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Picture looks bright for digital cameras

According to a survey, digital cameras continue to gain momentum in their bid to replace film, with 33 percent of respondents saying they owned a digital camera in 2001.

Digital cameras continue to gain momentum in their bid to replace film, according to a new study.

In a survey of 1,850 Internet-connected households by InfoTrends Research Group, 33 percent said they owned a digital camera in 2001. Of those households, 14 percent had cameras made by Sony, 12 percent by Polaroid, 10 percent by Eastman Kodak and 9 percent by Olympus, according to Michelle Slaughter, the author of the report.

But the kind of cameras people have at home and the kind that consumers were buying in 2001 don't necessarily match up, said Slaughter. According to market research data, Sony was the leader in terms of market share in 2001, followed by Olympus, Hewlett-Packard and Kodak. "Polaroid's share really dropped in 2001," Slaughter said, noting the company's bankruptcy filing last October.

The study also indicated that brand consciousness is losing importance. "For those households that plan to buy a digital camera, the brand isn't important if the price and features are right," Slaughter said. Canon, Kodak and Sony were listed as preferred brands by the 27 percent of Internet-connected households that said they plan to buy a digital camera.

The study found that most households now use their digital cameras as their primary means of photography, according to Slaughter, and 19 percent have stopped using film cameras altogether.

"The growth in market penetration will have a noticeable impact on the entire photo industry," she said.

Several new features and strong holiday sales have helped to boost the digital photography business, which lagged in the third quarter of 2001. According to Boston-based InfoTrends' study, 60 percent of Internet-connected households are expected to have a digital camera by the end of 2002.

The majority of those camera owners will be male, with an average age of 45, according to the study.

"One thing to consider is that people who tend to respond to a survey have more leisure time," Slaughter said. "Also, older camera buyers have time to spend on their hobby, and they want to stay in touch with their family through sending pictures over e-mail."