Magazine Article


PMA Nooks and Crannies


PMA Nooks & Crannies

February 2001

While there will be loads of BIG news at this years PMA you might want to keep your eyes and ears open to some of the goings-on around the periphery of this years gala. Kinda like's not all happening right around the Magic Kingdom ya know.

With that in mind, we thought we'd peek at some of the items that might be making news...behind the news.

CMOS be our lucky day
Although they won't have a booth at PMA 2001, expect to hear a bit about Motorola's new, low cost, CMOS image sensor. We are told the chip provides 1.3 megapixel resolution for manufacturers of imaging products (such as digital still cameras) and will lift the low end market from having to offer VGA res (640x480) to SXGA (1280x1024) for the same low price. The sensor is dubbed the MCM20027 SXGA image sensor and should lift the CMOS market to a new level of acceptance. Just when you thought all the exciting news was happening at the high end...

Pixel Rain
Speaking of the high end, there is news there as well. Expect the pixel counting to continue in Orlando as at least one digital camera manufacturer has secretly announced they will be showing a 5 million pixel "pro-sumer" digital camera model. PTN can't tell you a whole lot more about this news...other than the bar is headed north yet again.
We've posed the question, "how high can the pixel count be expected to go?" in this space in the past and the answer appeared to be around 6-8 million for a digital camera in the under $1000 range. With all the recent developments on the CMOS sensor front perhaps that number needs some adjusting.

Expanded Joy
Staying with digital cameras for a minute more, the new buzz word PTN is hearing for 2001 in the digital camera arena is "expanded-function" digicams. These would be digital still cameras that do more than just take pictures. Perhaps this trend began with the Olympus/Polaroid effort, the C211 PrintCam and was followed by the Ricoh RDC i700 Internetcam. Certainly all the models that take short video clips qualify as well. PTN has learned that both Olympus and Canon have debuted digicams in Japan that offer direct Internet connectivity and in-camera printing respectively. Both models were apparently quite successful in that market. Neither company has any U.S. distribution planned for these products but what is quite clear is the fact the floodgates are opening on the possibilities here.
What might happen is folks will still buy a digital camera to take pictures, but these "expanded functions" will only serve to heighten the photographic experience for everyone.
An example: Perhaps (digi)cameras will now be left places where they are always accessible - after all, if we can take pictures and immediately print them out or just as immediately send them off to someone, we might suddenly discover many more things that happen during the typical day in our lives that we want to share with all the folks we care about. Right? PTN thinks so. Photography has always been a very special form of expression, but for the masses how typical was it to have 4 or 5 months worth of events sitting on one roll of film...that's still in the camera? Fairly typical is the unfortunate answer to that one. This new breed of digicam is taking the photographic experience (always wonderful) to another level.

Channel Surfing
How about a quick peek at how digital is moving through the various retail channels. Bet you'll hear a bit about this on the show floor. No better place to turn to for that kind of stuff than the people at New York-based NPD Intelect.
No surprise that the "big three" for digital camera sales appear to be photo specialty, electronics specialty and computer/office superstores. From January through September 1999, photo specialty sold 26 percent of all digicams, computer/office superstores were also responsible for about 26 percent and electronic specialty sold 21 percent. From January through September 2000, the numbers for photo specialty held steady at about 26 percent, but electronic specialty jumped to 30 percent while computer/office superstore fell to 19 percent. What happened?
Apparently the big consumer electronics retailers, the Best Buys, Circuit Cities, etc. took a little longer to recognize that the digital camera was going to be a hot item. Toss in the fact they weren't completely sure on how best to sell it and it becomes clear why they lagged a bit at first. Now that the digital camera is on the fast track it stands to reason that consumers would feel comfortable buying the product in the same store they purchased the computer - thus the jump in the electronic specialty channel.
Interestingly, photo specialty has done well with the higher-end digital cameras due in large part to their knowledge of the many facets of digital imaging. They know the product and they're selling to a knowledgeable client base: usually a photo hobbyist. The rap on the other channels has always been that the customer is leaving the store with a box, while at photo specialty they are leaving with a product they know how to use. The electronics chains can usually offer the better price due to the large volume of product they are buying. However, they have also done well with in-store promotion and product placement. Folks are assaulted with the stuff and get the chance to touch and play. Many of the photo specialty stores PTN visits are still incorporating digital among their 35mm product and folks can't access and/or handle it.
A combination of their knowledge and the other channels accessibility is in order here.

See you on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Michael McEnaney,