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Digital camera market focuses on growth

The latest market snapshot indicates that the digital camera industry still has its viewfinder set on 10 percent growth for the year.

The latest market snapshot indicates that the digital camera industry remains focused on 10 percent growth for the year.

Market researcher IDC released a report Monday that reiterated projections for shipments of 8.6 million digital cameras this year in the United States--a 10 percent jump over last year.

Second-quarter shipments reached 1.8 million units--a 14 percent jump compared with the same quarter last year.

"The market is continuing to grow despite a slowdown in the overall economy," IDC analyst Chris Chute said. He added that a transition to a broader consumer audience is fueling the growth.

"The market is moving from the smaller early-adopter group to the much larger mainstream audience," Chute said.

But that doesn't necessarily translate into poor-quality cameras. Last year, there was some concern that manufacturers and consumers were overemphasizing low-priced cameras with relatively poor picture quality, leaving consumers with a bad first impression of digital photography.

Even though manufacturers have become more price-competitive, Chute said, the $100-and-under low end of the market is shrinking. Instead of offering the lowest prices possible, manufacturers are now looking to improve the digital photography experience by beefing up services, such as online photo development, and peripherals, such as photo printers.

In another sign that the market is maturing, Chute said, manufacturers are offering a wider assortment of digital cameras and are targeting a greater range of consumers, from novices to professionals. These sorts of actions are apparently paying off for market leaders such as Sony and Olympus, he said.

According to second-quarter data, Sony remained the market share leader at 20 percent. Olympus was close behind with 16 percent. Eastman Kodak and Hewlett-Packard were tied for third, each with 11 percent.