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SanDisk to sell cheap ‘Digital Film’ at convenience stores

You can buy 35mm film just about anywhere, and with the amount of people switching to digital it only makes sense to offer them the same convenience of grabbing more ‘film storage’ when they need it.

SanDisk today announced that it has launched its Shoot & Store line of inexpensive flash memory cards in Australia, where they will be sold initially in convenience stores throughout the country. The announcement was made at C-STORE 2004, the Australian convenience store exhibition.

The cards, offered in 32-megabyte, 50-picture capacities, are aimed at consumers who are transitioning from film-based cameras to digital photography or who want the simplicity of storing their images without downloading to a computer or saving to an optical disc. The first cards shipped will be the popular SD and CompactFlash formats, followed later in the year by other cards and capacities, including Memory Stick PRO.

Since December, Shoot & Store has been successfully test-marketed in the U.S. at over 800 grocery outlets, and major chains such as Kroger’s supermarkets and Rite Aid drug stores have signed up to carry the line. Australia is the first country outside of America to introduce the cards.

Although the cards are re-writable and function just like standard flash cards, their low prices allow for people to begin viewing them as “consumable” cards — much like consumers today view 35mm analog film — for use in archiving digital pictures on the cards themselves. Users can delete unwanted images, use the cards as permanent “digital negatives,” e-mail images to friends and family, and purchase new cards when they need them. They can also leave their cards with photo finishers and order prints in the same way they’ve been doing with film. Digital images on Shoot & Store cards will not deteriorate over time and are expected to last indefinitely as long as the cards are kept in a dry place at room temperature.

“The time is right to introduce Shoot & Store to the Australian market,” said Michael Hornsby, managing director of VME Systems, which represents SanDisk in Australia. “We’re seeing a continuing decline of film sales, with some estimates suggesting a drop of eight percent in 2003, while digital photography is on the upswing.”

Digital camera sales are booming Down Under. The Photo Imaging Council of Australia, a trade organization, reports that the number of digital cameras purchased has nearly doubled each year between 2000 and 2002, with 418,345 units sold in 2002.

“We look at this as the film of the future, in a sense,” said Len Somerville, managing director of Battery Specialties Group, an Adelaide-based company that supplies batteries and analog film to some 6,000 accounts nationally, including major U.S.-style convenience store chains and service station mini-markets. Somerville’s company is taking on the Shoot & Store line and will distribute it throughout Australia. “This is in the embryo stage, but it’s a nice fit for us because batteries and film, including ‘digital film,’ are perfect companions in these stores, especially for vacation travelers,” he said. Australian Convenience Store News, a key industry trade magazine, estimates that there are 14,500 convenience stores in the country.

To make it easier for consumers to determine the number of images they might get with a Shoot & Store card, the packages are labeled as having a 50-picture capacity, which is based on a resolution setting of 1 mega pixel. At 2 mega pixels, a 32-megabyte card would yield about 34 pictures. Actual picture counts are approximate and will vary depending on, among other things, camera model and the resolution setting.

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