Europe shoots to top of digital camera boom

Europe's sophisticated mobile phone market has been quick to adopt digital cameras, but the gap to the US is narrowing. And the technology may have already become passe in Japan
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor
Digital camera sales have almost doubled this year, with Europe ahead of the US and Japan in terms of sales and revenues, according to a Japanese industry group.

The Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) -- whose members include Canon, Sony, Olympus and Fuji Film -- said that during the first half of 2003, 13.4 million units were shipped worldwide, a year-on-year increase of 93 percent. Europe received 4.57 million units, 20 percent more than the US, which consumed 3.82 million units, while 3.08 million units were snapped up in Japan.

The research also found that last year was the first time that more digital cameras than film-based cameras were sold -- but only just. According to the CIPA, around 24.5 million digital cameras were sold in 2002, compared with 23.6 million film-based cameras. Although the difference is marginal, the gap is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

One of the effects of the digital camera and mobile phone markets fusing is that Europe is expected to continue holding a technological lead over the US in these two areas, although only in the short term.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said that US consumers are only just being weaned off pagers and onto digital mobile phones, something that took place in Europe years ago. "From the camera-phone side, the US is definitely behind -- they are still getting used to the idea of SMS and MMS (text and picture messaging)," she said. She warned that although Japan's sales put it behind Europe and the US, this could be because the Japanese market has already been saturated and consumers are only now upgrading their handsets. "Japan and Asia Pacific are ahead of everyone else -- they already have a one-megapixel camera phone," she pointed out.

Christopher Chute, market analyst at IDC, said that although the US is behind now, it will catch up before long. "Camera phones will not be affecting the US market at all, due to the high prices of camera phones, lack of image quality, lack of consumer understanding, and lack of infrastructure. US consumer digital camera shipments will reach 13 million units by the end of 2003," he said.

Editorial standards