We check out the latest in cameras and accessories

Sector guide: Imaging

The digital imaging sector can be a lucrative one for any tech retailer. After a shaky 2009, the segment is now back in growth, with new technologies driving demand from consumers, both for the devices and the accessories that go with them.

According to figures from GfK Retail and Technology, 1.2 million cameras were sold in the UK in the second quarter of the year, with a total value of around £198 million.

Alistair Coyne, Midwich’s product manager for digital imaging, comments: “Camera vendors are adding additional features to their specs including high speed shooting modes, wider angle lenses, waterproof capabilities and GPS tagging to track where photographs have been taken.”

The biggest technology of 2010, however, has been 3D – from the box office success of Avatar, to the first ever World Cup in 3D – the tech is increasingly moving from the big screen into people’s homes. Christian Brown, Sony’s senior category marketing manager for home entertainment, described it as “a huge priority for the company.”

The electronics giant recently unveiled its new Cyber-shot cameras, which capture several images as the photographer moves the camera, layering them to create a three-dimensional image.

The downside, however, is that the images can only be viewed using 3D shutter glasses on a screen that supports the technology. While this could potentially limit the number of people who would use the 3D feature, tech firms are convinced that the glasses at least could soon be a thing of the past. Brown tells PCR that “viewing 3D technology without the use of glasses is currently in very early stages of development but it is definitely on the horizon”, while Japanese vendor Sharp claims to be launching a no-glasses-needed 3D smartphone some time this year.

As well as new technologies, social networking has also been a huge driver for digital photography. Facebook now has over 500 million users worldwide which, among a global population of around 6.7 billion people, means that around one in every 13 is a member.

Add that to the countless alternatives – Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn – and you’ll probably find that most people in the developed world have some sort of online profile. Many compact cameras now have inbuilt uploading buttons or software to allow users to get their pictures online as easily as possible. Kodak, in particular, has gone to town on this feature.

“With the rise of social networking sites, digital cameras have become an everyday accessory for today’s consumers,” Patrick Hamilton, public relations officer for Kodak EMEA told us earlier this year.

While undoubtedly still cameras dominate the imaging sector, the value of stocking other devices is not to be sniffed at. 100,000 video cameras were sold in the UK in Q2 this year, totalling £28 million. Consumer camcorders are steadily becoming more sophisticated, with little difference between some top-end devices and the low-end professional video cameras.

2010 has been a year of world firsts in terms of product launches, with Sony now selling the only consumer camcorder with an interchangeable lens, and Panasonic’s 3D video camera due to hit the market this month with a hefty price tag of £1,300.

Some consumers, however, are perfectly happy just to use their compact devices for creating video. SanDisk’s UK marketing manager Nikki Willcock claims this can cause problems from a memory point of view. “People are now using their cameras as well as camcorders for video, but alot of people are unaware of the additional memory needed to record video, especially in HD format,” she says.

“Customers need to pick the right card for their camera usage. As a general rule, you can use a Secure Digital or CompactFlash card for both videoing and taking images on your camera. However, if looking to film in HD, ensure that you are purchasing a card with a speed class rating of six or higher as this will provide you with the necessary speed to transfer the data from the camera onto the card.”

As well as capacity, users need to take into account the write speed of their memory card. “The SD Card Association introduced new speed specifications to guarantee new levels of performance – the Class 10 rating – which guarantees a minimum sustained transfer speed of 10 MBs. This is very useful for those who record high quality HD content and need a guaranteed sustained write speed,” states Steve Hall, Kingston Technology’s EMEA product development manager.

Memory cards are just one of a huge range of potential add-on sales to go with digital cameras. According to Coyne, consumers will often want a case or tripod for their device so it can pay off to create the opportunity for them to buy everything at once through bundling or strategic use of POS materials. “This works best when sold as a bundle when you can show a saving,” he suggests. “As they say: everyone wants a bargain.”

SRP: £299
Distributor: Direct

They say: Sweep multi angle shoots a high-speed burst of fifteen frames, creating a ‘3D-style’ image of your subject that can be viewed from different angles

Specs: 12.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, 3D sweep panorama, full HD movie recording, background defocus, 5x optical zoom, 2.8-inch LCD display

SRP: £99.99
Distributor: Westcoast

They say: The Veho Qudo eight-inch digital photo album allows you to share and take your digital images with you anywhere.

Specs: Eight-inch digital screen, 2GB internal memory, SD card slot, internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery, leather case included

SRP: £149.99
Distributor: Direct

They say: The 12.1MP resolution is ideal for enlarging and printing up to poster-sized images. The EX-H5 can also take high resolution HD video

Specs: 12.1MP, 24mm wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom with mechanical image stabiliser, HD video recording in 1280 x 720 resolution

SRP: £349.99
Distributor: Micro-P, VIP Computers

They say: Incorporating a 30x advanced zoom and 35 mm wide-angle lens, it not only displays small details in style, but is also adept at capturing large motifs

Specs: Full HD videos, 10MP stills, 35mm wide-angle lens, incamera editing function, 50MB internal memory, stereo microphone, 30x advanced zoom

SRP: £26.10
Distributors: Ingram Micro, Computer 2000

They say: Offers speed, performance and reliability to ensure you get your photos, files, movies or music faster without losing your data

Specs: 20MB per second read and write speed, class six, compatible with SDHC devices, also available in 16GB and 32GB capacities

SRP: £149.99
Distributor: Direct

They say: The 12.1MP resolution is ideal for enlarging and printing up to poster-sized images. The EX-H5 can also take high resolution HD video

Specs: 12.1MP, 24mm wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom with mechanical image stabiliser, HD video recording in 1280 x 720 resolution

SRP: £90
Distributor: Imago

They say: Offers unparalleled video conferencing quality at an affordable price

Specs: True HD resolution, autofocusing lens, unidirectional dual microphones, fits almost any laptop or computer screen

SRP: £71.99
Distributors: Gem, Peak Development, Hama

They say: The perfect balance of speed and reliability for HD video and faster shot-to-shot performance

Specs: Compatible with class six camcorders and video-enabled DSLRs, up to 20MB per second read and write speeds, also available in 4GB and 8GB

SRP: £59.99
Distributor: Direct

They say: Listen to your favourite music as you admire your special snaps

Specs: Eight-inch digital LCD panel, 800 x 480 resolution, memory card slot, 64MB SDRAM/DDR memory, 256MB NAND flash memory, auto-rotate sensor, stereo speakers, interchangeable frame surround, supports various file formats

SRP: £129.99
Distributor: Midwich

They say: This audacious little camera can plunge up to three metres under water and capture the entire experience in full 1080p HD

Specs: Rugged design, 5MP stills, waterproof to three metres, 5.1 cm LCD display with glare shield, built-in image stabilisation, smart face tracking, rechargeable lithium-ion battery

SRP: £4.90
Distributor: Direct

They say: Made in waterproof and non-deformable Dacron, resistant to cold, heat and humidity, assuring excellent protection for your digital camera and camcorder

Specs: Zip closure, reinforced padding, external pocket for accessories, shoulder strap with plastic snap-hooks, internal dimensions: 110mm x 70mm x 45mm, also available in other sizes

SRP: £249.99
Distributors: Micro-P, VIP Computers

They say: Small enough to fit into your trouser pocket – to achieve this, Sanyo has specially developed a thin sensor module along with an ultra-slim lens

Specs: Full HD videos, 8MP photos, 10x advanced zoom, slim design, incamera editing function, 50MB internal memory, 38mm wide-angle lens

SRP: From £14.99 each
Distributor: PSA Parts

They say: These products are more competitively priced than the original manufacturer’s equivalent and are not subject to the same supply constraints

Range includes: Universal DSLR charger compatible with 90 per cent of DSLR products; chargers designed for specific brands including Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Ricoh, Samsung, Sanyo and Sony

Distributor: Ingram Micro

They say: Provides 64GB internal flash memory and SDXC memory card support for video enthusiasts who want to shoot for longer

Specs: 64GB dual flash memory, SDXC support, HD video recording, 2.7-inch touchscreen LCD display, 3.3MP full HD CMOS sensor, 18x advanced zoom, face detection

SRP: £109.99
Distributor: Direct

They say: Inherits its looks from popular predecessor, the S220, with even more features and a more powerful zoom lens, all packed into an even smaller body

Specs: 19mm thick body, 12MP stills, wide-angle lens, 4x optical zoom, 2.7-inch display, electronic vibration reduction, scene auto selector, smile timer

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