Camera Use Declines in Favor of Smartphones, Study Says

The number of photos taken with smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone rose in 2011 while camera use declined, according to a study by research firm NPD Group. Smartphones accounted for 27 percent of photos taken in 2011, compared with 17 percent the year before, and camera photos fell from 52 to 44 percent, the December 22 study said.

They also are being used to shoot more film, the report found, and phones are now contributing 25 percent of all photos and videos combined. More than 50 percent of “fun, casual, spontaneous” photos were taken with smartphones, compared to just higher than 30 percent of vacation photos, the study found.

The surging numbers indicate that users prefer the typically smaller, more portable devices for impromptu moments and spontaneous photography. It’s indicative of a changing atmosphere for the retail photography market, which took a downturn in 2011. Companies such as Apple and Google have included more high-powered digital cameras in their phones, epitomized by the improved 8 megapixel camera on the new iPhone 4s – a feature that drew in many buyers.

“Thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before,” said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD. “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.”

Consumers in the camera market are becoming more clearly split, the report suggests, as sales of point-and-shoot cameras and pocket camcorders decline while those for larger, removable-lens and large zoom devices increased. Lower-end handheld camera sales fell 17 percent in 2011, while removable-lens sales rose 12 percent.

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