The rise in popularity of digital cameras over the past ten years has provided an opportunity for a number of big electronics corporations to break into the traditionally insular photographic business. While older camera companies such as Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus are still major players, particularly in the digital SLR market, many other once-familiar brand names have disappeared and the consumer digital camera industry is dominated by several big name brands that have no real history in the photographic business. Sony, Panasonic and Samsung have all carved out huge market shares over the past decade, flooding the market with cheap, sophisticated and generally well-made cameras, until virtually everybody now owns one.
It's interesting to note however that one of the first of the electronics companies to break into the digital camera market was Casio, launching its innovative 0.3-megapixel twist-body QV-300 in 1996, and following it up with a long series of cameras that have seldom been less than adequate and have often been at the cutting edge of design and innovation. It has a solid reputation for its ultra-slim pocket compacts that combine good performance, stylish design and excellent value for money. Despite this it has a much smaller share of the market than most of its more recently-arrived competitors.
Today's camera is a perfect example of this. The Exilim EX-Z550 is a sleek and stylish 14.1-megapixel ultra-compact featuring a 4x optical zoom lens equivalent to 26-104mm, sensor-shift image stabilisation, a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor, 720p HD video recording and a range of other advanced modern features, all wrapped up in a slim all-metal body and available for less than £120 from some retailers. If it had a Canon or Panasonic badge on the front it would sell like hot cakes at £150, but for some reason that Casio brand name just seems to put people off, even with a bargain price like this.