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Domestic sales and exports of digital still cameras increased dramatically in fiscal 1998, with shipments jumping 36 percent in terms of units and 78 percent in terms of value, an industry association said Monday.

According to the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association, shipments totaled 3.19 million units and 148.9 billion yen for the fiscal year that ended March 31.

Despite the serious economic slump, the digital camera market, which emerged only a few years ago, continues to expand in Japan: Domestic shipments hit 1.19 million units, up 7 percent, and 51.7 billion yen, up 56 percent from the pervious year.

Domestic shipments of digital cameras have already far exceeded those of traditional single-lens reflex cameras, which are estimated at about 800,000 units a year.

Industry sources attribute the continuing growth of the market to the improved image quality and more sophisticated functions available on new digital cameras, as well as to the increasing number of personal computer users.

Many of the latest digital still cameras now output more than 2 million pixels and cost less than 100,000 yen.

The so-called mega-pixel cameras were priced at more than 1 million yen a few years ago and bought mainly by professionals.

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