Digital Cameras
This year Kodak announced it was discontinuing Kodachrome film; yet another indication of how pervasive digital cameras have become. Digital cameras have so much inertia in the consumer electronics market, the category does not appear to change much (at least this year). Throughout the year, prices and demand have remained steady and despite a modest holiday season uptick we expect Retrevo’s indices for digital cameras to finish at the same level they started at a year earlier. In April? we noted that the steady and even slowly rising demand in the face of unchanging prices led us to conclude that consumers were willing to pay for innovation. Popularity of cameras with new features like face detection and optical image stabilization, that cost a little more than older models, are good examples of innovation winning over price.

This Demand Index for digital cameras which includes point and shoot cameras. DSLRs, ultra-zooms, and others shows little fluctuation except for a seasonal increase.

The Retrevo Price Index for the year shows, a pretty much, straight line for the year with little price movement, up or down.

The End of Megapixel Marketing

As the megapixel war appears to be quieting down and most consumers realizing that 10 or 12 megapixels is adequate for most point and shoot occasions, we see the major innovations of last year and earlier begin to appear in more and more cameras.

Last Year’s Innovations

Face detection technology which seeks out faces and optimizes the picture for them is now present in almost 70% of the point and shoot cameras. There is new and improved face technology like smile detection and in-camera redeye reduction that is appearing in some of the latest cameras but for the most part, face detection will be a given this year.

Optical image stabilization is now showing up in over 60% of digital cameras. With lighter cameras that take pictures in lower light levels image stabilization can help make it harder to take a bad picture. You may still find the less desirable digital image stabilization in many cameras but as a differentiator, optical image stabilization is becoming a standard feature in point and shoot cameras.

What to Expect in the World of Digital Cameras
Consumer electronics devices continue to “cross-pollinate” with cameras.

  • We see smartphones with many megapixel cameras and built-in flash.
  • We see cameras that can shoot high definition videos and camcorders with long optical zooms able to shoot high resolution stills.
  • We see GPS built into cameras for geo-tagging photos.
  • As consumers become aware that more megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean better image quality we suspect manufacturers will focus on image sensor size. We don’t envy the marketing manager tasked with selling image sensor size as the feature of the year.
  • We’ll also be watching the Micro Four Thirds camera category which includes the new, popular, and highly praised Panasonic Lumix GF1.

Innovations bordering on novelties like the Samsung Dual View camera with a second display on the front side of the camera for those self-portrait shots and Nikon pico projector camera that displays photos on the wall, could help sell a few more cameras but we expect to see another steady and stable year for camera prices and demand.

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Jennifer Jacobson
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