Digital cameras are going upscale, with features similar to their film counterparts.
Olympus is marketing digital cameras with all the features of upscale single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, such as interchangeable lenses, manual exposure functions, and higher resolution. Better yet, these cameras can be had at prices close to or below $1,000.
Kodak, meanwhile, is sticking with the point-and-shoot form factor of most digital cameras, but achieving resolution associated with more high-end cameras.
These kinds of cameras, prominent at Comdex, open up a new niche in the digital camera market, namely, the high-end consumer market. Until now, consumer-level digital cameras have resembled and generally functioned like point-and-shoot cameras. Lenses usually could not be changed and the user had only limited control over the exposure and focus. The photographer often looked through a viewfinder, rather than the lens itself.
Resolution on these digital cameras, moreover, has typically been below the "megapixel", or million square pixels per image, range. Various analysts have said that digital cameras need to achieve this level of resolution before they can begin to equal the images that can be obtained through film (digital cameras with megapixel resolution have in fact been available for a while, but at high price points) .
The Olympus D-850 and D-600L contain the features that can be found on high-end hobbyist cameras, said Al Schroeder, an Olympus representative. Shutter speed can be set manually and vary in length from one-fourth of a second to 1/10,000 of a second. Conversely, users may also adjust the aperture when shooting to increase the depth of field. For storage, the cameras have capacity for 24 regular-resolution images, 10 high-quality images, or three super-high-quality images.
Currently, zoom, telephoto, and macro lenses are available for the cameras while a wide-angle lens is on the way. Users also look directly through the lens of the camera, and therefore can view the exact image of the photograph when shooting.
The D-850 will feature a megapixel resolution when released in the near future, Schroeder said. It will cost $799. Already on the market, the D-600L has a resolution of 1280-by-1024, or 1.3 million pixels, and costs $1,299.
Kodak showcased its DC-210 Zoom camera. The DC-210, previewed in September, has a resolution of 1152-by-864, approximately a megapixel, and comes with a 2X zoom lens. It costs $799.
Digital cameras are considered by many one of technology's prime growth markets.
"Digital cameras are expected to grow 37 percent by the year 2001, and that's pretty high and is a pretty hot market," said Ron Tussy, a digital camera analyst for International Data Corporation. "PCs are only growing at an 18 to 20 percent rate."
Tussy said improved image quality and declining prices are already fueling sales of digital cameras.