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Logitech enters digital camera scene

The PC peripherals maker is expanding its camera business with the Pocket Digital camera, a thin credit card-size model for the consumer who prefers small, sleek gadgets.

The digital camera market got more crowded Wednesday, as PC peripherals maker Logitech revealed its first standalone camera.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company is one of the leading manufacturers of Webcams, digital cameras that connect directly to PCs and, in some cases, can be undocked to function as low-resolution digital cameras.

The company is expanding its camera business with the Pocket Digital camera, a thin credit card-size model with a resolution of 1.3 megapixels and a sleek brushed-aluminum chassis. The camera will go on sale next month for $129.

The camera has 16MB of built-in memory, enough to store 52 images, but no removable storage support.

Dave O'Brien, product manager for Logitech, said size and style are the main selling points for the camera.

"We saw a need in the market that wasn't being addressed by the bulkier cameras other suppliers were offering," he said. "We think this is ideal as the second camera in the family, something you can put in your golf bag or purse and have it there when there's a photo opportunity."

Chris Chute, digital-imaging analyst for research firm IDC, said going for small and sexy is a good strategy for anyone entering the camera market.

"The market is becoming commoditized pretty quickly; the cameras from the different vendors are all pretty much the same as far as the basic features," Chute said. "It's getting harder for vendors to have their products stand out, so the physical design can really make a big difference."

Profits also tend to be better for high-style cameras, Chute said.

"There's definitely a trend towards vendors offering more expensive, chichi cameras," he said. "It's a little like the cell phone market: You can get a cell phone for free and it'll work, but a lot of people would rather pay to have something sleek and well-designed."

Digital camera makers have been in a race lately to shrink their wares. Fuji is touting its Axia SlimShot as the world's thinnest digital camera, measuring less than a quarter of an inch thick. Casio last month announced the credit card-size EX-M1, weighing less than 3 ounces.

O'Brien said Logitech wanted to hit the right balance between size and function, noting that many tiny cameras have low-resolution image sensors and limited controls.

"We were going for something that was very portable but had enough presence that it wasn't seen as a toy," he said. "It's a real camera."

Chute said Logitech has a good shot at cracking the camera market, thanks to its brand recognition for Webcams and existing relationships with computer and electronics retailers.

"This is not a $400 camera that the store has to keep locked up behind a counter," he said. "Logitech can just add this to the product displays they have in stores."