Smartphones from Apple Inc. and HTC Corp. are hijacking the photo-taking market, with camera makers such as Sony Corp. facing the weakest demand since 2009.
“The cell-phone camera is becoming more accepted as the primary camera,” said Pamela Tufegdzic, an analyst at research firm IHS Inc. “Smartphones are cannibalizing the point-and-shoot, digital-still camera market.”
The CHART OF THE DAY shows digital-camera shipments are expected to fall 4.3 percent this year to 115.2 million units, the lowest level since 2009, data compiled by IHS show. By contrast, smartphone shipments will surge 35 percent to 642 million units, the Englewood, Colorado-based research company estimates. Japanese camera makers such as Nikon Corp. and Canon Inc. will bear the brunt of market shift, which has some similarities to the evolution from film-based to digital photography.
The iPhone 4S, Apple’s latest smartphone, takes photos with 60 percent higher resolution than the company’s previous model. HTC, which makes smartphones based on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, said its new One handsets capture images in poor-lighting conditions. And Nokia Oyj, the world’s biggest mobile-phone maker by volume, last month introduced a handset with a camera sensor that the company says delivers photos with five times the resolution of the iPhone 4S.
“You have the ability to zoom in to capture detail that you can’t immediately see if you’re just looking at the image itself,” Jo Harlow, head of the smart-devices unit of Nokia, said at the GSMA Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona.
Japanese manufacturers including Nikon, Canon, Sony and Olympus Corp. shipped 5.6 million digital cameras in January, 10 percent fewer than a year earlier, according to the Camera & Imaging Products Association. Eastman Kodak Co., which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, has initiated patent-infringement cases against Apple and HTC that claim infringement of inventions related to digital photographs.