EASTMAN Kodak, a pioneer of the 'digital film' era , is to launch a full-featured digital camera in Hong Kong next month that for the first time addresses a much broader based consumer market. The Kodak DC-40, which produces 24-bit digital colour images, will be priced in the territory at less than $7,800 - a long way from Kodak's professional offerings, which are based on Nikon's F90 body and carry price tags starting at about $80,000. The DC-40 is not unlike the digital camera offering from Apple, the QuickTake 100 and newer QuickTake 150. This is hardly surprising given that Kodak has been manufacturing the QuickTakes for Apple under an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement. The DC-40 looks and feels very much like its QuickTake brethren. The camera has a fixed-focus f2.8, shutter speed ranging from 1/30 to 1/175 of a second and automatic light reading. As many as 48 images can be taken on the new camera before they have to be download to a host computer. Like the QuickTake, the DC-40 is a 'point-and-shoot' camera - there is no focusing, no adjusting apertures - so professional photographers are unlikely to get too excited by it. Indeed, for $7,800, it is not likely to be even a hobbyist's first choice. But the DC-40 has a definite and appealing niche, not least among computer enthusiasts - and it is a growing niche. Medium to large companies looking for a cost-efficient way to capture staff 'mug-shots' for personnel records or security passes will certainly find the DC-40 useful when combined with a colour inkjet printer. And the growing use of the Internet - in particularly the World Wide Web - can only have a positive impact on the camera's sales. A DC-40, for example, is an excellent way to capture images for Web home pages, obviating the need (and cost) for not just film development, but also scanning an image into a computer. There are certain inherent advantages in 'being digital'. A digital camera is a handy way to send images - so that using the Internet for sending loved ones something more than simply raw-text messages becomes less complicated. At its list price, the DC-40 will not light up the mass consumer market. But there is certainly a market for the product out there, and it is a market that should continue to grow and may well eventually replace the film-based camera market. Images are transferred to computer via a standard RS232C interface cable to a Macintosh or an IBM compatible PC. All software required for viewing and transferring the images is included in the cost of the camera. They include PhotoEnhancer software from PictureWorks Technology, which lets the user create 'thumbnails' of images, as well as do some simple 're-touching' of images. Images can be exported to other applications as PICT, TIFF or EPS files. To find out more about the Kodak DC-40, check Kodak's web site at http//: www.kodak.com , or the Kodak forum on CompuServe (GO KODAK).