Sony Takes Aim at Digital Photofinishing Market
Digital Dollars Creating Stampede for Digital Photofinishing Services
By Jerry Lansky
This is a test.
Which of these five electronics companies are now offering digital cameras for sale: Sony, Epson, Hewlett Packard, Casio, Toshiba.
If you answered that they all do, let me know and I'll send you a gold star.
Just imagine. Such prestigious brand names as Canon, Kodak, Minolta, Nikon, Agfa, Olympus, Fuji and many more find themselves competing with giant firms that only a few years ago were never in the camera business at all.
How well have the digitals done? Last year, according to PMA, over four million digital cameras were sold, leapfrogging APS cameras which were under three million and setting their sights on the 10 million point-and-shoots. How far away is that? InfoTrends Research Group is forecasting digital camera sales for 2001 to be 9.4 million units. They say that would represent a penetration of 18% of all households. Of even more concern to the photofinisher is this statement from the InfoTrends report: "digital camera users use less film as a result of owning a digital camera." Surprise, surprise.
Of course, the old line camera brands have jumped on the digital bandwagon and are participating in this tsunami. Isn't it interesting (and maybe thankful) that the electronic guys haven't gone into 35mm?
The bottom line is that the traditional camera folks are now in a position of having to share what was once theirs alone. Even worse, they let the electronics industry steal the imagination of the consumer with innovation that has led to the hottest selling category. What APS hoped for, digital achieved.
According to Carl Bothner, vp, Xerox Pixography Group, with this system a customer will insert his/her digital media into the kiosk drive and, using a touch screen, will order a variety of output products, some of which are not common in minilabs: business cards, brochures, postcards, scrapbooks, and more.
The output device is the Xerox DocuColor 12 that uses neither dye-sub or ink jet but Xerox toner. Carl said the machine has been around a few years and that there are a few thousand of them in the field.
The DocuColor 12 is especially interesting because of its capability of duplex printing, meaning it will print on two sides of a sheet. Thus, a two-sided album page or two sided brochure using images entered into the kiosk by the consumer are possible. Folding is another feature. Carl acknowledges that the output is "near photo quality." Such candor is welcome in our industry, Carl.
Carl sees the Pixography kiosk as a value-added opportunity for the quick print shop that will now be able to offer services from digital capture media. The kiosk, with a flat bed scanner but without the DocuColor 12 printer, costs about $14,000. Adding the Xerox DocuCutter 545 finisher brings the price to about $20,000. Carl said that there are already hundreds of the Pixography kiosks operating in the field. By the way, if there are any aggressive minilabbers out there who are looking to expand services, the DocuColor 12 is available for about $30,000.
He indicated that for now "the Pixography kiosk is not geared for the photo channel" and "there is no program for the photo industry." However, Xerox did run a full page ad in a recent trade publication stating "we believe the retail quick printers do refer to and read photo publications."
The quick printer is apparently yet another industry, along with the electronic folks, in pursuit of serving the digital shooter.
- Jerry Lansky
I guess credit for energizing the digital camera boom must be awarded to Sony who, in 1997, introduced the Mavica, an instant hit then and so remains. Since then the industry has grown from floppy disc storage and into megapixel capture.
With the electronic industry now well entrenched in the camera side of the industry, might there be other digital paths to encroachment in photo? As a matter of fact, yes. The sights are now being set on photofinishing. Guess who is knocking on the door: Sony.