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Digital camera makers think thin

Nikon and Fuji Photo Film announce sleek new digital cameras, as camera makers continue to emphasize style over technology.

Nikon and Fuji Photo Film announced sleek new digital cameras Thursday, as camera makers continue to emphasize style over technology.

Nikon's Coolpix 3500 is an update of the camera maker's Coolpix 2500, which featured a swiveling lens housed in a slim metallic body. The new model bumps the camera's resolution up to 3.2 megapixels and includes a 3x zoom lens, one-touch uploading of images to a PC and automatic resizing of photos for e-mail transmission. The camera is 1.2 inches thick and weighs about 6 ounces. It's set to arrive in stores in November, priced at $400.

Fuji's new entry in the slim-and-silver market is the FinePix F402, a 2.1-megapixel model that measures less than an inch thick and weighs 4.4 ounces. The camera has a fixed-length lens and is one of the first models to use the new xD-Picture Card storage format developed by Fuji and Olympus. The F402 is set to go on sale in November for $350.

Chris Chute, digital imaging analyst for research firm IDC, said that as camera features have become more standardized, manufacturers are putting more emphasis on coming up with the smallest and most stylish models on the market.

"Style is becoming more of a factor as time goes on," Chute said. "Prices are pretty much evening out--for $299, you're probably going to get a 2-megapixel model with optical zoom from a variety of vendors. The only way they can stand out is the physical features."

Camera makers have tried to promote the slim-and-trim models as adjuncts to a high-end camera, useful for spontaneous picture-taking, but Chute said multicamera households are still a ways off.

"There are certain steps that are going to have to be taken to have that carry-around camera become really widespread," Chute said. "For one, the camera has to be pretty fast, where you turn it on and see the picture pretty quickly. With most of the camera today, there's quite a delay before you see results."

Digital cameras have become one of the fastest growing categories in consumer electronics, with U.S. sales increasing 50 percent during the first half of 2002.