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Kodak to release "megapixel" camera

Kodak will release a digital camera that approaches traditional cameras in quality but sells for $600, much less than current comparable products.

The next-wave of lower-priced "megapixel" digital cameras are coming.

Kodak (EK) and Fuji, among others, will release digital cameras that achieve a resolution of 1 million pixels per image that will likely retail for $600 to $800.

The price-performance combination these cameras present

Kodak's DC-200
will likely mark an important milestone in the growth of the digital camera market, according to analysts. Megapixel cameras will still not match the depth or resolution of traditional cameras, but they will be much closer in quality and price. Megapixel cameras have been around for a while but at higher price points. (See related story)

These devices, which deliver 1-million-pixel image resolution, outdo standard digital cameras in the quality of the photograph produced. Standard low-cost cameras such as Hewlett-Packard?s PhotoSmart only deliver about 300,000 pixels for about $300.

"Kodak and Fuji are perhaps the trickle before the flood. There as many as a half-dozen megapixels in the $600 range coming out in the next month," said Carl Holec, senior imaging analyst at ARS, a market analysis firm. "These are good enough to give you photo-quality output on a 5-by-7-inch print. Two megapixels will be next. These will be good enough to for 8-by-10-inch quality prints,"

The watershed for these announcements is expected to be the Photographic Marketing Association Show in New Orleans, which starts February 11, added Holec. Announcements and other digital camera news may occur before the show. Sources close to Kodak have said that the photographic giant plans on unveiling a professional-quality digital camera on February 2.

Kodak's megapixel camera is for consumers, said Holec, and will be called the DC-200. The camera, which will retail for around $600, will be very similar to Kodak's current DC-210 except it one important detail: The DC-200 may not come with a zoom feature.

"The zoom costs a couple of hundred," he noted. The DC-210 currently retails for $799. The DC-210 features a resolution of 1152-by-864 pixels and processes images that can then be dropped directly into widely-used JPEG or FlashPix file formats for PCs. Other features include video output for viewing pictures on TV and infrared transfer for wireless downloading of pictures. It comes with an integrated flash and can store up to 59 pictures.

Fuji, meanwhile, will release its MX-100 digital camera, which is expected to boast of a 1.5 million pixel resolution. The camera will come in a compact design and should cost around $700 to $800, according to Holec.

Most digital cameras that achieve megapixel resolution cost more than $1,000. The DL-600 from Olympus, for instance, costs approximately $1,300. As for innovation, Olympus representatives have indicated that the company is working on technology that will attach wide-angle lenses as well as other types of lenses to digital cameras. Typically, digital cameras come with standard or zoom lenses that are built into the body.

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies had a more skeptical view of the market in 1998 than Holec. Megapixel cameras will probably come in at higher price points and may not enjoy a rush of demand just yet, he said. Nonetheless, the price-performance points being achieved by manufacturers are bringing the reality of a mass consumer phenomenon closer.