We give an overview of the digital camera market

The digital age

Like many other digital technologies, the science behind the digital camera has existed since the mid eighties.

However, it wasn’t until the cost of production and therefore retail prices were reduced that the devices began to enter the public consciousness. In the mid-nineties, when Kodak launched an aggressive marketing campaign behind its DC40, which took photographs at a resolution of 756 x 504 and cost over £700, the public finally began to see the benefits of digital cameras. Chief among these was the lack of any consumables, which vastly reduced the ongoing costs of photography.

The move was also aided by IT companies such as Microsoft, which helped develop digital image making software, and IBM, which collaborated in the creation of an internet-based image exchange network. Both of these developments helped spur interest in digital cameras to the point where they outsell traditional film cameras in the West.

“The digital camera market is performing well despite the problems presented by the current economic climate,” says Nikon’s group marketing manager, Jeremy Gilbert. “Here at Nikon, we have seen positive sales figures across our range of digital SLR cameras as well as the consumer Coolpix range.”

Veho founder Steve Lewis agrees that the digital camera market remains extremely vibrant despite a slowdown in consumer spending.

“Digital photography is a completely new area for us,” he tells PCR. “We have only just launched our new Kuzo range of HD camcorders and digital still cameras. The small form Muvi HD camcorder has taken off like a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain.”

A key factor in the ongoing development in the digital camera segment is the ever-growing number of additional features that the medium brings. Unlike traditional film cameras, the digital devices are capable of bringing a host of peripheral functions that can serve to enhance the consumer experience and differentiate the product.

“We’re starting to see that it is no longer all about pixels; brands are looking to include specific features and benefits that will spark the imagination of the consumer,” continues Gilbert. “For example, Nikon recently announced the Coolpix S1000pj, a camera that has a built-in projector that allows you to share images instantly by projecting them onto a wall or surface.

“Cameras are also becoming easier to use. This is evident in the Nikon D3000, a consumer level digital SLR camera that teaches you how to improve your photography skills, thanks to its built-in ‘guide’ mode, which works like an integrated instruction manual but is digestible and user-friendly. This kind of innovation can really make a difference when pitching a product to the consumer marketplace.”

As digital still photography progressed in terms of market share, it was followed by digital video – initially only available in fairly low resolution, but becoming higher and higher definition with each passing month.

“HD will feature heavily with more consumer awareness for the standard,”
Lewis says, adding: “High definition cameras and camcorders will be the standard consumer item by the next fourth quarter.”

Although some might argue that the digital camera market is under threat from the mobile phone segment, many of which now come with integrated cameras, the simplicity of use and higher quality of the dedicated devices ensure that – for the time being at least – they remain the photographic instrument of choice for both domestic and professional users.

“Personally, I don’t think that the market is under threat from mobile phones,” says Lewis. “There’s just too much additional technology to cram in a phone, unless the customer wants a breeze block in their pocket.”

Widget’s chairman, Mark Needham, agrees that the mobile phone currently does not present a realistic alternative to the camera. “The features and usability of personal video camcorders are still several steps ahead of mobile phones. Try taking a video on a Flip camcorder, then trying to take the same scene on a
mobile phone – typically the action is over before you have got the phone into video mode and shooting,” he says.

Gilbert, however, is slightly more forgiving of the mobile phone segment, believing that the devices can create an interest in the real deal. “If camera phones are sparking an interest in people taking pictures, that is positive as it is encouraging an interest in photography,” he concludes.

“However, if people want quality images they may find a camera phone is limiting due to the physical size of the sensor, which is an element that determines quality images. To get the best images possible, there really is only one choice.”

Veho Kuzo HD
Distributor: Widget
SRP: £129.99

The Veho Kuzo is a 1080p True HD five megapixel camcorder that features a three-inch touchscreen interface and 20x optical zoom. As well as taking video, the device can capture high quality still images and includes motion detection, video stabilisation and YouTube upload software.

Sanyo Xacti HD2000
Distributor: VIP
SRP: £295.99

The HD2000 features a Xacti HD lens, a high-speed CMOS sensor and a new high-speed processor to capture high-resolution images. It also records clear and smooth 1920 x 1080p full HD video.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-WH1
Distributor: VIP
SRP: £184.99

Waterproof to a depth of ten feet, the VPC-WH1 has been designed to work outdoors in any weather. Like the TH1, this device records in MPEG-4 format and offers 30x zoom with face chaser functionality, as well as taking two megapixel high quality stills.

Aiptek Pocket DV T300 LE
Distributor: Gem
SRP: £69.99

The Pocket DV T300 LE claims to be the smallest multi-function digital video recorder supporting video stabiliser and nightshot functionality. The device features a five megapixel CMOS sensor, creating 11 megapixel still images maximum, and MPEG-4 video recording up to 720 x 480 pixels.

Aiptek Pocket DV AHD 200
Distributor: Gem
SRP: £99.99

The AHD 200 shares many features with the AHD 100, including 720p high definition recording at 30 frames per second and night mode. The AHD 200 also carries HDTV, standard TV, 32GB SDHC card support, and includes a remote control that Aiptek says makes the device perfect for recording on the move.

Nikon Coolpix S1000pj
Distributor: Direktek
SRP: £399

The key selling point of this device is that it carries the world’s first integrated ultra compact image projector, which can project images sized from five to 40 inches. The Coolpix S1000pj also takes images up to 12.1 megapixels, with a 5x zoom and a 2.7-inch high resolution LCD monitor.

Olympus μ Tough-8000
Distributor: Midwich
SRP: £227

Waterproof up to a depth of ten metres, the Tough-8000 as also shockproof to a height of two metres and includes a precision 3.6x wide optical zoom. Tap control allows the user to take pictures by tapping the body of the camera, and it offers Dual Image Stabilisation for sharp images even when at long zoom or shooting in low light.

Nikon Coolpix P90
Distributor: Direktek
SRP: £275

The Coolpix P90’s main feature is its 24x Zoom- Nikkor lens, with a focal range from 26mm wide angle to 624mm super telephoto capacity. It offers 12.1 effective megapixels, image sensor shift, VR stabilisation and a three-inch vari-angle LCD display.

Olympus μ 9000
Distributor: Midwich
SRP: £177

With a powerful 10x optical zoom and features such as face detection and ‘intelligent auto mode’, this is a camera that aims to ensure that all the action is captured. The device has a 2.7- inch HyperCrystal 3 LCD preview screen and a TruePic 3 image processor for faster image handling.

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