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Digital camera sales sailing

New study also says point-and-shoots with 7-megapixel and 8-megapixel resolution will be mainstream by 2009.

Digital camera sales worldwide will reach $24 billion in 2004 and are expected to hit $31 billion in 2009, according to a new study.

Sensor resolution, represented in megapixels, remains the top specification relied on by consumers when choosing which camera to buy, according to the study by market researcher InfoTrends/CAP Ventures.

"Even though resolution does not always equate to image quality, it is an easy metric for consumers to compare," said Michelle Slaughter, an analyst at InfoTrends/CAP Ventures.

This year, digital camera makers introduced several 7-megapixel and 8-megapixel models. By 2009, cameras with that resolution are expected to be mainstream segments for point-and-shoot cameras, the research firm said.

Digital cameras with a resolution of 4 megapixels to 5 megapixels are currently the mainstream for point-and-shoot cameras used by amateur photographers.

As resolution increases, camera makers must also advance the image-processing speed to handle the larger files, the firm said.

"Consumers recognize the need for speed when they complain about shutter lag and click-to-click speed," Slaughter said. "As a result, manufacturers are trying to raise brand awareness of their image processors, and consumers may eventually learn that image processors are also a key component influencing their satisfaction."

Digital cameras are not as quick at taking images and shooting multiple frames as traditional film cameras.

The top five worldwide market leaders in digital camera sales in 2004 are, in rank order, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Eastman Kodak and Fuji Photo Film, the firm said. Those companies are expected to remain in the top five next year, although their rank may change.

The top three regions for digital camera sales in the world in 2004 are Europe, the United States and Japan.

Story Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.