This story is probably of more interest to the techies and industry readers of the site, however it's also good news for the ongoing improvement of digital still cameras. TI today announced a new programmable DSP-based chip not only improves shoot-to-shoot times but also offers enhanced multimedia options by supporting various codecs including real-time MPEG1, MPEG4, JPEG, MJPEG, H.263 and MP3, as well as data communication standards such as IrDA, USB, and RS-232.

Full press release:

Texas Instruments Delivers First Fully-Programmable DSP-Based Solution To Digital Still Camera Market

New Single-Chip Solution Turns Digital Shutterbugs Into Multi-Media Mavens

DALLAS, July 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Once again proving that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing with a digital signal processor (DSP), Texas Instruments Incorporated (NYSE: TXN - news; TI) has revolutionized the digital still camera market by introducing it to fully programmable DSP-based solutions. TI, the world leader in DSP and analog, today unveiled the first of these innovations, a single-chip processor that transforms the popular cameras into multi-media Internet appliances.

The new solution, the TMS320DSC21(TM) chip, draws upon the power and performance of DSPs to enhance the digital still camera's functionality. In addition to capturing high-resolution still photos with a fast shot-to-shot delay, cameras with TI technology will be able to record video clips with audio, and download and play music from the Internet. The chip supports the broadest offering of popular digital audio and video formats including real- time MPEG1, MPEG4, JPEG, MJPEG, H.263 and MP3, as well as data communication standards such as IrDA, USB, and RS-232.

"TI's new digital still camera chip provides an unprecedented amount of computing power by employing market-specific multimedia accelerators for concurrent processing with a fully programmable DSP,'' said Will Strauss, president, Forward Concepts. "We believe that this approach provides camera manufacturers with the functionality they require and the flexibility to differentiate their products in addressing several target markets.''

The bar is further raised by the flexibility and upgradeability that TI DSPs offer. Consumers will be able to add advanced features to their digital cameras by downloading and installing the latest software from the manufacturer's Website. This upgradeable functionality will enable extended features in the future that may not have been installed on the camera but are already present on the chip, such as a digital audio player.

This level of programmability is also vital to manufacturers who can use a single image processing engine, the TMS320DSC21 chip, to develop an entire family of digital still cameras from entry-level models to advanced designs. The programmability of the DSC21 allows manufacturers to keep up with changing standards and continuously realize their innovations in image quality by optimizing software. These capabilities are unique to a programmable DSP- based solution, in which camera functions are enabled in software and can be easily changed. In contrast, a hardware-based solution requires a new application-specific device to be created each time modifications or enhancements are made. This flexibility translates into greatly reduced development time and costs while enabling broad product differentiation: all crucial elements to success in a growth industry.

"The digital still camera market is expected to grow at a compound average growth rate of 44.6% between 1999 to 2004,'' said Ron Glaz, market analyst at IDC. "Given the introduction of a fully programmable DSP-based solution demonstrating multiple functions, TI is directing the market to diversify and expand into new directions of video and audio.''

TI expects applications for the new chip to continue to evolve. The chip's future roadmap includes support of advanced image processing in other end equipment areas, including scanners, personal digital assistants (PDAs), wireless devices, digital video camcorders and photo printers.

"The introduction of the DSC21 is part of the company's overall strategic focus to proliferate DSPs into high-growth areas such as imaging,'' said Kun Lin, Vice President of the WW Imaging Business Unit, Texas Instruments. "We expect that the combination of TI's world leading DSP technology, innovative software solutions and imaging systems know-how will have a profound impact in the digital still camera space, in addition to the converging Internet appliance space.''

The TMS320DSC21 is a digital still camera system on a single chip that combines a TMS320C5000(TM) DSP and an ARM7TDMI® RISC processor to perform the media processing and system control functions. The chip integrates a video encoder with on-screen display, SDRAM controller with a bandwidth transfer rate of 320 Mb/sec., a preview engine that performs 30 frame-per- second NTSC and PAL previewing, and can also achieve real time frame capture in burst mode to the full resolution of the 2 Mpixel image sensor.

Samples of the DSC21 are available today and production devices are expected to be available Q42000. Price in quantities of 100,000 pieces or more is expected to be less than $15.