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After 2 years, HP's back in camera game--sort of

A year after we thought it'd given up, HP seems to have found an OEM to produce cameras and camcorders for it.

A little more than 2 years ago, HP announced that it was ceasing whatever little original work it had been doing for its digital camera business and searching for an original equipment manufacturer to do the work for it. After a year of silence from the company, we thought that it had realized that the world could live without its cheap offerings, which we always found generic at best.

Silly us.

Out of the blue, and oddly with no acknowledgment that it had been out of the business for two years, HP announced its spring 2010 camera lineup--now with cheap camcorders, too! The news release clearly shows that the company is a bit rusty in the market, though; the most interesting thing it could come up with to lead off was that the six models, three cameras and three camcorders, come "with features such as LCD displays, up to 5x optical zoom and fashionable colors." But that's unsurprising, given that the products seem to fall under the company's Personal Systems Division--the computer folks--rather than any of its imaging departments.

The decision to stay in the market and OEM the cameras might have made sense two years ago, before companies like Sony, Canon, and Nikon were routinely selling decent sub-$200 models, but now? The cheap camcorder market is similarly crowded. According to HP, when the products ship this spring they'll be available through "select" retailers. I'm guessing they'll be available wherever HP PCs are sold, and will likely be part of special bundles and up-sell packages.