Magazine Article


The State of the Imaging Industry 2004

This year as in the past, it is essential that everyone in our industry encourage consumers to make prints. Whether at retail utilizing traditional photofinishing channels or self-service photo kiosks or high-quality home printing, consumers need to convert their non-stop stream of transient digital images into hard-copy prints to enjoy and share with others. Unless they find their way to print from digital, consumers will not only be missing out on an age-old tradition of getting prints, they will also be missing out on an important facet of digital photography.

Get Charged by the Digital Explosion

by Vyomesh Joshi
Executive Vice President, HP's Imaging & Printing Group Having been in the imaging and printing business for more than 20 years now, never have I seen such an exciting time than with the explosion of the digital photography market. Over the past few years, we've witnessed an industry transform itself through the convergence of the photography, telecommunications, PC and media industries. There has been a great deal of progress made in the digital photography space over just a short amount of time, but there still exist opportunities to be pursued as well as barriers to be removed.

Photo dealers and minilab owners as well as leading digital photography companies like HP should continue to focus their efforts on making the overall photography experience a simple and rewarding one for consumers—from capture to share to print. With that, there is one burning question that seems to be on many minds—where will consumers print? At home? At retail? Online? The answer as we see it—all of the above. While today HP focuses its efforts and expertise on home photo printing, we believe that consumers will likely utilize a mix of options for printing their photos thus providing a huge opportunity for many in the industry. With this opportunity comes the challenge for all of us to continue working towards removing barriers that stand in the way of consumers achieving this great experience.

Over the past few years we've witnessed manufacturers, in many cases competing manufacturers, come together to tear down barriers through the development of industry standards, such as PictBridge. I am pleased to see that progress continues to be made around standards in this market and that more and more companies are coming to the table in an effort to deliver a better experience for the consumer. The Mobile Imaging and Printing Consortium (MIPC), which was formed by HP, Canon and Epson to develop solutions and implementation guidelines for printing images captured with camera phones, is a great example of this. The MIPC recently announced that six new members have joined, including Kodak, Fuji, Lexmark, Motorola, NEC and Olivetti Tecnost.

How does all of this translate into the products and solutions that companies like HP deliver to the market? At HP, we are focused on three key areas that we believe are crucial to creating an enjoyable photography experience for the consumer—quality, ease of use and affordability. In fact, just in time for photokina, HP recently introduced a new line of digital photography solutions that deliver in these three areas and reinforce our commitment in this space. This offering includes new digital cameras and photo printers, which are supported by a new line of branded inks and specialty papers, make it better, faster and more affordable than ever to print at home and even on the go.

To say that this is a market opportunity would be an understatement. We continue to be charged by the explosive opportunities that exist for us to work together to deliver the best overall digital photography experience to consumers. It is when we work together as an industry, we all win—the manufacturers, the retailers and most importantly the consumer.

Overcoming RAW File Chaos
by Bryan Lamkin,
Senior Vice President, Digital Imaging and Digital Video, Adobe Systems The digital photography industry is at a crossroads in its evolution: the proliferation of different camera RAW file formats and the pace of innovation threaten to make digital photographs taken even in the recent past potentially inaccessible in just a few years.

RAW files evolved out of the camera manufacturers' desire to give professional users more control over their final images. Rather than complete all of the processing of the file inside the camera, the idea was to give photographers the freedom to modify and refine images on their computer desktops.

Unfortunately, no standard file format existed for storing RAW image files, so each manufacturer had to design its own format. Furthermore, because the contents of the RAW file were so dependent on the design of the camera, the tendency has been for manufacturers to make slightly different RAW formats for each camera. The vast majority of these formats are not publicly documented, making it challenging for third-party vendors to support them. With so many different formats, it's difficult even for camera manufacturers to support them all.

The new Digital Negative (.DNG) specification addresses a critical need in the market: photographers want to be able to treat RAW files as the digital equivalent of the film negative. They're understandably nervous, however, about storing camera-specific formats in their long-term archives, for fear that they won't be able to open these undocumented formats in years to come.

Designed to work with all cameras, the new Digital Negative (.DNG) specification ensures images will never become obsolete.

Opportunities Exist in Education

by John Clough
President, Casio, Inc. Casio believes that digital imaging can be broken up into five separate categories: picture capture, editing, saving, sharing and finally printing. It is with this in mind that Casio sees high growth, heavy consumer interest and fast changing technologies as the main strengths of the digital imaging industry. It is the ability to do things that could not be done with film photography that is creating this interest.

However, manufacturers tend to assume that the consumer is much more "PC centric" than is really true across the mass market and there are still many challenges across the entire spectrum of the industry.

Opportunities for the photo channel exist in the education of consumers across all the new and fast changing technologies that address the broader category.