Nobody doubts the potential of digital photography--just listen to an executive at a recent industry conclave on the subject: "Portable digital cameras are poised to take photography to a whole new level," says Rajiv Mehta, a marketing manager with Apple Computer. "Like the first Kodak Brownie introduced a hundred years ago," Mehta continues, "the digital camera will reach out to an entirely new group of users."
Why the interest in going digital? The answer is economic. Digital imaging is going to save publishers big dollars. Jerome Skapof, executive vice president/sales of Kanimage, says that by "using a digital camera, we can demonstrate a 66 percent gain in productivity and a 45 percent savings in cost" for a medium-size studio. Savings come from not having to buy film, and not having to buy equipment and chemicals needed to process film. Man hours are saved, too, because digitally shot images do not require processing and scanning. "Using a digital camera could be a question of economic survival," says Skapof.
But who is this group of "new users" that Mehta is talking up? And where is the market for digital cameras? For now, don't look to photojournalists. Most of the vendors are focusing on less demanding consumer markets, so it's going to be a while before digital cameras capable of producing professional quality images quickly and conveniently will become widely available. Kodak executive Pete Jameson, for instance, thinks a resolution of one or two megapixels "is about right" for the systems his company is developing, but images captured at such a relatively low resolution will max out at 150 to 175 line screens. With advanced printing techniques like waterless now permitting line screens up to 600 and beyond, that's not going to cut it for high-quality color magazines. …