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Smartphones killing demand for point-and-shoot cameras

This year, as I was sorting through pictures for my annual family calendar, I noticed something. A good portion of the pictures I was using were taken not on the brand-new camera we purchased this year, but on my smartphone.

Apparently, I'm not alone. A new study from market researcher NPD confirms that consumers are now taking more than a quarter of their photos and videos on their smartphones.

The percentage of photos taken with a smartphone iPhone (or any other smartphone) rose to 27 per cent from 17 per cent last year, while the share of photos taken on any camera dropped from 52 per cent to 44 per cent.

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Already this behaviour has hurt demand for camcorders and lower-end point-and-shoot cameras. According to NPD's Retail Tracking Service, the point-and-shoot camera market was down 17 per cent in units and 18 per cent in dollars for the first 11 months of this year.

Sales of pocket camcorders also fell, dropping 13 per cent in units and 27 per cent in dollars while traditional flash camcorder sales declined 8 per cent in units and 10 per cent in dollars, according to NPD.

"There is no doubt that the smartphone is becoming 'good enough' much of the time; but thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before," said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD, in a press release.

That's an observation that's not likely to surprise many people who have now grown accustomed to seeing people frequently taking pictures of their dinner or documenting every event – big or small – in great detail.

"Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments, but for important events, single-purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice."

That may explain why there still is some growth in the camera market. Sales of cameras with a detachable lens rose 12 per cent in units and 11 per cent in dollars during the same 11-month period. These high-end cameras cost an average of $863 (U.S.).

Also popular were point-and-shoot cameras with optical zooms of 10-times or greater, which grew by 16 per cent in units and 10 per cent in dollars. Cameras in this category cost an average of $247.

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These types of cameras are likely to continue to have their supporters, as photography is a popular hobby. However, with smartphone cameras getting better and better, consumers will rely on them more and more.

A lot of that has to do with convenience. Smartphones make it easier to share photos with family and friends. A few clicks and the image is posted to Facebook, emailed off to a grandparent, or published in a blog. And smartphone apps like Hipstamatic make it fun and easy to tinker with special effects on the image.

Also, smartphones are always in your pocket, allowing you to snap when the moment is right. Because you never know when you're going to see a rainbow, stumble on a funny sign or see a FedEx guy drop your package over your fence.

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