Epson counts on digital camera uptake

Printer company Epson is laying bets on the uptake of digital cameras in New Zealand with the release of two printers dedicated to digital photography.

Printer company Epson is laying bets on the uptake of digital cameras in New Zealand with the release of two printers dedicated to digital photography.

The main feature of these high-end and entry-level models is the fade resistance of their print outs. After less than a couple of years, people who got into digital photography early are now finding their favourite prints fading away.

But print-outs from the new Stylus Photo 200P ($2599 ex GST) are fade resistant for 100 years compared to an estimated colour fastness of 60 years for traditional silver halide prints. The entry-level Stylus Photo 720P ($599 ex GST) is guaranteed for two to three years.

The fade resistance is due to new ink technology which is pigment-based as opposed to dye-based and uses a resin coating to give better durability.

Epson Australia spokesperson Kevin Yap, says digital cameral sales have just passed film camera sales in Japan and are predicted to do the same in the US by 2001. New Zealand and Australia are forecast to follow suite by 2003.

Overseas Epson has its own digital camera, but according to Epson New Zealand general manager Greg Skinner there are no plans to introduce it to New Zealand in the near future. This is despite Epson’s positive outlook for digital camera sales here.

Richard Moss, marketing manager of consumer peripherals for Hewlett-Packard, says in the US the company is having great success with digital cameras in the sub-$US299 bracket. But thanks to the exchange rate, pricing for the C200 ($849 incl GST) and the C500 ( $1499 incl GST) are dampening enthusiasm in New Zealand.

However Hewlett-Packard New Zealand is apparently playing it cool due to the fact that demand in the US is draining stocks in this part of the world. As a result the New Zealand office has not been promoting digital cameras here says Moss.

However he says the situation should improve by October and he expects the average price for a one mega-pixel camera to drop to a more consumer-friendly price-point by Christmas.

In the meantime the alternative way of getting photos on to the PC, the scanner, is still enjoying good growth.

About 40% of HP’s home PC, the Pavillion are now sold with a scanner attached, says Moss.

Meanwhile photographic equipment retailer Peter McCracken, of Camera and Camera, says more than 95% of business customers now only buy digital, and among non-business users, digital cameras exceed ordinary compact cameras.

However, he believes digital photography won’t take off in the consumer space until camera prices drop to the $400 to $600 range.

And then the widespread introduction of digital photography labs which print off photos in an hour will have a huge impact on printer sales. But with industrial strength lab printers at around $400,000 and still very slow it may be a while yet.

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