Interesting news from Future Image|
(Monday, March 22, 2004 - 14:49 EST)
This week's issue of the "Future Image Weekly Briefing", an email newsletter aimed at those in the digital imaging industry, contains a couple of items we found interesting.
If you're not familiar with Future Image Inc., the company (amongst other services) offers both the weekly briefing mentioned above, and a monthly "Future Image Report" - each of which can be subscribed to for $375 annually, or $595 for a two year subscription. You can also subscribe to both newsletters together for a cost of $500 annually, or $795 biennially.
The first article which caught our eye references a report from Reuters regarding Japanese camera giant Canon Inc.'s digital SLR business. The company apparently sold a total of 600,000 digital SLRs last year, some 70% of the total market. By comparison, competitor Nikon Corp. apparently had about 30% of the market, which would equate to a little over 250,000 units shipped. What's really impressive is the projected growth, though. Canon expects to more than double its unit shipments to 1.3 million this year, and the total market to grow to approximately 2.2 - 2.3 million units - almost triple the total market of 850,000 units in 2003!
Not surprisingly, Canon's EOS Digital Rebel - sold overseas as the EOS-300D or EOS Kiss - is contributing the major portion of Canon's SLR sales due to its sub-$1000 pricepoint. Of Canon's projected 1.3 million digital SLR sales for 2004, the company expects to sell one million of the Digital Rebels - more than three quarters of the total figure shipped.
The other Future Image article that we picked up on relates to Philips' recently-announced fluid-based lens design. The fluid-based lens is a sealed tube with transparent end-caps, coated with a hydrophobic (water-repellent) coating on its sides and one end-cap. The tube contains two immiscible (non-mixable) fluids - one a conductive aqueous solution, one a non-conductive oil - with different refractive indices. The hemispherical boundary between the two liquids acts as a lens, and the focal length of the lens can be varied by applying an electrical field across the hydrophobic coating inside the tube, altering its surface tension - and causing the boundary to be convex, flat, or even concave. The lens design offers potential advantages in size, focusing speed, durability and power consumption.
Despite Philips' description of the FluidFocus lens design as "unique" when it was shown at this year's CeBIT show, however, Future Image reports that another company has been working on a similar technology for the last two years. French firm Varioptic apparently has two patents - referenced by Philips in their own patent - for their electrowetting technology.
Varioptic is currently advertising what it says is the first commercially available electrically controllable fluid-based autofocus lens, the Varioptic PDN-1000. The company is also working on producing zoom lenses with no moving parts, made up of fixed lens elements with multiple fluid-based lenses in between. This seems pretty significant news, as it could potentially offer extremely small, quick and reliable zoom lens designs with very low power consumption. There is quite a proliferation of ultra-compact digital cameras featuring zoom lenses these days, and many in the industry are predicting that camera phones will take over from traditional digital still cameras at least at the lower end of the market. In both segments, where size and power consumption are key factors in lens choices, Varioptic's plans seem extremely relevant.
For more info on the Future Image Report and Future Image Weekly Briefing, visit the Future Image website.