Cell Phones Boost Digital Photography's Image

Digital cameras are getting an image boost from an unlikely source: cell phone cameras.

Interest in digital cameras is going up in direct relation to the growth in sales of cell phones that also take pictures, a new survey by technology market analyst IDC shows.

The Mobile Imaging Survey, made public this week, shows that well over a quarter of camera phone users were inclined to buy a digital camera because their experience with the camera phone made them less intimidated by digital photography.

The findings refute earlier speculation among market and industry analysts that camera phones eventually would replace digital cameras. Since the first camera phone appeared in late 2000, the image quality has improved, approaching that of some digital cameras.

Camera phone users like to snap pictures anywhere, anytime and send them immediately by e-mail.

Still, users prefer a digital camera for "keepsake" pictures, such as family portraits and vacation snapshots, IDC discovered.

Those keepsake images also are the pictures that camera phone users are most likely to save and print at home, the survey found. Consequently, fewer camera phone images are being printed, dropping to an average of one every three months now from one a month last year.

IDC's research appears to match, in part, studies cited earlier this year by Eastman Kodak Co. on camera phone habits. The company discovered that more than 70 percent of camera phone users rarely move images into a computer for archiving or printing later.

Camera phones outsell digital cameras about four to one, but they aren't the source of most digital images. About 7.5 billion images will be taken with camera phones this year, compared with an estimated 40 billion from digital cameras, IDC said.

The survey analyzed responses from 150 people nationwide, mostly 25- to 44-year-olds; it was weighted to reflect the nation as a whole.

Reporter David Sheets E-mail: dsheets@post-dispatch.com Phone: 314-340-8389 Online: www.stltoday.com/techtalk

St. Louis Post-Dispatch copyrighted (2005) St. Louis Post-Dispatch.