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Photo Film Makers Face Tough Competition

   

For the last five years or so, baby boomers have been creating a baby boomlet. For photo film makers like Kodak, Fuji and Bayer (which makes Agfa film), this is like manna from heaven.

Why? Proud parents by rolls of film by the case. While this and expanding markets of middle class consumers in Asia and Latin America will continue to help photo film makers, they also face an enormous problem; camcorders will increasingly be used not only for moving pictures but stills as well.

Several Japanese companies are already rolling out a product that will easily allow users of video cameras to create stills. It works by using a $400 box attached to the camcorder, which creates digitally enhanced hard copies with image quality as good or better than silver halide (the process regular film uses).

Mom makes a video of junior and selects two or three frames from a 30-minute loop to send to grandma. With the push of a button, the prints come out of the box. What's more, all of the equipment can be had for $1,000, including the box, the camcorder and the print.

Film companies are fighting back, however. A consortium of film companies are likely to roll out the Advanced Photo System early this year but this system doesn't have fundamentally better features than the current, silver halide process and technology is advancing so quickly that new offerings from non-photo makers may come along in a few years to challenge even this toe hold.

Bottom line: film companies better think fast if they are to enjoy strong growth in developed countries.

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