NORDview: Overview

Overview

The Digital Camera Revolution

The digital camera is causing a revolution in the imaging market - imaging has gone digital! Film giants such as Eastman Kodak and Fuji Photo Film have recognized that their future is in digital technology and have begun the corporate shift to embrace this brave new world. All camera manufacturers offer digital models and new companies are entering the field all the time. The digital camera industry is relatively new and is in an early phase of its maturing cycle with extensive room for new concepts and products.

The digital camera market is experiencing rapid growth. In 1998, worldwide revenues were reported at $1.9 billion with a projected growth to $3.5 billion in 2002. In 2002, worldwide sales are projected to exceed $3 billion representing the sale of 13.2 million units.

Since digital cameras typically are sold with expensive digital film (i.e., $1+ per MB of flash memory cards) capable of only storing between 10 and 40 high resolution photographs, a digital camera requires a computer, with all its inherent complexity, for long-term photo and audio storage, enhancement and playback. NORDview believes this dependency upon the computer is a major obstacle to enhancing the digital camera's mass consumer market appeal.

NORDview believes that a large percentage of digital photographers would prefer an inexpensive easy-to-use dedicated photo appliance to replace the computer, and their initial products, the Portable Digital Photo Albums (PDPA), are that product! The PDPA family extends the picture storage capacity of a digital camera by 1000's of times while providing photo and audio organization and enhancement, playback on a television, internet connection and printing on most popular printers.

The Digital Still Camera Market

The digital still camera market is growing rapidly. Since its introduction in 1991, the digital camera has been focused on the professional photographer and specific vertical market segments. Most professional photographers have made or are in the process of making the transition from conventional silver-halide film to digital photography. The cost saved by eliminating film development and processing, the time saved by having the image available immediately, and the control offered by powerful digital editing techniques are prime factors for this transition.

Digital photography offers numerous advantages to the consumer. Conventional silver-halide film is replaced by reusable digital film (i.e., memory cards) eliminating the repeat cost of purchasing and processing silver-halide film. The immediate gratification of viewing the captured moment removes the uncertainly concerning the quality of the photograph and since the photograph is digital to start with, the immediate sharing of photograph with friends and family via the internet is simplified. Conventional retail outlets and on-line imaging services offer a variety of value-added services such as prints, enlargements and special surface prints (e.g., t-shirts, coffee mugs).

Early consumer digital cameras were in the $2500 range and offered image resolution suitable for a computer monitor but not for prints. These days, digital cameras of this entry quality are available for under $400 and are excellent choices for internet web page creation. The trend though is toward higher resolution cameras suitable for prints and these mega-pixel cameras now retail under $1000. The availability of these photo-quality (mega-pixel) point and shoot digital cameras has resulted in a growth spurt in the digital camera market.

Additional price reductions are expected as new technology enters the market. Current digital cameras use CCD image sensing elements similar to those used in camcorders. A new innovation in digital camera technology is the use of CMOS image sensing elements. The CMOS image sensing element is less expensive than the CCD element it replaces and is expected to cause a significant drop in digital camera prices over the next 18 months. High resolution digital cameras retailing for $300 to $500 will make them very attractive to the mass market.

The typical camera stores its photos as digital data on removable memory cards commonly called digital film. The user is presented with the choice of storing typically 50 to 80 low-resolution photos suitable for a computer screen or typically 10 to 40 high-resolution photos. Unfortunately, digital film is expensive and several digital film memory cards can be more expensive than the camera. Digital film prices will drop in time but new models of digital cameras will produce even higher resolution photographs and the memory size of the files containing these digital image will grow proportionally.

The Dependence on the Computer

The current solution to the limited and expensive photo storage capacity of digital cameras is the computer. Digital photographers must have a computer nearby to accept their photo data whenever the camera's memory is full. For portable operation, this computer must be a laptop, an expensive solution to an already price sensitive camera. The computer is then used for photo storage, enhancement and display.

The digital camera becomes a peripheral to the personal computer.

Camera manufacturers have recognized this problem and have taken the strategy of suggesting that the user not use a computer but print their photos as soon as they are taken and never retain the digital file of the photos. The photograph becomes the only archive! Suggesting photographers carry a printer with them and never have the ability to return to the source file for additional imaging efforts is not likely to please many customers.

Digital Camera Advantages

Current digital cameras cost considerably more than a comparable quality conventional film camera and, except for the upper end of the market, the image quality is less. Why then would there be a digital camera industry?

Digital Camera Disadvantages

On the other hand, digital cameras do have several disadvantages.

NORDview's Portable Digital Photo Album

NORDview believes there is a much better solution in its line of Portable Digital Photo Albums (PDPA). These inexpensive easy-to-use dedicated photo appliances provide the photographer with immediate access to their photos and can

Best of all, a simple remote control unit guides the PDPA's operation thus eliminating the technology complexity from digital photography.

The PDPAs are much lower in price than a computer and avoid its inherit complexity no complex installation, no software to learn, no system crashes to lose data (i.e., lose pictures). Yet, the PDPA easily attaches to a computer for those who wish to perform more sophisticated image editing.

NORDview sees a substantial need for a product with the features of the PDPA. The PDPA will appeal to everyone using a digital camera and broaden the digital camera market by including the segment of the populace that do not own computers (45% of households in the U.S., much higher worldwide) or simply do not want to have a computer with them while they take photographs. A digital camera without a PDPA is always just a few pictures from being out of memory !!!!

The PDPA is the photo album of the future!

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