by Ron Leach
Back in the "old days" of film, most photographers concentrated on image capture, with "output" being limited to the relatively few pros and enthusiasts with access to a darkroom. Things are a bit different in today's digital world, with affordable inkjet printers enabling just about anyone to make their own prints. Combine this at-home capability with the many online and retail options that exist for printing your work and it's no wonder that the growth in digital printing volume is outpacing the healthy sales of digital cameras themselves.
In the 12 months ending November 2006, the volume of prints (all sizes) made from digital still cameras grew by 49%. According to the Photo Marketing Association (PMA), the volume of prints made at home grew by 28% during this time period, while online ordering activity and printing at retail minilabs increased by 122% and 60% respectively. More digital photographers printed their digital images at instant kiosks last year as well, with that option growing by 41% over the prior year.
By comparison, overall sales of digital cameras grew by 20% in the year ending November, 2006, with sales of all 35mm film cameras dropping by 48% and sales of film SLRs posting even heavier losses of 60% in total units. As you might suspect, the growth in digital cameras was most notable among high-resolution models: sales of cameras in the 6-6.9 megapixel range grew by almost 600% while sales of cameras with resolution of 7 megapixels or greater grew by 114%. Sales of cameras in the 3-3.9 and 4.9 megapixel categories, on the other hand dropped by 77% and 53% respectively. Interestingly, sales of cameras with less than 3-megapixel resolution increased by 49%, and we'd assume that the growth in camera phones was largely responsible for that (although the data we received from PMA didn't make that distinction).