The dramatic growth in the market for mobile phones equipped with cameras has witnessed camera makers struggling to survive the onslaught, some by shifting to production of high-quality digital cameras.

On July 1, the major camera and printer manufacturer began a download service at its Web site featuring software for printing photos taken by mobile phone cameras.

Users need only install the software in Canon’s Pixus 50i portable color printer to be able to run off their own shots.

“The mobile phones with cameras are creating a large volume market, and a growing business opportunity for us,” said Yuji Chiga, an official of Canon’s ink-jet printer product planning division.

The color printer can print name card-size photos within 30 seconds of receiving infrared-ray data from a mobile phone.

The print function is compatible with new camera-phone models offered by NTT DoCoMo, including the D505i, SH505i and SO505i, as well as J-Phone models, including the J-N51 and J-SH53.

“It is the nation’s first home-use service capable of printing photos taken by mobile phones equipped with cameras (without requiring use of a personal computer),” Chiga said.

The Pixus 50i portable color printer, which debuted in March, measures 31 cm × 17.4 cm, is 5.18 cm thick and weighs only 1.8 kg, allowing users to carry it outside.

Canon decided to make the printer portable so users can quickly record photos they have taken of their outdoor activities, Chiga stressed.

This fall, Canon will release Pixus 50i portable color printers already carrying the software to process shots taken by camera-phones.

“It is convenient for users to buy a portable color printer that already has the printing function for camera-phones installed. We are trying to put it on the market as soon as possible,” Chiga said.

He declined to disclose sales data for the printer but said the product, which costs around 30,000 yen, holds a 4 percent share of the nation’s printing market, up 3 percentage points from its predecessors. The benefit of printing photos taken by mobile phones with cameras will further boost color printer sales, he added.

Canon was initially concerned that the low photo quality of mobile phone cameras would detract from the firm’s high-quality printer image, Chiga recalled, noting, however, that the recent upgrading of the cameras’ photo quality convinced the company to launch the service.

“Mobile phone manufacturers began selling mobile phones equipped with cameras featuring 1 million pixels last spring. It was a turning point for our company,” Chiga said.

The 1 million-pixel feature has cleared the photo quality standard set by Canon by reducing the photo size to name-card size, Chiga said.

If the photo quality is further upgraded, Canon will gear up to offer larger prints, he said.

“We are trying to upgrade our products and services to support a new outdoor photo culture,” Chiga said.

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