Photography, Like Everything Else, Now Increasingly Digital

Good old-fashioned photography, both still and video, continues to converge with computers and the Internet, transforming cameras into network devices and creating new opportunities for storage and retrieval.

According to a report by Datacomm Research Co., digital photography will gradually replace traditional photography because digital technology avoids the need for film and film developing; makes it possible to view recorded images immediately; allows pictures to be shared worldwide via the Internet; and enables PC-based manipulation and enhancement.

“Digital cameras will access PCs and the Internet via wireless links, achieving new levels of convenience and capability,” said Terry Edwards, executive director of ENGALCO and the author of the Datacomm report. “The ability to view, share and manipulate photos is about to take a giant leap forward.”

All the technologies involved with capturing, storing and delivering digital images are coming into their own at just the right time. Wireless technology will facilitate transmission, storage, display and printing of images, according to Datacomm’s report. Third generation (3G) wireless networks will allow digital cameras with minimal memory to take continuous pictures. Wireless LANs enable sophisticated security systems for homes and small offices. Short-range wireless technology, such as Bluetooth, will let users beam images to desktop devices for display and printing.

The technology behind digital photography equipment is also changing, making the devices more affordable. Datacomm’s report predicts that CMOS [definition] sensors will replace conventional CCD [definition] arrays and will drive prices down rapidly. The report expects digital still cameras with 1.3 megapixels for just $140 to appear on the market soon. PDAs, notebook PCs and mobile phones with built-in digital cameras will also become increasingly common as the technology improves and brings down prices.

The digital photography market will more than double in the next four years, growing to over $37 billion, according to Datacomm. The largest market for digital cameras is North America; Japan is second largest for digital still cameras and Europe is second largest for digital video cameras.

According to a study by InfoTrends Research Group worldwide shipments of low-end digital cameras will reach 17.7 million units in 2001, capturing 21 percent of total worldwide camera sales. By 2006, digital camera sales are expected to capture 63 percent of the total worldwide camera market, and revenue from digital camera sales is forecast to reach $9.9 billion in 2006.

“The worldwide economic situation is expected to impact digital camera sales in the short term, but this product category will remain more resilient than others,” said Michelle Slaughter, market research analyst at InfoTrends Research Group. “Digital cameras remain a top-selling consumer electronics product category due to compelling benefits — the ability to view and share digital photos immediately and incorporate digital photos into a variety of applications.”

Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Kodak and Canon are the top five worldwide digital camera vendors. In 2001, InfoTrends Research expects Sony to surpass Olympus as the worldwide market leader. The company has been the market leader in North America with a comfortable margin over its competitors over the last four years, and its positions in Japan and Europe continue to grow.

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