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Fuji expands digital camera line

The company unveils three new high-end digital cameras, hoping to win favor in a prestigious but low-volume segment of the market.

Fuji Photo Film unveiled three new high-end digital cameras Wednesday, hoping to win favor in a prestigious but low-volume segment of the market.

The new models include the FinePix F601 with 3.1 megapixel resolution, video and audio recording, and an optional docking cradle that simplifies battery charging and transfer of images to a PC. The F601 will be available in April at $599.

Also new to the FinePix line are the S602 and the S2 Pro, high-end models packed with features aimed mainly at professional photographers. The S602 will be available in June, while the S2 Pro is slated for an unspecified date in the second half of this year. Fuji did not set prices for those models.

IDC analyst Chris Chute said all the new models fall above the mass-market level. "For most of this year and into 2002, the sweet spot is going to remain at 2 megapixels and prices between $299 and $399," he said.

The F601's docking cradle imitates a successful feature introduced by Eastman Kodak to simplify image transfer, Chute said. "We believe it's helping Kodak sell more cameras, and now you're seeing Hewlett-Packard imitate it," he said. "It's not going to do the same for Fuji, though, because they're using it for a higher-end product."

Fuji ranked fifth in IDC's latest ranking of the U.S. digital camera market, behind Sony, Olympus, Hewlett-Packard and Kodak. Worldwide, Fuji ranks third, according to an InfoTrends survey, which again put Sony and Olympus at the top.

Although the new cameras aren't aimed at the mass market, Chute said, they can help Fuji earn bragging rights.

"It's aimed at professionals...and in that area there's a lot of technology bravado," he said. "I think they're looking to start off the year with some buzz. Then, later this year, I'm sure they'll have new iterations of some of their lower-end models."