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Kodak catches up with Sony in camera sales

Third-quarter survey of digital camera market from IDC shows 40 percent growth and a real horse race.

The digital camera market has turned into a dead heat, with Kodak virtually tied for the top spot with perennial sales leader Sony, according to an IDC report.

The research firm's survey of third-quarter U.S. camera sales, released on Friday, found that Sony sold 1 million units to command 20 percent of the market. Kodak shifted only 10,000 fewer, to grab 19.8 percent of the market.

Canon was third, moving 800,000 units for a 16 percent market share, followed by Olympus, with sales of 600,000 and market share of 12 percent.

Chris Chute, digital imaging analyst for IDC, said this is the first time since IDC started compiling such surveys that Sony hasn't had a clear lead.

"The investments that Kodak has made in digital imaging are really starting to pay off," Chute said. "They're not just the low-cost guys now; they're starting to get higher marks for product quality. And Kodak is much more aggressive in pursuing a proliferation strategy with partners like Dell."

Kodak, which pretty much invented film photography as a commercial business, has invested billions of dollars over the past few years to shift its resources to digital imaging, where it has developed technology covering everything from camera displays to retail printing services.

Kodak's sales surge sets the stage for an unpredictable holiday quarter, when camera makers typically amass almost half their annual sales, Chute said. "At this point, it's really tough to say how things are going to add up for the full-year sales figures," he said.