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No, the manufacturers exhibiting at the Photo Marketing Association International (PMA) in Orlando this week are not offering new diet pills to make you slim and trim, but they have put their respective cameras on quite a diet. That is a diet of size, not functionality—camera makers are using PMA to show-off how much they can pack into an ever increasingly smaller form factor.

I know that as technology improves and manufacturing processes become more hi-tech, we tend to see smaller gadgets from all types of companies. In the past though, if you wanted a really small camera to slip in your pocket there was undoubtedly a trade-off that you had to accept. Most times that was in the quality of the image, advanced features and the megapixel rating of the camera.

Those trade-offs seem to have all but disappeared from what I’ve seen at this year’s PMA. All of the camera makers are lauding their latest accomplishments in packing in more features into a consumer level camera that has between five and seven megapixels.

Of course, the high-end cameras still provide a large separation from their low-cost, seven-megapixel siblings. The manual functions, which are so important to professional-level photographers, and the ability to change lens depending on the type of shot being taken, among other high-end functions will continue to separate the models.

From what I’ve seen, consumers purchasing a digital camera in 2005 are going to get a great camera for a relatively low cost. The other trend I’ve noticed at PMA is companies that are bypassing the home computer to print photos and burn photo CDs or DVDs. There definitely seems to be an underlying movement to take photos away from the PC and give users the option of not touching the computer at all.

While memory card slots are not new on printers, manufacturers are really pushing the functionality this year as a way for people to avoid the sometimes-confusing nature of the computer.

Many printers feature larger LCD displays so consumers can view their pictures and choose the ones they want to print. Nobody is saying that consumers should forget the computer altogether—for now they are simply pushing it as an option, but I wonder how far off it is before they say the computer isn’t necessary at all.

All-in-all PMA 2005 will prove to be a very good show for consumers. Manufacturers of all types are adding to their products, while offering very good price-points on all levels of products. As digital cameras, photo printers and other devices continue their upward swing it’s nice to see companies giving us a reason to buy and feel good about our purchase.

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