Casio will unveil the new cameras at the Macworld trade show in New York tomorrow, announcing its return to a market it helped pioneer. Macworld is a sprawling trade show featuring products from many companies but mostly from Apple Computer.
After launching a camera called the QV-10 in 1995, Casio cameras faded from prominence. Since that time, picture quality has greatly improved: Resolutions of pictures from digital cameras--as measured by the number of pixels per image--have increased from under one million pixels per image to more than two million pixels.
At the same time, a number of companies, including IBM, Iomega, and Sony have introduced various methods of simplifying storage of the rather large and unwieldy digital image files. IBM, for instance, recently launched a mini-hard drive that can be attached to a camera and is capable of storing 400 high-resolution images.
Casio will launch the QV-5500SX, QV-2000UX, and QV-8000SX tomorrow. With its new products, the company has exploited the vast improvements in picture quality over the last few years while improving the often-laborious process of moving images from the camera to PC, observers say. In addition, the QV-2000UX supports the IBM micro-drive hard disk.
Such advances in technology, coupled with falling camera prices, have led to a boom in sales of cameras, peripherals, and software. Worldwide digital camera shipments will reach 4.7 million this year, according to market research firm International Data Corporation, growing to 22 million shipments by 2003.
Annually, digital camera shipments are expected to grow 48 percent through 2003, IDC predicts, with revenue increasing 25 percent each year. The worldwide digital camera market will account for $6.4 billion in sales by 2003.
"Casio's gradual demise from the U.S. digital camera market over the past two years has been a difficult situation for the company, especially after claiming an early lead in the digital camera market," said Carl Holec, an analyst at ARS. "These models could be just what Casio needs to regain some of the market strength it used to enjoy."
The QV-8000SX and QV-2000UX, which offer picture resolutions of 1.31 and 2.11 megapixels, respectively, both include Casio's new Photo Loader software. Photo Loader automatically transfers images to either a Windows or Apple Macintosh computer via the USB cable or CompactFlash memory card. This is a major improvement upon existing methods of transferring images, according to Holec.
"If this works as promised, the Photo Loader method could be among the easiest and most versatile ways to transfer and organize images in a computer," he said.
The QV-5500SX offers 1.3-megapixel images, which are stored in HTML format for easy viewing in a Web browser, according to Casio.
Casio has not announced prices on the new models yet, but Holec expects the new cameras to range from $599 to $799.