Affordable and compact digital cameras are being snapped up by Europeans, according to new figures.
Higher quality digital cameras will drive sales further
More than double the number of digital cameras were sold in western Europe in 2002 than the previous year, said research group IDC.
More than a fifth of those were bought by Britons, who spent close to £421 million on them.
The availability of affordable, small, lower quality digital cameras has helped sales develop at a rapid rate, say analysts.
The launch of a number of models with much better two mega-pixel resolution has also boosted sales.
Manipulate and share
IDC senior analyst Paul Withington predicted that 2003 would be the year of the improved three mega-pixel camera.
This quality compares favourably with standard analogue cameras and is something consumers are keen to see improve.
"The growth has been driven by what is being demanded by customers and this kind of resolution is key to the customer", Mr Withington told BBC News Online.
"Companies are also offering more software packages with the cameras to enable users to manipulate, edit and share their images easily with their families and friends.
"This empowers you to change the image and do what you want with it", he said.
The ability to print digital images on the high street and the launch of a new way to transfer images is set to catapult digital cameras even deeper into the consumer's pocket.
The PictBridge standard allows cameras to connect to any printer without the need for a PC, making home printing a more viable option.
Poorer quality phone cams may drive digital sales
Of the nine million digital cameras sold in 2002, one million cost less than £100. Such low price tags encourage the techno-nervous to try out digital snapping, without breaking the bank.
There is some concern, however, that the growing popularity of 3G mobile phones with cameras could pose a threat to the burgeoning market.
There are currently some drawbacks to mobile phone camera technology, such as poor quality images, the lack of a flash as well as the expense of sending the images to someone else.
Mr Withington said these drawbacks will actually help sales of digital cameras though.
"Many people are accessing and experiencing digital imaging through their phones, which they might not have done in the past.
"But they will quickly realise the quality is not there to print them, so they will move on to more sophisticated digital cameras."
Have you bought or are thinking of getting a digital camera? Is it the end of the line for film?
Or will traditional cameras survive the march of technology?
My digital camera is probably the most used item of technology I own, apart from my mobile phone! 6 months after buying it I have over 5 gigabytes of photos and take around 20 times more photos than I ever would with a 35mm camera (plus.. the digital is so much smaller). A word of advice though... don't bother printing out photos on inkjets. Simply take your memory card down to your local high-street photo processing shop as most do direct digital prints!
Rich Halfpenny, UK
I don't see the need to argue, there is room for both. I have been using both film and digital for some time now and find they can live side by side. Film still gives better quality and projected slides give excellent colour brightness and definition. For action photography my motor drive Minolta SLR with auto follow focus lens is superb. I find the digital too slow to process the shots and a horrendous eater of batteries. Plus high quality printing can be expensive.
For run of the mill tourist, party shots etc. the digital is well used with its ability to delete poor shots and take many pictures cheaply, we also use digitals for documenting items at work.
Digital film is only the means to deliver the art of photography, and should have the same standing as conventional photography. You can't say, for example, that a good book written by a work processor is worth less than a hand written book, can you?
Arya Saba, Iran
I never used to take "real" photos but since buying a digital camera I haven't stopped. They are great, all of my photos go onto our website so everyone can see them rather than them sitting in a box in my house for years and years nobody ever seeing them. All of my mates do the same as well, how did I live without it!!
Colin Myles, UK
As my hobby is photography I spend a great deal on film and processing. I recently purchased 5.5 mega pixel digital SLR and can't get over how good it is. No the resolution isn't as fine as 35mm slide and because CCDs are smaller than the 35mm frame lenses have a different focal length but its still well worth the outlay. I'd love a digital body to go with my existing lenses but alas my choice of manufacturer hasn't produced one yet. I don't think the mega pixel size will go beyond 15mp as the file sizes will become too big to handle
Steven Bannister, UK
I am on my third digital camera in 5 years. The first was acceptable but not great. The second, a compact type, was fantastic, and so forgiving. It was difficult to take a bad shop any you do you delete. The third is an SLR digital. Wow! My traditional SLR was auctioned as a result of the digital SLR. Running on 4x NiMH rechargeable batteries, I have got nearly 600 pictures with flash on the one set of batteries. With rechargeable batteries and flash memory cards at low prices, it is possible to just snap snap snap. No worries about running out of film - especially when a 1GB memory card can take 900+ pictures at the highest resolution. When the likes of Kodak are feeling the pinch and announcing job losses, digital must be making some headway in the traditional film market.
Andrew Hurst, England
Digital cameras are surely a great technological advance and the traditional ones are doomed to oblivion; however this is not the case with professional cameras: they still have more advantages over the digital ones and can't compare.
I recently took the plunge and used a digital camera at a family wedding. Although the free flowing champagne might have had some effect, I did feel that the results were not quite up to what I would have expected with my SLR. However cool it is seeing your picture on an LCD screen or your computer, nothing, to my mind, compares to the thrill of seeing the picture swim onto the paper in the developing tray.
Believe me when I say I couldn't take a good picture to save my life. I bought my digital camera last year and it has enabled me to take far better pictures. A digital camera allows you a lot more freedom. If you take a bad picture you delete it and move on to the next. I also have to say because of this reason both my friends and I have become far better looking. I get rid of the scary triple chin pictures the second I realise I've taken them.
I'm on my 4th digital camera in as many years and I don't see much of a future for 35mm camera film. Most digital cameras above 3 mega-pixels offer an image quality comparable to that of standard film and you can pick and choose which photos you want to get developed and which ones to throw away (delete). Plus you can now get a set of digital prints on photographic quality paper for about the same price as it costs to develop standard film.
Sam, London, UK
Photography using film will not die a death. Film is an art form in itself, and whilst you can use software to mimic film qualities, there is nothing to touch film as an artistic medium. In the world of holiday snaps digital has a place.
Richard Hough, UK
Name an advantage to traditional compact cameras over their modern digital competition for the average consumer, I dare you. No? Didn't think so. For a start you save a small fortune by only getting the prints you want developed, so avoiding the dozens that don't make the family album and so hit the bin or sit in a drawer for years. The advantages of digital are huge - price, convenience, features, sharing with friends via email. In 10-15 years time, when the current teenage generation becomes parents, film cameras will be either totally obsolete, or an ancient art-form!
Ben Phillips, UK
Digital photography is great fun because it is instant. You can generally review the photo straight away (as with video) and can discard and re-take until you are happy. Once home you can "play" with it using photo-editing software, correcting red-eye, applying colour balance and adjusting contrast. You can even trim the bits you don't want, or stitch multiple photos together into a collage. If you want "hard-copy" of specific prints then either use a "local" printer (connected to your PC), or send them off via the web to a professional printing organisation. I've never taken so many photographs.
I love my digital camera - we e-mail photos back home to the UK for family to see the kids growing up, it's wonderful. But the printouts from our new HP ink-jet are not great, even though a review said it did a good job. They are poor in comparison to normal prints, and there are no digital print shops in downtown Asuncion. When reasonably priced ink-jet printers produce genuine photo-quality prints, then digital photography will finally have come of age.
Stephen Trew, Paraguay
As an avid amateur photographer and a gadget junky I had split feelings about buying a digital camera. I wanted to ability to manipulate my photos but didn't want to give up the flexibility of my SLR. Finally succumbed and bought a five mega pixel camera. The quality is stunning. I can take 10 photos of the same thing altering my exposure settings, something I had always read about but really couldn't afford to do. I alter and crop my photos on my PC. Reduce red eye, colour saturation etc. Now when I take in my selected photos to be professionally printed I am never disappointed by paying for a third that didn't quite come out as I expected.
Digital technology is now there. The resolution of a three mega pixel cameras is as good as a 35mm traditional camera, and a 6x optical lens is similar to a 35-200mm telephoto lens. I bought one of these early in 2003 having waited for this "package" to become affordable (£225). The results are brilliant, and I only need print my best pictures.
Andrew Smith, UK
I doubt this will be the end of traditional cameras. I have a beloved SLR and although digital cameras may offer you scores of sexy features and toys, normal cameras suit me just as well. To most people all they look for is a good quality camera which you can point with and click. I prefer developed photographs from film. Digital camcorders on the other hand.
I have gone through several digital cameras. The small cheaper resolution cameras are great for taking pictures for web use. However without spending a lot of money it is still difficult to take pictures of fast moving objects. Unless you are prepared to pay well over £1000 then film cameras still have a large quality advantage, but I expect that to change over the next couple of years.
Keith Walker, UK
I bought my digital camera several years ago and have not
used my film SLR since. I take many more photos,
of subjects I wouldn't waste expensive film on. This in
itself means digital cameras will supplant film:
it changes your picture taking habits.
I bought a well known brand £250+ digital camera two years ago and find the best feature is the ability to review/delete the pic immediately on the display. BUT: Printing is time consuming and printed image often fades. The camera runs on operating software, which has proved unstable. It also eats batteries at an alarming rate. I've now been converted back to conventional cameras, much more convenient and cost of film developing far outweighs the digital hassle factors above, in my opinion.
Brian, United Kingdom
As a film student, I've been to numerous industry conferences that compare digital and celluloid media. Consumer digital cameras are still no match for traditional 35mm prints (eg vibrancy of colours), however with high-end digital cameras, few professionals can spot any difference.
Chris Wrigley, UK
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