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Sony camera puts image on disk

A new digital still camera stores pictures on floppy disks, a step toward improved data exchange standards between digital cameras and other devices.

A new digital still camera from Sony (SNE) allows users to store pictures on inexpensive floppy disks instead of more common, high-priced storage devices.

Also, major Japanese electronics companies are working toward standards for exchanging data between digital cameras and other devices.

Sony says the new "Digital Mavica" camera can store up to 40 color images at standard 640-by-480-pixel resolution on one disk by using image compression technology. The disk can be removed from the camera and directly used on most PCs or Macintosh computers, the company said.

The camera will be available in two models. Both will feature a 2.5-inch LCD display to view current and stored images.

A built-in flash and timer are included, and a lithium ion battery can last up to 500 shots on one charge, according to Sony. The MVC-FD7 adds a 10X optical zoom lens, manual or auto focus, and several preprogrammed exposure and picture-editing settings.

The standard camera (MVC-FD5) has a suggested retail price of $599 and is expected to be available next month. The MVC-FD7 has a suggested retail price of $799 and is expected to be available in late August.

The lower cost of floppy disks should also make the new Digital Mavica camera appealing to business users such as real estate agents, who can send pictures of houses to prospective buyers, as well as consumers who want to send pictures to friends or family members, Sony said.

The U.S. consumer market for digital cameras is forecast to grow at double-digit rates, generating $478 million in 2003, according to Frost and Sullivan, a market research firm.

In related news, Sony, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, and three other Japanese companies said they had jointly developed a protocol for exchanging digital image data between digital still cameras and other consumer electronics devices made by different manufacturers.

The new protocol, called IrTran-P, makes it possible to transfer data from a digital camera of one manufacturer which uses an infrared data communication interface to other digital cameras, video printers, digital video recorders, and personal computers made by different companies which also use infrared data communication interfaces, they said in a statement.

Infared data communication is a form of wireless communication between PCs and peripherals.

Other companies developing the technology include Casio Computer, Sharp, and Okaya Systemware.

Casio, Sharp, and Sony will work to develop commercial products, which utilize the new protocol-based communication module, while Okaya will develop and supply IrTran-P-based software modules used in PCs and personal digital assistants, the companies said.

Reuters contributed to this story.