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Consumer digital cameras: more pixels for less money.

New technology and changing marketplace impacts buyers' choices

Here's a capsule forecast for the future of consumer digital cameras: Lower prices for higher megapixel sensors. Looking at less than $500 point-and-shoot digital models, it's clear from mass merchandisers' 2003 holiday ads that a majority of cameras are being sold at prices equivalent to $100 per megapixel or less. For example, most 3-megapixel cameras are street priced at $299.99. (Street prices are reported in this article.)

There are some impressive exceptions coming from outside the photo industry, such as the compact 5-megapixel Gateway DC-T50 digital camera with a 3x optical zoom Changing the focal length of a camera by adjusting the physical zoom lens. All zoom lenses in film cameras and digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras are optical zoom. Digital point-and-shoot cameras as well as consumer and prosumer video camcorders have optical zoom, but they also  lens that sells online for less than $300 (after $50 mail-in rebate with free shipping).

The question is whether this is an on-going trend, or a momentary condition reflected by the expected status of the 2004-2005 marketplace.

Looming large in camera manufacturers and photo specialty dealers' planning is the impact of cameraphone sales, which currently are surpassing digital camera sales. Two- and 3-megapixel cameraphones will be available in 2004, and 4- and 5-megapixel cameraphone are expected by 2005.

Some industry analysts predict, as the higher resolution cameraphone models are introduced, they will undercut the popularity of the same resolution digital cameras. There is also the expectation that basic low-end digital cameras will be at least 4- or 5-megapixel models, with the exception of "novelty" cameras.

Analysts also predict a new interest in interchangeable-lens digital SLRs will be sparked by the Four Thirds System, which was launched with much fanfare with the introduction of the high-end 5.5-megapixel Olympus E-1. The Four Thirds System is based on a new lens mount dedicated exclusively to digital SLRs and common 4:3 aspect sensor array A sensor array is a set of several sensors that an information gathering device uses to gather information (usually directional in nature) that cannot be gathered from a single source for a central processing unit. . The engineering and designs are available for use by all manufacturers; and it is hoped, with industry-wide support, the system will eliminate the use of proprietary 35mm-format lens mounts on future digital SLR (1) (Scalable Linear Recording) A line of magnetic tape drives from Tandberg Data that evolved from the QIC Data Cartridge format. See QIC.

(2) (Single Lens Reflex) A camera that uses the same lens for viewing and shooting.
 models. A great degree of mix-and-match interchangeability will be possible among different brands of lenses and SLR digital camera bodies.

Although not true SLRs, many of the new digital point-and-shoot cameras view subjects through the lens. The image is electronically delivered to the viewfinder The preview window on a camera that is used to frame, focus and take the picture. On analog cameras, the viewfinder is an eye-sized window that must be pressed against the face. Point-and-shoot digital cameras use small LCD screens that are viewed several inches from the eyes.  and displayed on a miniature LCD screen. Cameras employing electronic viewfinders (EVF EVF Electronic Viewfinder
EVF Eaton Vance Senior Income Trust
EVF Éducation à la Vie Familiale
EVF Early Vertical Forearm
EVF European Venous Forum
EVF Endovascular Forum
EVF Eye View Finder (cameras/camcorders) 
) include the 6.3-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix $700, 4-megapixel Kodak EasyShare Kodak EasyShare is a sub brand of Eastman Kodak Company products identifying a consumer photography system of digital cameras, snapshot printers, printer docks, accessories, camera docks, software, and online print services. EasyShare was first introduced in 2001.  DX6490, 5-megapixel Konica Minolta DiMAGE A1, 5-megapixel Nikon Coolpix 5700, and 8-megapixel Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-F828. The battery-operated electronic viewfinders should not be confused with similar-looking optical viewfinders they replace.

Recently introduced point-and-shoot digital camera model designs can be divided into three categories: ultracompact, compact, and "normal-size" cameras. Some ultra-compact models are engineering marvels. For example, the $290 Konica Minolta DiMAGE Xt is an ultra-thin, shirt pocket-size, 3-megapixel model. The 3x (37-111mm f/2.8-3.6) optical zoom lens is positioned lengthwise length·wise  
adv. & adj.
Of, along, or in reference to the direction of the length; longitudinally.

Adj. 1. lengthwise
 inside the camera body and employs a prism to direct the image to the sensor. The tiny $290 Pentax Optio The Pentax Optio series is a line of consumer digital cameras manufactured by Pentax Corporation. Although one of the earliest mass-market examples of point and shoot technology in a digital camera, the Optio series remains popular today, and encompasses the bulk of Pentax's  33WR 3-megapixel camera, with an internal 2.8x (37-104mm f/2.8-3.9) zoom lens, is a thin, ultra-compact model designed to be more rugged to better withstand the elements, and is described by Pentax as a "water-resistant" digital camera that can be used in surf and spray. One of the thinnest and smallest cameras is the $350 Casio Exilim Exilim is a line of compact digital cameras introduced in 2002 by Casio.

The Exilim Card series was notably thinner than other small digital cameras at the time of its introduction, typically 10–15 millimetres thick compared to other manufacturers' comparable models
 EX-S3, a 3.2-megapixel model with a fixed-focus 35mm equivalent lens. Its dimensions are that of a business card, and it has a thickness of less than 0.5 inch.

Among compact models are the $400 Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P92, a 5-megapixel model with a 3x (38-114mm f/2.8-5.6) zoom lens; $400 Canon Powershot The PowerShot products are a line of consumer grade digital cameras, launched by Canon in 1995. The PowerShot line has been successful for Canon, and is one of the best-selling digital camera lines worldwide.  A80, with 4 megapixels and a 3x (38-114mm f/2.8-4.9) optical zoom lens, and the 4-megapixel Nikon Coolpix 4300 for $400, with a 3x (38-114mm f/2.8-4.9) zoom.

Finally, "normal-size" consumer models are about the size of a small 35mm-format film camera. One of the most popular is the $500 Kodak EasyShare DX6480, a 4-megapixel model with an impressive 10x (38-380mm f/2.8-3.7) Schneider Variogon zoom lens. Also among super zoom models is the $400 barrel-shaped DiMAGE Z1, which combines a 38-380mm f/2.8-3.5 zoom lens with a 3-megapixel sensor, and the $449 HP Co. Photosmart 935, a 5.3-megapixel model with 3x (37-111mm f/2.6-9) optical zoom lens.

An ongoing development is the introduction of higher quality optics sporting respected pedigree names, such as a Schneider-Kreuznach Varigon zoom on the Kodak DX-6490, Carl Zeiss
For the company with the same name, see Zeiss.

Carl Zeiss (September 11, 1816 – December 3, 1888) was an optician commonly known for the company he founded, Zeiss.
 Vario Sonnar zoom on the Sony DSC-F717, Leica DC Vario-Elmarit zoom on the Panasonic DMC-LC43, and Zoom-Nikkor lenses equipping the stable of Nikon Coolpix models. Another still digital lens trend is the increasing number of models equipped with standard 3x or ultra-long 10x zoom lenses. One unanswered question: When can consumers expect digital camera zoom lenses that produce truly wide-angle views, such as 24mm- and 28mm-equivalent focal lengths?

A popular accessory among digital camera buyers is docking cradles that provide instant downloading of images and compatible printing options. For example, Kodak EasyShare camera buyers have two choices--the basic $70 Kodak EasyShare camera dock, which permits image downloading to the computer or Internet with the push of a single button; and the $200 Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000, which serves as a downloader and snapshot-size printer. Fujifilm offers the PictureCradle for easily downloading images from several FinePix models, and the HP PhotoSmart Hewlett-Packard's line of digital cameras and photo printers is called Photosmart. Digital cameras
The original HP digital camera was a CompactFlash-based model simply called the Photosmart. It was a VGA-resolution camera with a simple LCD.
 Digital Dock is compatible with many of the HP PhotoSmart cameras. In most cases, the computer-tethered docks provide one-button operation, automatic recharge of camera batteries, and TV hookups for on screen viewing of images.

Digital camera LCD color monitor See monitor.  screen sizes have been inflating dramatically, from 1.5 inches to 1.8 inches to 2.0 inches. Currently, 2.5-inch screens are in fashion. But size isn't the whole story. The upcoming improvement is organic light-emitting diode Noun 1. organic light-emitting diode - a self-luminous diode (it glows when an electrical field is applied to the electrodes) that does not require backlighting or diffusers
 (OLED (Organic Light Emitting Device, Organic Light Emitting Diode) A thin film light-emitting technology that is expected to compete with LCD and plasma TVs as well as LCD monitors and readouts. ) displays from Kodak. OLEDs provide their own illumination and have a lower battery drain compared to LCDs. This means brighter, more vibrant colors and a wide viewing angle--all benefits for daylight viewing of digital camera monitor/viewfinders. The first OLED monitor display was incorporated into the $399 Kodak 3.1-megapixel EasyShare LS633 digital camera.

The number of plug-and-play digital printers is increasing. They operate cabled directly to cameras and do not require the use of a computer. For example, the $179.99 Canon Direct Print CP200 Digital Color Printer A printer that prints in color using three (CMY) or four (CMYK) colors of ink, toner or dye. Four color ribbons have been used in dot matrix printers, but these are rare today. See color laser printer and printer. , which provides direct printing ability with several Canon digital cameras, including the $450, 5-megapixel PowerShot S50; the $200 Olympus P-10 printer produces 4-by-6-inch borderless prints with any PictBridge-enabled camera; and the Kodak EasyShare 6000 printer dock, mentioned earlier.

Watch for implementation of JPEG JPEG
 in full Joint Photographic Experts Group

Standard computer file format for storing graphic images in a compressed form for general use. JPEG images are compressed using a mathematical algorithm.
 2000 image file format in 2004, which will provide consumers with more flexibility when distributing images over the Internet. Advanced digital photographers have discovered cameras with RAW file format ability have great advantages. A RAW file image can be employed as a "digital negative," accepting advanced image processing image processing

Set of computational techniques for analyzing, enhancing, compressing, and reconstructing images. Its main components are importing, in which an image is captured through scanning or digital photography; analysis and manipulation of the image, accomplished
 later. By retaining a photo in the unprocessed RAW format, it is possible to tweak the exposures and provide finer adjustments in white balance, color values, contrast, and exposure latitude Exposure latitude is the extent to which a light-sensitive material can be over or underexposed and still achieve an acceptable result. Since the acceptability of the result is dependent on both personal aesthetics and artistic intentions, the measurement of exposure latitude is by . Although considered an advance function, RAW file format choices are found on many point-and-shoot cameras, including Canon PowerShot models, the high-end Nikon Coolpix 5700 and 5000, Olympus C-5050 Zoom, and Minolta DiMAGE 5 and 7.

More digital models offer a choice of memory media through dual-card camera slots. For example, the Fujifilm FinePix $2 Pro accepts both CompactFlash Type I/II memory cards, as well as SD media; the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-F828 has slots for CompactFlash Type I/II, as well as Sony's own Memory Stick media, and the Olympus C5060 Zoom provides media slots for CompactFlash Type I/II, as well as the new stamp-size xD-Picture memory cards. There, however, is little indication of any standardization of memory media, as new storage formats proliferate. Currently, consumer model digital cameras employ CompactFlash Type I/II (including IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries)  MicroDrives), SmartMedia, Memory Stick/Memory Stick PRO, Secure Digital/MultiMedia, and xD-Picture cards, plus Mini-CD-R/RWs and floppy disks for image storage.

Readers will have a first-hand opportunity to review all the upcoming innovations and new technologies in the digital camera world at the PMA PMA (papillary-marginal-attached),
n a system of epidemiologic scoring of periodontal disease devised by Schour and Massler in which the symbols denote the areas involved in gingival inflammation.

PMA Progressive muscular atrophy
 2004 Convention and Trade Show, February 12-15, in Las Vegas, Nev.
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Author:DeBat, Alfred
Publication:Digital Imaging Digest
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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