Digital Camera Market Heats Up

Digital Camera Market Heats Up

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It may be the easiest $700 sale retailers make this year: Americans are hot for D-SLR cameras and manufacturers exhibiting at PMA this week in Las Vegas are introducing lower-costing, higher-performing consumer models to meet the demand.

Canon’s upgrading its top-selling entry-level D-SLR, the Rebel XTi, with the new 12.2 megapixel XSi, due out in April at $799. Nikon’s in the game with the D60, a consumer D-SLR with onboard editing and a “Stop Motion Movie” feature, launching this month for $750. Sony, Samsung, Pentax and Olympus have sub-$1000 contenders too. “We’re seeing very powerful products and great prices,” says Nikon’s Senior Technical Manager, Steve Heiner. “These products don’t sit on shelves.”

Indeed, shipments and sales of D-SLR’s outpaced most analyst predictions in 2007. According to a new CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Associations) report, 7.5 million D-SLR’s shipped in 2007 and over 9 million are expected to go out in ‘08, an increase of 22.3 percent.

“The market is becoming saturated with compact point-and-shoots,” says Chris Pound, a national sales product coordinator for Pentax. “But people are realizing they can jump a tier creatively. The D-SLR is the next big thing, and these new cameras with auto picture modes help consumers make the transition.”

The new D-SLR’s on display at PMA ‘08 have selling points far beyond auto modes. Most are now using SD and SDHC flash memory cards, which consumers are accustomed to from their point-and-shoots. LCD screen sizes are big, often 2.7-to-3 inches, and many offer “live view” just like the compacts. Kit lenses, notoriously low-end historically, are improving as well, so consumers are likely to have more success (and less blur) right out of the box.

Once a consumer gets D-SLR fever, exhibitors say higher-margin tripods, zoom or macro lenses, flashes, memory cards and image-editing software are natural add-ons. Manufacturers at PMA are even suggesting point-and-shoots as a D-SLR accessory, noting that enthusiasts sometimes want a break from equipment-lugging. “We’re seeing a lot of households with a D-SLR and a bunch of Coolpix too,” says Nikon’s Heiner. “You don’t just sell one ‘family camera’ anymore. Now, everybody in the house has one.”

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