Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sony's New Digicam Doesn't Need a Memory Card

Sony is incorporating 4 GB (yes, GB!) of internal memory into its new Cyber-shot DSC-T2 digital camera. This means you can take tons of pics and video, then save the content directly to the camera instead of a memory card. On the upside, although the camera does also accept optional Memory Sticks, with 4GB of storage, you'll likely never have to buy one. On the downside: you''ll likely never have to buy one. Let me explain...

Don't you hate when you purchase something only to find out that it requires some sort of "optional" accessory to work up to its full potential? A memory card for a digital camera. A USB cable for a printer. Headphones for a music phone. Sony's DSC-T2 solves this frustration by incorporating an ample amount of memory into the camera itself. You can buy just the camera and truly be ready to go out of the box; and the salesguy doesn't have to break the news that the camera's 16MB of internal memory will let you save, oh, about 2 photos at full resolution. It's a win-win situation.

But wait a second: aren't accessories where all the profit lies? A retailer might make $10 off the sale of a $300 digital camera; but he'll make that same money off the sale of a $50 optional memory card. Will retailers see the inclusion of so much memory as cannabalizing accessory sales? If so, this same argument could be made for any camcorder, portable media player, or mobile phone that has a built-in hard drive. One could even argue that a waterproof digital camera takes sales away from optional waterproof casings! Or, on the flip side, will retailers view the 4 GB of memory as a good sales handle to sell more of the cameras (e.g. This model has 16 MB of built-in memory for $300, or you can buy this 'T2 for $50 more, and it has 4 GB already built in!)

I can see how 4 GB of built-in memory is a good thing, especially since the camera's price doesn't seem to be severely inflated because of it: the 8 MP digicam (which has advanced features like optical image stabilization, face detection, 2.7" touchscreen LCD, and ISO sensitivity up to 3,200) will reportedly sell for about $350. Not bad. However, I actually prefer using removable flash memory for a variety of reasons that go beyond price. For one, I absolutely hate having to connect any device to my PC via USB cable. It means I have to keep the cable handy at all times; and it's generally slow and awkward. I want to remove the memory card, insert it right into a card reader or my PC's built-in card slots, and be on my way. Second, I typically use the same memory card for various devices: I'll take pix using my digicam, then take that same card and place it in a digital photo frame; or plop it into my portable GPS unit. I don't want to be limited by cables.

However, there are other advantages of built-in memory. As one of my colleagues suggested, the 4 GBs of memory could be used to store video content (the camera can record MPEG-1 at up to 640 x 480 and 30 fps); while an optional Memory Stick could serve as the place to store still images. After all, a brand-name 2GB Memory Stick can be purchased for about $90 these days. So for about $450, you get a pretty darned good camera, and a total of 6 GBs worth of memory. Not too shabby.

I have to admit: when I first heard about this camera, my initial reaction was that it was a bad move on Sony's part. Retailers would hate them for taking away potential accessory sales, and consumers would say "no, thanks", opting for memory that was easily transportable from one device to another. But the more I think about it, with the amount of content being consumed and recorded on the rise, more memory, in whatever capacity it comes, just can't be a bad thing. And chances are, those who buy this camera will eventually end up back in the store to buy flash memory to complement the built-in kind.

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