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article imageAdvantix Preview Camera Sports Digital Bells, Whistles

By Digital Journal Staff     Oct 28, 2000 in Technology
ROCHESTER, NY -- Many photography hobbyists haven’t yet taken to digital cameras. Eastman Kodak is hoping its new Advantix Preview, which incorporates some of a digital camera’s desirable features with a traditional camera, changes some minds.
Be it a lack of time, money or technical know-how, most casual photographers are still too intimidated to invest in a digital camera. That's not to say they're not envious.
Filmless digital cameras have one distinct advantage. They're usually equipped with a liquid-crystal-display screen on the back that allows shutterbugs to see the picture they've just captured. Press a button or two and unwanted snapshots can be discarded.
Now along comes a first-of-its-kind, Advanced Photo System camera that uses traditional silver-halide film but is also adorned with a 1.8-inch LCD color monitor for quickly perusing each magic moment.
Eastman Kodak Co. is hoping its Advantix Preview will not only generate a hankering among point-and-shoot Luddites but give a much-needed lift to a photo system wrongly touted at its 1996 debut as the biggest breakthrough in consumer photography in 75 years.
Digital cameras are gaining more and more mainstream acceptance but they're still a long way away from reaching the average snapshooter. The Preview delivers an old-fashioned photo without having to rely on a computer, imaging software and inkjet printer. Storing images as bytes on floppy disks or flash cards is really not as convenient for some photo enthusiasts as dropping off film at a local drugstore.
After landing in photo-specialty stores in late October, the camera will begin popping up in emporiums like Wal-Mart in November with a price tag of $300 to $350. Analysts say digital models that produce similar-quality prints start at around $400 to $500.
Kodak, the world's biggest photography company, is heaping $500 million a year on digital research to outlast competitors in that highly competitive field. U.S. sales of digital cameras priced above $100 look set to soar from 2.6 million in 1999 to 4.3 million this year, predicts InfoTrends Research Group Inc.
But Kodak cannot afford to lose ground in non-digital consumer photography, a mainstay that accounts for half of its $14.1 billion in sales. While skeptics abound, the digital age might yet give its latest Advanced Photo System offering a leg up.
Designed by photo giants Kodak, Canon, Fuji, Minolta and Nikon, the much-ballyhooed photo system was expected to quickly supersede 35mm technology, which dates back to 1926.
But APS stumbled out of the gate, beset by production and marketing hurdles, and still lags far behind in sales. Last year, Americans bought 10.8 million 35mm cameras and 3.3 million APS units. Worldwide, APS accounts for no more than 15 percent of conventional camera sales.
APS models produce pictures in a variety of sizes on the same roll of 24mm film. They feature a drop-in cartridge to eliminate loading errors and a magnetic stripe on the film for ordering extra copies -- a largely dormant feature that comes into play with the Preview.
If users fancy the LCD image created by the camera's electronic sensor, or charge-coupled device, they can press a button to instantly order up to nine copies of it.
Doing so will save money "because they get reprints at the first-time printing rate," said Steve Malloy Desormeaux, worldwide product manager for Kodak Advantix cameras. "On the flip side, if it's a picture you don't like, you don't have to pay to get it printed."
Gee-whiz features are clearly popular with consumers, who take about three times as many pictures with digital cameras as they do with film cameras. Even armed with the zero-print option, surveys found that Preview users ordered more prints overall.
One drawback: Only the latest snapshot can be displayed on the LCD screen. Future models will likely allow all the photos to be shown, just as digital models do.
If the Preview should prove popular and production costs fall, future adaptations could be fitted with a higher-resolution electronic sensor and "a true hybrid" camera might emerge.
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