Sharp forecasts the death of the consumer digital camera

CeBIT: Will digital cameras soon suffer the same fate they've inflicted on film cameras? Sharp says the megapixel camera phones that are about to hit Europe could be the beginning of the end for digital cameras

The digital camera has been devouring much of the market share once enjoyed by its traditional film-based rival in recent years, but Sharp claims this interloper may itself be defeated by the rise of the camera phone.

At a press conference to unveil its latest products, Sharp claimed that the arrival of one- and two-megapixel camera phones was a sign of eventual doom for the consumer digital snapper.

"For mobile phones with cameras, we have reached a resolution which allows the assumption that, sooner or later, the handset with a camera is going to replace the digital camera, at least for private use," said Helmut Engel, president and chief executive of Sharp Electronics Germany.

Although the CeBIT 2004 show doesn't officially start until Thursday, Sharp unveiled its GX30 mobile phone for the first time in Europe on Wednesday. Like its predecessors the GX20 and GX10, it will be available through Vodafone Live.

With its 1,144x858 CCD sensor, Sharp claims that the GX30 is the first megapixel camera to launch in Europe, but Nokia also announced a megapixel device on Wednesday. The 7610 will go on sale in Europe in the second quarter of 2004, while Vodafone should start selling the GX30 later this month.

Japanese mobile users already have the chance to buy a two-megapixel camera phone such as Sharp's V601SH -- proof, the company says, that the camera phone format has a bright future.

But with the latest crop of digital cameras offering between eight and 14 megapixels, camera phones have a long way to go before they can claim to offer comparable performance -- even though many experts point out that there's more to image quality than just the number of megapixels on the sensor. 

Sharp was clearly in the mood to put older technologies out to grass, also announcing that it would no longer make any televisions using cathode ray tubes and would concentrate all its efforts on LCD TVs instead.

"Originally, this step had been planned for 2007, but the dramatic development of the market has made this historic move possible," said the company.