Information on the Camera itself:
For $11, skittish photographers can dip into digital
By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
Go digital — for just $11?
The Ritz Camera chain today will introduce a one-time-use digital camera for about the same price as a typical "disposable" film camera in about 100 of its stores. Walgreens, which was testing the camera in Madison, is expanding the test to all 140 Wisconsin pharmacy outlets. And Walt Disney World will begin selling the camera at its hotels and theme parks in the fall.
The 2-megapixel Dakota Digital, which offers the image quality of a $200-$250 digital camera, doesn't have an LCD screen to view images, and doesn't connect to a computer.
But users can delete their last shot if they think they missed it, and they can get prints back within 15 minutes after taking the camera in for processing, because no film has to be developed. A CD of digital images is included, so users can manipulate the files on their computer and share them via e-mail and Web sites.
"The one-time-use market is so strong right now, that's where we wanted to focus our attention," says Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of Pure Digital, which makes the camera.
Indeed, single-use cameras have become the last stronghold of film in the consumer market. Sales of the cameras (often called "disposables") have been increasing steadily because of their low price and ease of use. The Photo Marketing Association International says 214 million one-time-use cameras will be sold this year, up from 198 million in 2002.
Meanwhile, sales of other film cameras are expected to drop to 12.1 million, down 15% from last year, even as digital camera sales will rise 36% to 12.8 million.
"For people who have thought about digital, this gives them the ability to get in for a low cost," says David Ritz, CEO of Ritz Camera Centers. "There are a lot of people who have hemmed or hawed about trying digital. But for $11, they'll give it a shot."
IDC analyst Chris Chute says the move is a step in the right direction, but Pure Digital will eventually have to overcome the absence of the LCD screen. "That's the No. 1 reason people buy digital cameras — to see the picture immediately," he says.
Kaplan says he hopes to have a model with an LCD screen out by the end of the year. And Kodak, which has offered the Plus Digital one-time-use camera (a traditional film-based camera, except that customers get a CD with scanned image files along with their prints) would like to get to that point as well.
"Over time, you could imagine we could bring a concept like this with preview capability, but that day's not here yet," Kodak's Marc Gibeley says.
Kodak's camera can't be developed at one-hour photo locations; it must go to one of 40,000 authorized Kodak centers, which return prints and CD in two days.
Resolution is a major concern of digital camera buyers. Ritz and Walgreens will be churning out 4-by-6 prints, though Pure Digital says the images can be enlarged to 8 by 10 inches.