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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 09:35 GMT
Digital cameras capture imagination
A baby
Smile! Your image has been digitally captured
Jane Wakefield

Digital photography firms in the US have every reason to smile as it emerges that the take-up of digital products across the pond is exceeding the growth of net users.

While online growth is rising in the US by just 18.6%, use of photo-editing software in the home is up 27%.

In October, more than 21 million US computer users turn to digital photography.

This is an impressive figure and according to Matt Marshall, analyst at research firm IDC, it is likely the figures will be reflected in the UK market.

Easy to use

He puts the popularity of DIY photography down to the freedom it gives consumers.

"It gives you the ability to decide what you want to print and the freedom to manipulate images, unlike going to traditional photo print shops where you might get just four decent images back," he says.

Research firm Jupiter MMXI, which collected the US data, believes digital photography is about to become mass market.

Analyst Billy Pidgeon says consumers are finding digital products very easy to use.

"With the increasing popularity and lower pricing of digital cameras and scanners, more consumers are becoming proficient in digital imaging," he says.

"Compared with analogue photography, digital offers incredible ease-of-use, instant gratification and unprecedented ability to share photos over the web," he says.

Special moment

Digital photography seems to have imprinted itself on the public consciousness.

Unlike digital music, there are no payment or distribution issues to worry about. The software is easy to master and, for the price of an e-mail, the first proud picture of your newborn infant can be sent to grandparents the other side of the globe in an instant.


It gives you the ability to decide what you want to print and the freedom to manipulate images

Matt Marshall, IDC
This is proving irresistible to users, says Kodak's director of marketing Steve Raher.

"Consumers like the spontaneity and the informality and taking pictures is all about capturing memories," he says.

Like other traditional photography firms, Kodak has recognised the impact of digital and now has a division devoted to it.

Currently, Mr Raher believes, many digital users are still relying on their traditional cameras for special occasions, using digital cameras for more spontaneous photos.

Digital sales up

"One of the barriers is getting prints. A lot of people are still struggling to get pictures into the computer and getting a good print," he points out.

A digital camera from Kodak
Digital cameras offer greater freedom
Websites which offer photo services are doing well according to Jupiter. Services such as archive storage, tools for designing multimedia slideshows, greeting cards, photo-mugs, T-shirts and posters are all finding plenty of customers.

UK high-street electrical-retailer Dixons found last year that sales of digital cameras outstripped that of traditional 35mm ones for the first time.

A more technically aware consumer, improved quality and memory, and the proliferation of multi-functional devices are all cited as reasons for the popularity of digital.

By contrast, end-of-year figures from Boots showed that its in-house photographic development business suffered a 4% fall, some of which can be attributed to the rise of digital, says a spokesman.

Faded memories

Boots is now offering digital development services and is hopeful that this will grow.

"Trends in Japan, where the penetration of digital cameras is much higher, show that although not as many pictures are being printed, a lot more photos are being taken," the spokesman says.

It is unlikely that digital photography will ever entirely replace traditional methods of snapping but for the amateur photographer digital can be a godsend.

A digital image can be a lot more rewarding than the faded prints from the developers - sunsets can be enhanced, red-eye syndrome eliminated and even double chins can mysteriously disappear.

The future of digital looks bright.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | Business
Digital camera craze hurts Boots
05 Nov 01 | Business
Camera firms see bleak Christmas
02 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Digital photos 'endanger the past'
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