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April 15, 2002

Internet On-line
by Peter Vogel

Digital photography eating into marketplace

Since its inception, this column has carried numerous pieces on advances in digital photography.

Several years ago digital cameras were relatively rare. Their costs certainly put them out of reach of the ordinary customer. Basic units began at the $1000 level. Such is not the situation today.

A recently published study reinforces what the typical reader of this column already knows: digital photography is rapidly eroding the classic film photography marketplace.

A recently published study of the American marketplace by InfoTrends Research Group Inc. shows that about one-third of American households with Internet access had a digital camera at the end of 2001.

More impressive, however, was the projection from the study that almost two-thirds of Internet households would have digital camera technology by the end of 2002.

Both figures were obtained from a poll of 1,850 households connected to the Internet. Results of the poll showed that only 20 per cent of the households had not yet considered the purchase of a digital camera. Three per cent of the respondents had not heard of digital cameras.

Michelle Slaughter, InfoTrends’ digital photography analyst, commented that “the growth in market penetration will have a noticeable impact on the entire photo industry. Increasingly, digital camera users are using their digital camera as their primary camera. Already, 19 per cent of digital camera users say that they no longer use film ... up from 10 per cent of digital camera users in 2000.”

Here in the Lower Mainland, the trend to digital photography is unmistakable. Most photo-finishing businesses now offer printing from digital sources and storage of regular print film data to digital media.

Consider the current advertising flyer for London Drugs here in the Vancouver area. Long a retailer of standard cameras, London Drugs was one of the first local commercial outlets to move aggressively into the digital world. Of 18 cameras listed this week, exactly half are digital. The print cameras range in price from $90 for a basic autofocus unit to $800 for a Nikon F80 with a zoom lens.

The digital field is pricier at both extremes. An HP 318 with two-megapixel resolution and a digital zoom sells for $300 (an optical zoom adds another $100). Sony and Minolta units round out the top end at well over $1000 apiece. The Minolta Dimage 7, with standard SLR camera styling and an optical zoom equivalent to that of a 28-200 lens, lists at just under $1500.

InfoTrends’ report, “2002 Digital Camera Survey: Strong Momentum for Digital Camera Adoption,” is a 91-page study analysis and two sets of 160-page tabulations revealing in-depth trends in digital camera feature and brand preferences, printing, storage, applications, pricing, purchase channel, and demographics.

Understandably, the full report is only available for purchase, presumably by manufacturers and others eager to focus their marketing budgets in this competitive and lucrative field.

In an earlier study by the same firm, “2001 Mass Market Scanner Forecast,” it was reported that one-third of U.S. households with a PC had at least one scanner. Worldwide sales were projected to reach US$3.1 billion for 2001, with North America and Europe each representing 40 per cent of the total.

It is interesting that the study projects North American scanner sales to decline at about 1 per cent per annum through 2006, this decline being offset by an anticipated 4 per cent annual growth rate for the remainder of the world.

“Scanners continue to be an important part of the digital imaging market, and according to our U.S. Scanner Penetration Study, 48 per cent of those who have uploaded a photo to a photo service Web site used a scanner to create at least some of the images that they posted online,” notes Janet Kauffman, a research analyst at InfoTrends.

Readers wanting to begin their own research into the digital imaging field might want to try the exhaustive company links index maintain by InfoTrends at www.infotrends-rgi.com/links.

Peter Vogel is a Physics and Computer Sciences teacher at Notre Dame Regional Secondary School (www.ndrs.org). Suggestions and comments may be sent via e-mail to peterv@portal.ca .

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