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High-end camera's low cost reflects trend

Sony's forthcoming 4-megapixel digital camera, priced at $600, is another sign that prices for high-end cameras are dropping rapidly.

Sony Electronics on Tuesday announced a new digital camera with a resolution of 4 megapixels and a price of $600, another sign of rapidly dropping prices for high-end cameras.

The DSC-P9 model is a slim point-and-shoot model aimed at advanced hobbyists. It is slated to go on sale in May, according to a Sony statement.

While its price would have been a bargain a few months ago, it qualifies the new camera as a "premium" product in today's market, said IDC analyst Chris Chute, noting that Eastman Kodak recently introduced a 4-megapixel camera priced at $399.

"Prices are dropping a little bit faster than we expected," Chute said, with the upshot being that consumers are getting more camera for the $300 to $400 most want to spend.

Two-megapixel cameras accounted for 35 percent of the digital camera market last year, compared with 19 percent for 3-megapixel models, Chute said. He expects the distribution to be nearly even this year, at around 32 percent.

"What's pushing that is the 4-megapixel cameras," he said. "Prices for those cameras have dropped really sharply, and that's pushing the rest of the market."