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CES Wrap-up

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*January 12, 2006 – *The 2,500 exhibitors have packed up and left the Consumer Electronics Show, leaving Las Vegas to recover from America’s largest trade show and leaving attendees to reflect on the coming year’s newest technology. About 30 new digital cameras were released and several trends have already emerged from the introductions. Uncommon features became common and manufacturers experimented with the digital medium more in 2006.

The new standard size for an LCD screen is 2.5 inches, but the resolution is dependent upon the price point. Decent cameras will offer 230,000 pixels on the screen, but budget models will only have 115,000 or so. Some cameras are incorporating 3-inch screens, but the standard likely won’t get larger than that because of the overall trim and compact size of digital cameras.

Other trendy features are becoming more commonplace. 3x optical zoom lenses are still the average for point-and-shoots, but 4x and 5x lenses are gaining ground. Image stabilization and zoom in movie mode is more common and cheaper than it used to be. The Panasonic Lumix LS2 offers those features for a retail price under $200. Pentax cameras added shake reduction systems this year, as did some of the Kodaks. As the digital camera market matures, better cameras are being offered. More compact cameras include higher ISO sensitivities than ever before as manufacturers pay attention to imaging in low light. The $199 Sony S600 has ISO 800 and 1000 settings and the $349 Fujifilm V10 has ISO 800 and 1600 settings. Speed is becoming affordable now, as even cheap models reduce shutter lag and start-up times. More manufacturers are offering in-camera editing options as well, showing a desire to eliminate the computer from the process.

Another feature included on most digital cameras this year is internal memory. Even cheap cameras include a little bit. Some models are offering much more, though. Last year’s Kodak EasyShare-one was the first digital camera to offer a lot of memory with its 256 MB. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 followed with 64 MB. At CES, the Sony M2 was announced with its 57 MB of internal memory and the Samsung Miniket VP-MS15 made its debut with a whopping 512 MB.

These digital cameras have a lot of internal storage so they can act as "pocket albums." Now consumers can slip out their cameras and play slide shows of their pictures complete with fancy transitions and music. Many manufacturers are also producing larger memory cards now that consumers can use them in multiple devices and are storing more and more pictures upon them. Sony released 4 and 8 GB MemoryStick media and SanDisk released those capacities in SD card form.

The need for more memory could also stem from the convergence of digital cameras with camcorders. Consumers who use the movie mode require more memory. Panasonic is incorporating some of its camcorder technology into its digital cameras. Other manufacturers that produce both digital cameras and camcorders are merging their technologies as well. This is evident in the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M2, which aims to be a hybrid camera-camcorder.

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Other types of convergence are happening this year. Digital cameras and cell phones collided a few years ago and their megapixel counts have climbed to match those of traditional digital camera models. But this year, Kodak announced a collaboration with Motorola to create a camera phone with EasyShare technology. This shows that camera phones are closing in on the digital camera market and may soon offer legitimate imaging technology. Fujifilm tried to converge a digital camera with a portable consol game player in its release of the FinePix V10. The V10 has four games on it and still offers solid digital camera features.

The Fujifilm FinePix V10 is just one of many experimental models introduced at CES. Many manufacturers are producing cameras that don’t just take pictures anymore. The V10 offers games, the Sony M2 records video and organizes pictures by date, and the Samsung i6 plays MP3 files. Kodak released the innovative EasyShare V570, which has two lenses and two sensors in a tiny camera body. Nikon included experimental face-recognition technology on its Coolpix line last year and several manufacturers, including Kodak, are talking about developing it this year.

Manufacturers are choosing to market their products to more specific target audiences as well. Now a model isn’t just for point-and-shooters, but it is for female point-and-shooters who are constantly sharing photos directly from a camera or enthusiasts who want lots of zoom in a pocket-sized model. Last year’s Kodak EasyShare V530 was released in pink, supposedly to appeal to women. The Fujifilm FinePix V10 is being released in orange and gunmetal-colored camera bodies.

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