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Digital cameras at CES: Predictions

What does this year's Consumer Electronics Show have in store for the digital camera enthusiast? Delights galore, or unending disappointment and fear?

Digital SLR enthusiasts can keep their lens caps on during CES -- no one is expecting any major releases until later in the year. Still, we should see a fair number of new compact cameras from fringe manufacturers, and hopefully we'll witness something wonderfully quirky like last year's show-stealing dual-lens camera, the Kodak Easyshare V570 (pictured).

Canon and Nikon will have a strong presence at CES, but are likely to flaunt their wares from the end of last year, rather that unveil anything to shake journalists from their fugue.The emphasis in this market remains on megapixels -- a hugely misleading, but nonetheless oddly persuasive, measurement of a digital camera's abilities. Expect to see 6- and 7-megapixel compacts edged out by newer 8-megapixel models, but don't expect any radical improvements in optics.

The more interesting developments in this area may be coupled to the lowly mobile phone. While mobile phone camera users have traditionally been sneered at as halfwit photographer-wannabes, the last year has seen significant news stories broken by these same dilettantes.

Most recently, the footage of Saddam Hussein's execution has drawn attention to the social impact of modern phones. The truly open-minded digital camera enthusiast will be interested in what kind of stills capabilities are built into the mobile phones at CES -- this is where the real innovation is likely to be seen. -CS