Smartphones eat into low-end camera sales in US, study

iPhone taking a picture of Apple founder Steve Jobs Photo sharing site Flickr's statistics suggest the iPhone is the most popular camera on its site

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Smartphones are eating into sales of basic cameras and camcorders in the US, according to market researchers.

The NPD Group said the point-and-shoot camera market sold 17% fewer units over the first 11 months of the year compared to the same period in 2010.

It said the pocket camcorder market fell by 13% over the same period.

Its online survey of adults and teenagers suggested users were also more likely to opt for their phone camera to take footage "on the fly".

Respondents said they were more likely to opt for their smartphone, rather than a dedicated device, to take pictures or video of "fun, casual or spontaneous moments".

However, smartphones were less likely to be used when it came to holiday snaps.

SLR sales stay strong

NPD's data also suggested that the total share of photos taken on a camera had fallen below the halfway point for the first time.

The study suggested that 44% of photos were taken on a camera over the last year, down from 52% over the previous period.

By contrast the share of photos taken with a smartphone rose to 27% from 17%.

However, higher-end cameras appear to be immune from the rise of the smartphone - at least for now. NPD said 12% more detachable lens cameras - including SLRs - were sold over the last 11 months.

It added that sales of cameras with a 10x zoom lens or greater rose by 16%.

"There is no doubt that the smartphone is becoming 'good enough' much of the time," said NPD's senior imaging analyst Liz Cutting.

"But for important events, single purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice."

'Faff-free'

Experts suggest the trend is in part due to the popularity of apps including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook which allow pictures to be uploaded to social networks immediately after they are taken.

"When you combine the fact that smartphone camera quality has increased roughly 10-fold from where we were five years ago and the fact that we have all these apps and services that make it easy to host the photos, it makes it a no-brainer that we use them rather than dedicated devices with which there is a huge faff involved to get the footage online," said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group Europe.

Yahoo-owned Flickr's popular photo sharing site appears to confirm the point. Its statistics suggest that Apple's iPhone 4 is the most popular camera in its community.

The next device in line is the Nikon D90 SLR camera, while the closest performing smartphone by another manufacturer is the HTC Evo 4G.

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