Compact-camera manufacturers have begun testing the waters with a wealth of high-end features as they search for new ways to gain revenue, market share, and recognition.
In earlier digital photography days, a camera with an extra megapixel of resolution, face recognition, or image stabilization could stand apart from the herd. But now that herd has grown larger, most folks who'll buy a digital camera already have done so, the economy has put consumer spending on ice--and camera makers are making some bolder bets with high-end features.
Among them: Nikon's built-in GPS support to record where a photo was taken, Casio's high-speed video, and the Micro Four Thirds camera system from Panasonic and Olympus.
Premium features aren't an easy sell. They tend to appeal to market niches rather than the mainstream. Early implementations are often rough around the edges. And it's hard enough to convince people to buy a new camera, much less one with the higher price of premium features.
But winning those customers can have a good payoff with better profit margins. And that's critical in this day and age. Market research firm IDC expects that after years of growth, the shipments of digital cameras will decline in 2009.
"It's crowded, and it's getting crowdeder," IDC analyst Ron Glaz said of the digital camera market. "We're anticipating that with the slowdown in economy and disposable income, we'll start seeing consolidation of the vendors." In other words, even though something in the neighborhood of 38 million digital cameras are sold annually, some companies will throw in the towel. … Read more