Fierce competition in the imaging market has prompted many manufacturers to announce their products days, weeks and even months ahead of one of the industry's key venues, Photokina, which opened yesterday.

Numerous digital cameras, storage devices and printers manufactured by companies such as Canon and Panasonic were announced in advance of the show, although some of these same vendors saved a few surprises for the Cologne event, which takes place every two years.

"We announced many of our new products over the past few weeks to get the news out to retailers and consumers ahead of Photokina so that when they come to the show, they know what to look for," said Canon spokeswoman Kirsten Abicht-Schubert. "Photokina is a very important selling event for us."

Despite the move by numerous vendors to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and draw attention to their new products ahead of Photokina, visitors to the show will still find plenty of gadgets shown for the first time in Cologne.

Some examples of this include:

- Fujifilm launched its first DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera, the FinePix S5 Pro. They can also record both jpeg and RAW files to the Compact Flash memory card at the same time. The camera's fact-detection technology detects up to 10 faces in a scene immediately after each image is captured.

Fujifilm also unveiled its first pocket-size digital camera to feature the company's face-detection technology, the FinePix F31fd.

- Panasonic introduced a number of digital cameras, including the 7.2Mp compact Lumix DMC Fx50 and FX07 with a 28mm wide angle Leica DC lens and 3.6x optical zoom. Both cameras features Panasonic's new IIS (intelligent image stabiliser) technology, which combines the company's MEGA OIS (optical image stabiliser) and intelligent ISO control systems. Panasonic is a pioneer in image stabiliser technology.

The Japanese manufacturer also announced a 10.1Mp 12x optical zoom digital camera, the Lumix DMC-FZ50, which can record an image at a maximum ISO 1600-high sensitivity setting at full resolution.

- Canon announced a pair of portable image storage and view devices. The Media Storage MD30 and MD80, equipped with 30GB and 80GB hard drives respectively, feature a 3.7in TFT (thin-film transistor) screen and connect to cameras via a USB 2.0 cable. Both devices have CF (compactflash) and SD (secure digital) cards.

- SanDisk introduced a 4GB SDHC (secure digital high capacity) card, the SanDisk Ultra II SDHC. The card can store more than 2,000 high-resolution pictures or up to eight hours of Mpeg4 video. The product, to start shipping in October, will be priced at around $120 (about £65).