Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cell phones pressure low-end digital still camera market

EL SEGUNDO, USA: The low-end Digital Still Camera (DSC) market is coming under intensifying competitive pressure from cell phones that are sporting increasingly high-resolution image sensors, according to iSuppli Corp.

The average resolution for handset cameras’ CMOS sensors will rise to 5.7 megapixels in 2013, up 171.4 percent from 2.1 megapixels in 2009. In comparison, DSC megapixels will rise to 13.9 in 2013, up only 46.3 percent from 9.5 megapixels in 2009.

The figure presents iSuppli’s forecast for the weighted average resolution for both mobile handsets and DSCs for the period of 2007 through 2013.Source: iSuppli, USA.

“iSuppli believes that handsets soon may begin to cannibalize the low end of the DSC market as they incorporate higher megapixels and flash capabilities,” said Pam Tufegdzic, consumer electronics analyst at iSuppli.

“This is likely to occur first in Asia and Europe as consumers in these regions seem to be more comfortable with taking pictures using camera phones. As the number of megapixels in these phones rises and as consumers begin to use phones instead of cameras to take photos, iSuppli believes the quality of some handset cameras will rival low-end point-and-shoot cameras, presenting a competitive threat.”

It’s not the resolution that matters
However, while upping the megapixels in a phone’s camera will deliver better-quality images with smoother, less pixelated features, overall image quality actually is determined by a combination of factors, including low apparent levels of noise and strong low-light performance.

“Thus, a high-resolution camera phone may produce poorer image quality than a DSC because it has less sensitivity or poorer dynamic range, resulting in a relatively shallow contrast,” Tufegdzic said. “This may discourage some consumers from risking a precious family photo or another memory-keeping moment on a camera phone.”

These deficiencies can be remedied in a camera phone with the addition of optical zoom, auto focus, an improved flash and more sophisticated image processing electronics. OEMs will be focusing on these areas in order to improve the overall quality of photos in handset cameras. iSuppli also believes features such as image stabilization, automatic judgment and multiple image capture will migrate from DSCs to camera phone modules during the next few years.

Fighting back
Camera makers and their suppliers are responding to the competitive threat posed by handsets.

“Manufacturers of camera modules are firing back with increasing resolutions in smaller form factors to counter the mobile handset’s encroachment on the camera’s territory,” Tufegdzic said. “Will this be enough to fend off the incoming attack from handsets—or is the cannibalization of low-end DSCs inevitable? One thing’s certain: Camera OEMs won’t go down without a fight.”

Source: iSuppli, USA

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