<mosaic.cnfolio.com>
Electronics Manufacturing – M528

CANON POWERSHOT A570: No Blinks and all Smiles



Digital Camera Market

Digital cameras have proved to be one of the hottest selling items of last year in Central and Eastern Europe. According to recently released IDC data, shipments shot up by nearly 23% to almost 7 million units in 2006 and are set to exhibit solid growth again this year (IDC, April 2007, Para 1). Nearly everyone today has a digital camera in some form or another, whether it’s in-built on the mobile phone or a stand-alone digital camera. The market for digital cameras is one that is growing fast. The increase in shipments does not equate to higher profits as the advances in technology has meant there is a lot of competition out there and there by pushing prices lower but in turn offering the consumers value for money.

My belief is that the market for the digital cameras will increase due to the new technology such as that of the PowerShot Series cameras from Canon. The new technology of Face Detection and the features introduced on the newly realeased camera will make a great impact on people and photography. The Canons Powershot A570 model is the main subject of this forecast. The new features on this digital camera will appeal to everyone even those not into photography which will be noticeable in the sales figures.

Recent advances have shown increases in revenue of the digital cameras with last year totally $1.7billon (TV Europe, March 2007, Para 3). The PowerShot A570 IS camera features new face recognition hardware-based technology that allows for so many improvements on the pictures you take, compared to the pictures you can take with other cameras.  This technology has only been seen in identity verification systems but now making its way to cameras. With the a lot of money spent of research and development Canon have come up this yet another camera that is tipped to be a best seller fetching at only £200. With this camera Canon is pushing the market to new limits and with manufactures such as Canon leading in the digital camera and showing a lot of investment in the Face Detection technology for cameras. Last year Canon shipped more digital cameras than any manufacturer and seconded by Sony with Olympus falling in third.

Face Detection and Recognition Technology

A technology that has been built on the existing face recognition technology of the past is now making its way into digital cameras. When you hear about face recognition, what springs to mind is something along the lines of security systems as a form of controlled access to a network or buildings such as banks, airports and even borders.

Humans have the natural ability to recognise and distinguish between difference objects or people, as we are capable of taking photographic memories and recalling these. The technology gives computers the ability to do the same as humans that is to recognise a person’s face.  Face recognition, also known as face-priority. On the Canon Powershot digital camera it is typically activated when switching a camera to portrait mode or a dedicated face-detecting shooting mode. Since the technology is hardware-based, it is generally faster than manually composing and locking focus and exposure on a face. This technology, compared to biometric authentication technologies that include finger and palm prints, iris recognition is less intrusive. With face recognition or rather face detection; your face can be detected at a greater distance and without you having to do much. The technology has come a long way in that there has been a struggle to get the same accuracy as that in biometric authentication.


With the use of artificial intelligence and advances in neural networks this technology is ever improving and has lead to the development in hierarchical scheme for face detection and alignment in order to improve on performance which now is in the newly released PowerShot A570 and A series models from the Canon camera range.

Face Detection Digital Cameras and Phones

Competition is rife as the likes of Fujitsu, Kodak, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Nikon and more are all venturing into producing digital cameras that are now offering the mentioned technology, but Canon paves the way in the area of consumer electronics. The PowerShot A570 only just released last month is out selling its other competitor's models. The technology featured works by delivering flattering exposure to the main subject by biasing the exposure on the priority faces. Below arethe features on the PowerShot A570 IS:

  • 7.1 Mega Pixel CCD image sensor
  • 4x optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent: 35–140mm f/2.6 W–f/5.5 T)
  • Optical Image Stabilizer (PowerShot A570 IS only)
  • DIGIC III image processor and iSAPS
  • Face Detection AF/AE/FE
  • ISO 1600 and High ISO Auto
  • Popular Special Scene modes on Mode dial
  • 2.5” LCD screen with optical viewfinder
  • Lens accessories (PowerShot A570 IS only)
  • PictBridge and Print/Share button

Compared to the likes of other similar models, tests have shown that it delivers better quality photos and is much easier to use compared to other models such as the Fujitsu’s FinePix S6500fd which also features the face detection technology. The new camera allows at most detecting up to nine faces in the shot. Canon’s PowerShot A570 also allows for automatic red eye correction as the eyes are detected. When the camera detects a face in the scene it also automatically focuses (AF) and optimises exposure (AE) for them. For the face recognition AF/AE to work the people or person being photographed must be facing the camera. Since the technology is hardware-based, it is said to be generally faster than manually composing and locking focus and exposure on the face (Digicamhelp, 2006, Para 4). With the investment that went into the creation of this model Canon also went one step further and produced an image processor called DIGIC III to match the new hardware-based face detection technology. With the new found popularity of this camera, companies are now considering adding such technology to camera phones but whether they can compete with the fast pacing technology development that Canon is always identified with on the products only their success will tell.

Always two steps ahead

While Canon has just released this new camera they have also gone two steps ahead of the competitors and improved upon the technology by demonstrating two other technologies that will soon be featuring on later series of the PowerShot range of cameras although this will soon be confirmed. This is the very reason that the forecast for this camera is set to increase and blow the competition right out of the water. The new technologies in the pipeline at the moment are BlinkShot and SmileShot technologies. Not surprising that this would be from Canon as there history and experience in this field alone together with there sales revenue for digital cameras speaks for itself. Canon a market leader is proving that just for sure “you can with canon”. The BlinkShot Technology is closely linked with the face detection technology featured on this camera, as it has to locate the face first and then detect blinking eyes. The software will stop the picture being taken if closed eyes are detected. Thereby ensuring that pictures taken will result in opened eyes for all in the shot. The other technology in the pipeline from Canon is the SmileShot technology, which together with BlinkShot Technology were announced and demonstrated at the 2005 expose in Japan. The technology showed what would soon be featuring in the Canon’s camera possibly next year although not finalised yet. The technology demonstrated how quickly and easily faces could be picked up by the software even those in the background, also quickly detecting whether the person was blinking or smiling in the shot even with sudden movement from the person. An example of this is shown below and how it will all work - sourced from imaging resource (Dave Etchell, September 2005, Para 22).


Once the face is detected the face is then framed with a red square indicating that you are not smiling. Below you can see that once the person smiles the square changes in colour to reflect this, also shown in the background is another detection by the software of another person in the shot also smiling and in turn framed in a different colour. As soon as the smile is detected the picture is taken.

This technology is all built from face detection but once released it has taken off as it was well received when it was announced. We might also see Canon’s competitors secretly working on something similar in order to compete with the range of products that will feature this technology. What will also aid in the success of this digital camera is that it will also allow the user to turn the technology on or off on the camera and take the shots as normal.

Digital Camera Market Value

With continuous development in technology and the research and development from Canon standing out the most for so far, the market value of the digital camera area is one worth about $18 billion (£10 billion) not including the accessories that go with it (IC Insights, December 2006). Even with competition from camera phones there are still predicted increases in the revenue and sales growth in this area of electronics due to the emphasis and increased technology functions such as that I have highlighted above. IC Insights also forecasts about 81.9 million stand-alone digital camera to be sold world-wide this year which represents a 7% increase over last years figure and expecting nearly 90 million to be sold by 2010. With Canon being in the top three and appearing first in the last three years their investment in the technology that allows for the creation of a product that consumers are actually looking for is the reason for their success and the reason why the PowerShot camera has had a great start. Also with the new technology that will feature soon on the PowerShot series cameras gives consumers something to look forward to as well as know that they will be getting a good quality camera with functions that they require and have been waiting for. Canon has already been spending huge amounts on R&D, something on the order of $2.4 billion last year. As a result, they filed more than 1800 US patents in 2004 alone, placing them third among all companies worldwide in US patent filings. This translates directly into the strength of their product line, as witness that nearly 65% of their current revenue comes from products that didn't even exist two years ago (Dave Etchells, September 2005, Para 5). The graph below shows how studies have showed what consumers would like the cameras to improve on in terms of functionality; it also shows the increase in those wishing to invest in digital cameras and Canon is definitely listening to its consumers and the ranking, sales figures and product range is evidence of that (Harry Wang, April 2006, Para 2).


The graph below shows Canons strength in the digital camera market but also the contribution it is making in the market of this field and the increase in awareness and shipment of such products sourced from Cnet (Dave Etchells, September 2005, Para 4). With stronger product lines and a lot of research and development investment the graphs below shows prove of their success in the business of camera production and good management of the company finances has also helped. This has meant a lot of time and money is put forward to invest in the technology that such as that shown and featured in the new PowerShot A series cameras.

Conclusion

Studies have shown that we are now taking more pictures than we were taking 10 years ago. This has been a niche every company with the capability and know-how is taking advantage of before the bubble busts. The success shown from Canon in the release of the Powershot camera all around the world so far proves that Canon is better at this and with this new digital camera on the market is hanging the competition out to dry. For compact cameras, Canon remained No. 1 with 22 percent growth to 17.3 million units shipped in 2006 (Stephen Shankland, April 2007, Para 8). Aside from that I believe from the evidence I have shown above the forecast for PowerShot A570 digital cameras will grow to new heights as we are now confronted with a better quality camera and all for a price that we are now not afraid to pay compared to the functionality and technology on offer.

References

  1. Piers Barnes  - Blink-free photos, guaranteed (Jul, 2006). Retrieved 16 April 2007 from http://velocity.ansto.gov.au/velocity/ans0011/article_06.asp
  2. Canon  - Face Detection and ISO 1600 come to PowerShot A series (Feb, 2007). Retrieved 23 April 2007 from http://www.canon.com
  3. Canon - Smile please - Face Detection Technology comes to PowerShot ‘A’ Series. (2007). Retrieved 11 April 2007 fromhttp://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Camera-Phone-Face-Detection-and-Red-eye-Correction-Announced.htm
  4. Karen M. Cheung - Camera Phone Face Detection and Red-eye Correction Announced (Feb, 2007). Retrieved 23 April 2007 fromhttp://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Camera-Phone-Face-Detection-and-Red-eye-Correction-Announced.htm
  5. DigiCamHelp - Face detection mode. (2006). Retrieved 11 April 2007 from http://www.digicamhelp.com/camera-features/shooting-modes/face-detection.php
  6. DPPhotoJournal - Understanding Fujifilm’s Face Detection Technology (Jul, 2006). Retrieved 23 April 2007 from http://www.dphotojournal.com/understanding-fujifilms-face-detection-technology 1
  7. Dave Etchells  - Canon Expo 2005 - A One-Company Trade Show (Sept, 2005). Retrieved 20 April 2007 from  http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1126887991.html
  8. TV Europe - Camera accessory market growing rapidly. (April, 2007) Retrieved 25 April 2007 from http://tvbeurope.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=587&Itemid=46
  9. Dennis Hissink - Fujifilm Brings Face Detection to the Compact Digital Camera Category with the Finepix F31fd (Jul, 2006). Retrieved 26 April 2007 from http://www.letsgodigital.org/en/9024/fujifilm_face_detection
  10. IDC - Digital Camera Shipments Flying High as Market Value Dips in Central and Eastern Europe. (April, 2007) Retrieved 25 April 2007 from http://www.idc-cema.com/?showproduct=30761
  11. Ryan Johnnson and Kevin Brosner - How Facial Recognition Systems Work (x). Retrieved 23 April 2007 from http://www.howstuffworks.com/facial-recognition.htm/printable
  12. Steve Makris - Smile, the camera is waiting for you (Oct, 2005). Retrieved 11 April 2007 from http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/business/story.html?id=fd30bb72-a018-4967-a3c9-403e72e846c6&p=1
  13. Mark Peters – Digital technology market value is growing. (Nov, 2007). Retrieved 25 April 2007 from http://www.letsgodigital.org/en/news/articles/story_5247.html
  14. Imaging Resource - Digital Camera Shipments Flying High as Market Value Dips in Central and Eastern Europe. (April, 2007) Retrieved 25 April 2007 from http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1175626513.html
  15. Tekrati - Digital Still Camera Market Poses New Picture for Semiconductor Industry (Dec, 2006). Retrieved 25 April 2007 from http://www.tekrati.com/research/News.asp?id=8200
  16. TakeGreatPictures- Fujifilm Brings Face Detection to the Compact Digital Camera Category with the Finepix F31fd (Sept, 2006). Retrieved 23 April 2007 from http://www.takegreatpictures.com/HOME/Columns/News_on_People_Products_-_Special_Events/Details/fujifilm_finepix_F31fd.fci
  17. Atsushi Sato and Hitoshi Imaoka  - Advances in Face Detection and Recognition Technologies ( 2005). Retrieved 16 April 2007 from http://www.nec.co.jp/techrep/en/r_and_d/a05/a05-no1/a028.pdf
  18. Harry Wang - Digital Cameras and Imaging: Analysis and Forecasts. (April, 2007) Retrieved 25 April 2007 from http://www.parksassociates.com/research/reports/tocs/2005/digital_cameras_and_imaging.htm