Canon is hoping to build a unique online community amongst its digital camera users with the launch of its iMage Gateway. The site, which will be open to all European Canon digital camera users, enables them to create and share an online photo album as well as to download images, text and sounds to personalise their cameras.

Users will get 100MB of storage capacity to store their digital images. They can organise images into themed albums, created around events like weddings, holidays or birthdays. Sounds and captions can be added to the photos. The My Camera part of the site, allows visitors to download images, text and sounds to their cameras.

Canon plans to expand the services offered, allowing users to share images in the form of e-cards, screensavers and slide shows by the end of 2003. It also plans to allow users to share and store video clips in the future.

From mid-2003 Canon will also begin to roll out an online photo printing service. This will allow users to order prints seven days a week, 24-hours a day direct from the iMage Gateway. The partner for this service in the UK is A1M.

The service is currently available free to owners of the following Canon digital cameras: PowerShot G3; PowerShot S45; Digital Ixus v3; PowerShot A70; PowerShot A60; Digital Ixus 400; PowerShot S50 and EOS10D. Future plans include the support of Canon digital camcorders and Bubble Jet printers.

Canon hopes to use information gathered from the users of the site to help it develop improved digital cameras and services in the future. It will use the site as a test bed to monitor and analyse digital camera use and product ownership. This information will be used by the Canon Europe research and development team.