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Prices drop on digital cameras

A plethora of manufacturers are bringing prices of high-resolution digital cameras below $500 as the market goes mainstream.

High-quality digital cameras are moving into the mainstream, as a plethora of manufacturers announced today that they are bringing prices of high-resolution digital cameras below $500.

Olympus, Epson, and Agfa all announced low-priced cameras today offering images of more than 1 million-pixel resolution.

So-called megapixel cameras have been widely available as a consumer option only since early last year. While these cameras offer the closest thing to traditional camera photo-quality, the prices have been prohibitively expensive. For example, when introduced in late 1997, the Olympus D-600L with 1.3-megapixel resolution was priced at $1,299.

Price reductions and consumer awareness are igniting a boom in the business. According to Semico Research Report, the digital camera market is expected to grow from 6 million units in 1999 to 26 million units in 2002.

Today, Olympus introduced the D-340R, also with 1.3-megapixel resolution, for $499. The D-340R also features 2X zoom and 8MB of SmartMedia removable memory, which serves as film for digital cameras.

In addition, Olympus announced an entertainment printer designed for digital photographs and images captured with video cameras or still images from television sets. The P-330 Instant Home Photo Printer prints images directly from a digital camera's memory card, according to Olympus. It will retail for $449.

Agfa unveiled its entry-level digital camera, the ePhoto CL30, for $399. The 1.5-megapixel ePhoto features an optical viewfinder and 1.8-inch LCD screen, a 4MB CompactFlash memory card, and 2X digital zoom, as well as a USB connection.

Epson cut prices on its existing megapixel camera, the PhotoPC 700. Offering 1.2-megapixel resolution, 2X digital zoom, and a fast erase feature designed to save memory, the PhotoPC 700 has been discounted from $599 to $499.

Also today, Cirrus Logic announced that it is working with Polaroid and IBM to develop an analog chip for high-resolution digital cameras.