At Deville Camera & Video in Northeast Jackson, holiday shoppers are snapping up digital cameras, especially the automatic point-and-shoot versions.
“Digital is definitely the trend right now,” said Randy Noone, who opened Deville Camera in 1977 after working at Standard Camera in downtown Jackson for nearly a decade. “The Pentax Optio WPi, a weatherproof, very compact, high megapixel camera, is by far the most popular. The Pentax Optio S6, an even smaller camera with a very large LCD panel, is also extremely popular.”
Consumer demand for maximum megapixels has decreased slightly this year simply because there are more choices in the five- to six-megapixel range, said Noone.
“Some people want to know they have the latest and greatest with the eight- to 10-megapixel cameras, but the five-megapixel camera will make a dynamic 11-by-14-inch enlargement,” he said.
Noone anticipates the digital SLR camera market — a marriage of the best of both worlds: the convenience of a digital camera with the flexibility of a single lens reflex (SLR) — is about to explode. Once priced sky-high, digital SLR cameras are dropping in price as choices increase.
“Manufacturers offering rebates are helping drive the business,” said Noone. “It’s a tremendously rapidly growing segment of our portfolio. If there’s a downside to point-and-shoot cameras, it’s the lag time from the moment you press the shutter to the moment you capture the image. Every month, technology makes them a little better, but until you get into an SLR camera, you’ll be plagued a little bit with that. Digital SLR cameras have virtually no lag time. Families shooting their children in sports and things of that nature need the capability of the interchangeable lenses and they need cameras with a faster response time.”
Memory cards are becoming increasingly popular gifts and stocking stuffers, especially because their cost has been cut roughly in half since the last holiday season. Also on wish lists for new digital camera owners: a must-have rechargeable battery system, said Noone.
“If there’s one downside to digital versus 35 millimeter, it’s the battery usage,” he said. “Because digital cameras are so much more electronic with LCD panels, auto focus, flash and everything else, they’re rough on batteries.”
Digital frames haven’t risen in popularity at the same rate as digital camera usage because “they’re still quite pricey,” said Noone. “Prices have come down some, but not like they have for other products and accessories in the digital camera market.”
The digital camera revolution has rekindled people’s interest in photography, primarily because they get instant gratification, said Noone.
“They know at the point they shoot, they have the image they want,” he said. “It’s helped the average picture-taker, who can look and see that so-and-so didn’t have his eyes opened or Aunt Sue turned her head.”
With a digital camera, a photographer can snap many more pictures without reloading, Noone pointed out.
“With a one-gig card in a five- to six-megapixel digital camera, it’s possible to get 200 or 300 pictures without ever having to stop,” he said. “Travelers have enjoyed that benefit, especially since they don’t have to take eight to 10 rolls of film and risk running them through x-ray.”
In the beginning stage of the digital camera drive, Noone noticed a decline in film processing. But that trend has reversed itself, ironically because of technology, he said.
“It’s much easier now for the customer to bring in a card, insert it into a terminal and view images before selecting ones for print,” he explained. “It goes to the lab, they burn a CD at the counter, erase the memory card, and the images on the CD become negatives. Many people have printers capable of printing their pictures at home, just to know they can, but most of them get their printing done in a lab to take advantage of longer-lasting, quality photographic paper and chemicals.”
Digital cameras have changed the way business is conducted, especially in automotive insurance and real estate appraisal circles.
“Keep in mind that an appraiser may be going 60 to 100 miles to do an appraisal,” said Noone. “A digital camera allows him to shoot images right then. Some appraisers have small battery-powered printers that make four-by-six-inch prints on the job so they can shoot and print images before they leave the site. In the past, they wouldn’t know whether they got the images they needed until the film was developed. Sometimes, they had to make the trip again.”
Even before Thanksgiving, sales were brisk at Deville Camera.
“Christmas is looking real good,” said Noone. “It started a little early, even though we thought it might be late, with a mad dash at the end considering Katrina and gas prices, but we’ve been quite busy. When we were swamped yesterday (November 21), my salespeople were saying, ‘Geez, it seems like Christmas already.’”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.