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Standard definition, hard-drive camcorders absent from CES 2012

Prognostications and speculations on what we can expect to see in digital imaging at CES 2012.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
Sony announced the extremely popular Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V at the last show.

Despite the presence of the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show, integrated for the first time into the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, it looks like the next show may have the fewest new camera announcements in recent memory.

In fact, the PMA exhibitor list looks woefully small, and seems to be populated by accessory manufacturers. It's not unusual for the show to have a lot of the little guys, but with all the camera manufacturers displaying their wares on the main show floor (or not showing at all, like Olympus), it's clear that the consumer camera market has evolved beyond the necessity for a show of its own. At least in the U.S., that is. Manufacturers will still be making their annual late-winter announcements, but it looks like the relatively new CP+ show in Japan, which runs February 9 through 12, is becoming the hub of that activity.

Say goodbye to hard drives, standard def
With more manufacturers producing HD camcorders from low-resolution sensors, and therefore at relatively cheap prices, I think we've seen the last of the standard-definition models. And while the number of hard-drive-based models has been dwindling for a while, I think this year's shortages mean we can stick a fork in the category. These are two trends to stick in the win column.

Say hello to more wireless, GPS options
I suspect we'll see some ramping up in the number of camera and camcorder models with Wi-Fi and GPS support in order to compete with those capabilities, which come baked into phones. And of course the expansion of those features within models that already have them.

Fewer cheap cameras and minicamcorders
Whether it's a result of 2011's natural disasters in the East, continuing economic troubles worldwide, or phones eating the low-hanging camera fruit is unclear, but signs point to more-consolidated product lines at the cheap end of the spectrum. Yay! While some manufacturers will continue to barrage us with five point-and-shoots under $150, overall I expect to see the total number of models announced look a lot more rational. Camera phones have also put a dent in the demand for general-purpose minicamcorders like the now-defunct Flip, so look for some consolidation and specialization here. In general, I also think we'll see a lot more marketing spin dedicated to pointing out the benefits of a standalone device vs. the all-in-one approach of using a phone.

More pixels, zoom
I'm getting the sense that even the marketing folks are frustrated by all the absurd increases in sensor resolution and zoom lengths, but are trapped by shoppers for whom the biggest numbers prevail. Stop it people. And physics is starting to catch up with the more-compact devices, making it harder to eke out the stratospheric specs on the slim profit margins for these models. So be on the lookout for more interpolation solutions that give you faux high-resolution stills and bigger fake zoom numbers, especially in camcorders.

It's not all megamegapixels and superduperultrazooms, though; I think there will be some notable announcements scheduled for the week of CES that you'll want to check out.