Securities analysts, retailers and film processors are seeing visions of increased sales with photographic clarity once Eastman Kodak Co. makes its new disc cameras available later this month.
They say that the introduction of the new cameras will boost sales of all film and photofinishing, not just generate sales of the disc cameras and disc film.
The new cameras are about three-quarters of an inch thick, three inches high and 4 3/4 inches long--small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. They use batteries not only to power an automatic built-in flash and an exposure control, but also an automatic film advance. The latter is one reason the 15 film frames are arranged on a disc similar to a ViewMaster slide rather than on a standard roll or cartridge. The lithium batteries will supply enough power for well over 2,000 exposures, the company says. The cameras carry five-year warranties.
Kodak is offering three models. The basic 4000 model, with two film discs, will have a retail price of $67.95. The 6000 model, which is slightly larger, has a cover for the front of the camera, which serves as a handle when in the open position. The 6000 also can photograph an object as close as 18 inches. The list price is $89.95 for the camera and two film discs. The 8000 model adds a self-timer, a rapid-sequence film advance and, for some reason, a digital alarm clock. The list price of $142.95 again includes two film discs.
Kodak says that the combination of its new cameras and Kodacolor HR disc film "should reduce the chance of underexposure by half, camera shake that results in blurry pictures to less than 2 percent, and the number of blank frames and flash failures to less than a fraction of 1 percent."
This projected reliability excites Tim Farmer, a buyer for W. Bell & Co. who handles photographic equipment, among other things. Farmer said that the earlier small-film cameras, the 110s, gave amateur photographers the right combination of light and film speed 45 percent of the time, while the disc cameras "will do it about 95 percent of the time. Therefore, you'll take a lot more pictures because more will come out" than with previous types of cameras.
R. Thomas Kiekhofer also predicts an increase in picture-taking. This makes him happy because he is the general manager of Berkey Film Processing of Washington, D.C. Inc. The 200 employes in Berkey's Alexandria plant develop film for about 90 percent of the area's independent camera stores, for Giant Food, and for other chains from Delaware through North Carolina, including Revco and Rite Aid.
Kiekhofer noted that Kodak is scheduled to spend some $40 million on introducing the new cameras and film, and that the company is predicting that disc film will account for about 20 percent of photofinishing volume by right after this coming Christmas, and then drop to between 10 and 15 percent before beginning a slow increase.
But along with opportunities comes the necessity for Berkey--and other photofinishers--to buy special equipment from Kodak to process the new film. Kiekhofer attended the Photographic Marketing Association Convention in Las Vegas in February, where "Kodak showed off the equipment and we ordered it."eeds one disc negative processor, a couple of automatic cartridge openers, and two sets of additional equipment to adapt old printers. "We will be ordering more equipment down the road to convert more of our equipment to disc capabilities as the new camera gains in popularity," Kiekhofer said.
Although introduction of disc cameras and film represents the biggest equipment change since the introduction of 110 cameras and film, he said his plant will absorb the cost easily because of the expected increase in photofinishing volume and because "Kodak gives financing at low rates."
Farmer said that W. Bell is working to
Securities analyst Thomas D. Henwood considers the new HR film a key to the potential success of the disc cameras and to Kodak's ability to withstand any attempts by offshore manufacturers to cash in on its new system. Henwood follows the photographic industry for the New York office of First Boston Corp.
Kodak says the new film is almost twice as fast as Kodacolor II and calls it "the sharpest, lowest granularity Kodacolor emulsion ever developed."
It will be "a year or two before the offshores can commercialize the technology" in the new film and "longer until they can make the disc," according to Henwood. He believes that, if Kodak eventually makes HR-type film available for 110 cameras, this "will help makers of higher-priced 110s such as Pentax hang on." If not, "characteristics of 110s" and smaller 35mm cameras "become less attractive," Henwood said. "Anyone who has a lot of 110 cameras is going to want to dump them. They won't be liquidated by May," but still will be on sale by Christmas.
He has one word for the disc cameras--"super"--and cited with more than casual approval "Kodak's ability to invest somewhere around $700 million to generate a 35 to 40 percent average return within two or three years. The annual rate of return will peak in five or six years," Henwood predicted. "By then, others can duplicate the emulsion system, but not necessarily the entire system and pricing."
Around the same time that Kodak was announcing its disc cameras, other companies were unveiling their latest products.
* Minolta Corp. said its X-700 Minolta Program System can take pictures by remote control from as far away as 200 feet and shoot automatically at intervals for more than 400 hours. The lightweight 35mm SLR camera and infrared remote control will carry a retail price of $473.50. Minolta also is offering the Hi-matic AF2-M for about $245.50, equipped with an infrared system that focuses automatically even in total darkness and a beeper that warns photographers if a flash is needed or if their subject is too close for correct focus.
* Nimslo Corp. showed a camera that takes 3-D pictures using conventional 35 mm film. The camera's four lenses record four half-frame images on two frames of film, which a special printer will focus into one image. The special material on which the photos are printed reportedly makes the three-dimensional effect possible. Processing a 3-D print at Nimslo's Atlanta facility will cost 85 cents compared with between 40 and 50 cents for a normal 35 mm print, according to Willard Clark, editor of Photo Weekly, a trade publication. The camera went on sale recently in Florida and is scheduled to be available in the rest of the United States within two years.
"Might I own a 3-D camera and a solid-state camera from Sony" as well as a Kodak disc camera? Henwood asked rhetorically. The Sony camera uses videotape technology to produce prints electronically rather than chemically. "Yes," he answered. "I might own all three for different purposes."
But Henwood added that he sees no significant market impact within 10 years for electronic still cameras such as Sony's in the 20-million-unit-a-year U.S. market. He defined "significant" as a 10 percent market share.