Japanese electronics and optical companies are scrambling to sell still video cameras - a new breed that needs no film, no darkroom and little patience, company spokesmen say.
The cameras use floppy discs instead of film, and pictures can be instantly played back on a television or reproduced on a special printer.Industry analysts expect these "no film" models will one day usurp the position of the single-lens reflex camera as the world's favorite among serious photographers.
"Instant gratification - that's what it's called," said Darryl Whitten, vice president of Prudential-Bache Securities Inc. in Tokyo.
He predicted consumers will want the satisfaction of shooting a roll of pictures, going home, wiring the camera to the television and instantly reviewing their adventures.
"People will not want to wait until the film is developed," said Whitten.
The still video camera was pioneered a few years ago but it has been kept off the market because it cost too much and the pictures were inferior, analysts said.
The picture quality has not improved much, they said, but ruthless cost-cutting by some companies like Sony Corp. and Canon Inc. has brought it to the shops.
Sony's is the cheapest, costing 69,800 yen ($550) for the camera and 30,000 yen ($235) for a play-back machine to be launched in December. Spokesmen for Sony and other companies said the U.S. price for their cameras would be set independently and would not be a direct conversion of Japanese prices.
Canon's version, in which the player is incorporated into the camera, costs 98,000 yen ($770) plus 20,000 yen ($157) for accessories.
Those prices could lure a few buyers, but they may need to be as much as halved before the cameras attract a wide following electronics analysts said.
"The prices need to come down much more and the picture resolution needs to be brought much nearer to that of film pictures," said Naoki Sato, electronics analyst at Schroder Securities (Japan) Ltd.