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Digital cameras reach traditional standards

Olympus, Toshiba, and Nikon join Fujifilm in offering cameras capable of images containing over 2 million pixels, greater resolution than some SLR cameras.

Digital camera makers are using this year's Photo Marketing Association trade show as an opportunity to roll out the next big thing, the "two-megapixel" camera.

Industry observers have long believed that the digital imaging market wouldn't really begin to dent traditional camera retail sales until the digital version was capable of similar image quality. That day may have arrived, as major vendors like Olympus, Toshiba, and Nikon introduce cameras capable of recording images with more than 2 million pixels, a higher resolution than some single-lens reflex equipment.

At last year's Photo Marketing Association event, the same vendors were unveiling cameras featuring less than one-megapixel resolution. Much has changed since then: Today, new cameras are available with more than double the image resolution for the same retail price.

"As we begin to see digital cameras with over 2 million pixels of resolution appearing from a variety of manufacturers, we're rapidly approaching the point where the basic physical capabilities of the cameras are 'good enough' for a broad range of applications," concluded a recent report from digital imaging Web site Imaging-Resource.

"Now that the hardware itself is 'good enough,' we expect to see manufacturers more and more try to differentiate their products on the basis of features, ease of use, and creative capabilities," the report said.

Olympus today unveiled its C-2000 Zoom, offering 2.1-megapixel resolution, infrared remote, 3X optical zoom, 1.8-inch LCD display, and floppy disk compatibility. The C-2000 Zoom comes with an 8MB SmartMedia removable memory card, which acts as digital film. The camera will retail for $999.

Nikon announced two 2.11-megapixel cameras, the CoolPix 950 and 700 cameras. Expected to retail for around $1,000, the CoolPix 950 comes with optional wide angle and fisheye lenses and is targeted at the high-end market. The CoolPix 700, expected to cost around $700, is targeted at a more mainstream audience, offering fewer manual controls than the 950.

The "new CoolPix 950 digital camera builds upon the reputation [Nikon cameras have] gained of being a product designed for photo enthusiasts," according to a recent report from Carl Holec, a digital imaging analyst at ARS. Cameras offering over 1.3 million pixels offer close to the same resolution of traditional cameras, according to Holec.

Finally, Toshiba announced its "super-megapixel" camera, the PDR-M4. Capable of 2.14 million pixels, the camera also includes USB connectivity and 16MB of internal memory to store images. The PDR-M4 includes a 1.8-inch LCD and 2X digital zoom. Pricing has not yet been determined, according to Toshiba.

Fujifilm announced its own two-megapixel camera earlier this month.