use photographers and videographers and you can see what ordinary folks can afford.  As every videographer will tell you ? in 2 years or less all that breathtaking gear they paid $3,000 plus for will be $300.  It will also be smaller, lighter and with features everyone wants but only the pros know how to use!

It reminded us of the LAOX stores we visited in Osaka and Tokyo on our last visit with floors of cameras and accessories wall to wall.  The visit was mind-boggling. We went to buy something specific and got so distracted we ended up looking at all the goodies and CE/PC toys.   But at least we didnt have to walk far to see 100-200 different cameras.
We admit cameras arent our long suit but from what we can tell the megapixel race is more marketing-driven than an issue of enhanced image quality.  If a little linear resolution produces huge pixel increases, that means if they double the linear resolution they increase the megapixels by 4x which doesnt have much to do with color and sharpening algorithms and the subtleties of image quality.

But that stuff is way over our heads so maybe it is easier just to deal with megapixel numbers as we have in the past with the speed of system microprocessors.  That moves a lot of computer iron!

What was amazing at the show though was how compact (ultracompact) the cameras have become as the image quality has increased.

According to InfoTrends the digital still camera market is already getting mature. They estimate that by the end of last year 42 percent of the U.S. homes had digital cameras and by the end of 2006 penetration will have increased to 62%. Once a market any market reaches 50% penetration, increases are slow and painful. They are usually achieved at a major reduction in profit margins.

InfoTrends estimates that about 21 million digital cameras were sold last year but only about half were first-time buyers.  Over the next two years manufacturers will have to persuade people to replace units or add a 2nd/3rd camera.  That requires more features, more capabilities at the same or lower price. 

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Related Keywords:PMA, Photo Marketing Association International, low-cost digital cameras, camera, camera on steroids, Still, video, resolution, cleaner, crisper quality, photos, videos, software suites, accessories

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