Digital Camera Ownership Small But Growing

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Jackson, Mich. -- The number of consumers who have heard about digital cameras has more than doubled in the past three years, but household penetration is still miniscule, according to a survey by the Digital Imaging Marketing Association.

In DIMA's 1999 survey of 5,100 U.S. households, 64.9 percent of the respondents said they had heard or read about digital cameras, up from just 24.6 percent in 1996. Despite the growing awareness of digital cameras, only 4.4 percent of those surveyed had purchased a digital camera by 1999.

Demographically there were only a few percentage points difference in digital camera ownership. Household income had the primary impact: 7.9 percent of homes with an income between $100,000 and $129,000 had a digital camera; 6.1 percent earning half that amount had cameras; and 3.1 percent earning less than $15,000 had purchased a digital camera.

The survey data indicated that lower-income-level ownership was the result of low-cost digital cameras. DIMA found the majority (15.6 percent) of cameras purchased cost between $100 and $199, well within the reach of most consumers.

Age played a small role in the decision to buy a camera, with those under 25 years old almost as likely as those age 75 and older to have one, according to the study.

The person most likely to buy a digital camera for the home was a male. Men bought just more than 64 percent of all cameras, with the majority of purchasers between the ages of 35 and 54. Men of this age group are also the primary users of the digital camera, comprising 54-46 percent of users.

For conventional cameras, however, women comprise the majority of buyers and users, at 63.7 percent.

As would be expected of a still developing category, first-time digital camera buyers make almost all of the digital camera purchases. Ninety-two percent reported that their most recent digital camera purchase was their first, and most obtained their cameras online. Almost 20 percent told DIMA that their camera was bought from the Web, with 17 percent going to a consumer electronics outlet and 10.4 percent to a computer store. Camera specialty shops drew just 10.4 percent of the sales.

However, this trend is not expect to apply to the purchase of a second digital camera. Consumer electronics stores are where the next digital camera will be bought for 27.3 percent of those surveyed, with the Internet getting 17.2 percent of the sales and camera stores 11.1 percent.

CE stores will also attract more of those shopping for their second digital camera. According to DIMA, 67.6 percent of respondents intend to visit a brick & mortar retailer to browse, with 59.5 percent doing the same online and 57.7 heading to a warehouse club.

One potentially disastrous fact uncovered by the survey is that digital camera owners rarely use their equipment. Almost 6 percent reported not using the camera in the past year, while 15 percent snapped digital pictures only once or twice. Twenty percent used their cameras three to six times, with usage trailing off from that point.

The respondents indicated they used their digital cameras primarily for home use (58.3 percent), but a healthy number (34.2 percent) said the camera was used for both home and business. Just 7.5 percent said the camera was strictly a business tool.

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