Canon has announced plans to begin selling from March the first consumer-level three-megapixel class digital still camera.
The PowerShot S20 will go on sale in Japan in early March with a 99,800 yen (about £600) price tag. Featuring a CCD (charge-coupled device) pickup with 3.3 million pixels, the camera represents the first of the next generation of consumer digital still cameras. Currently, the highest resolution consumer cameras have around 2.5 million pixel CCDs.
Canon said the new camera will serve a growing need in the market for cameras that can provide pictures of sufficient quality from which to produce 8-x-10 prints.
The camera also features a 32-64mm 2x optical zoom lens and built-in buffer memory which stores pictures temporarily and means the waiting time between taking images is reduced to 2.2 seconds. Images are stored on CompactFlash cards and Canon says a 64MB card is large enough to store 31 images taken in the camera's large/normal mode. The PowerShot S20 measures 10.5-x-6.9-x-3.4 cm and weighs 270 grams.
The digital still camera market is expanding fast in Japan with 2.3 million cameras shipped in the period from April to September, 1999, up 49 per cent on the previous six-month period, according to the Electronic Industry Association of Japan. Along with the growth in the market, prices are falling and more advanced equipment is being produced. The new Canon camera sells for around the same price as a two-megapixel class camera would have fetched one year ago.