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HP expands digital photo push

The computing giant announces a new line of printers and digital cameras aimed at putting professional-quality prints into the hands of consumers.

Hewlett-Packard on Monday announced a new line of printers and digital cameras intended to make it easier for consumers to make professional-quality photo prints.

The computing giant said that HP's new Photosmart 7550, 7350 and 7150 printers, when used with its high-end paper, would produce prints that won't noticeably fade for 73 years--twice as long as prints from retail photofinishers.

The company also introduced three new cameras, the Photosmart 720, 620 and 320, each of which include the new Instant Share system for one-click transmission of saved images to printers, e-mail programs and other applications.

HP is in the middle of a far-ranging effort to position the company as the leading force in digital imaging, selling everything from the servers that run online photo-sharing sites to the cameras that take the photos. Printers were acknowledged as the "crown jewel" of the company's business during its rough-and-tumble campaign to merge with Compaq Computer.

Chris Chute, digital imaging analyst for research firm IDC, said there's nothing that special about the new cameras or printers. But the way the products work together shows HP's strength in imaging, as camera makers try to convince consumers to dig deeper into digital imaging.

"If you take the pieces of this, there's nothing that revolutionary," Chute said. "If you look at the whole announcement, it's really leveraging HP's strength as far as having a broad peripherals portfolio...That gives them the ability to leverage the entire product line in ways other camera makers can't."

Ken Fleming, HP's marketing manager for digital imaging, said the company is focused on broadening consumer adoption of digital imaging through aggressive pricing on cameras and technology such as Instant Share.

"We're really working to drive that mass-market adoption," he said. "That's a key strategy for us, to make sure everyone has the opportunity to go from film to digital."

Each of the new printers can produce images with resolution of up to 4,800 dots per inch, and each includes a USB port for a direct connection between printer and camera. The 7550 includes an LCD screen for previewing images, and it, along with the 7350, can print images directly from common camera storage media, and includes new support for the Secure Digital format. The Photosmart 130 is a portable printer that can produce 4 inch by 6 inch images directly from camera media. Each of the printers is shipping now, at prices ranging from $399 to $179.

The new cameras have resolution of 2.1 or 3.3 megapixels and are scheduled to begin shipping this fall, at prices ranging from $179 to $329.