Magazine Article


State of the Imaging Industry 2002

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The State of the Imaging Industry 2002

Moving Beyond the Digital "Tipping Point"

Fujifilm Kodak Canon Nikon Olympus Minolta Konica Polaroid Mitsubishi Samsung Vivitar Noritsu AGFA Ilford Adobe PMDA Lehman Brothers PRO CEA IPC Arcsoft ASF Smartdisk Sandisk Foveon Tech Data Panasonic Epson International Imaging Industry Association (13A)

Most people would probably agree that it's been as difficult a year for the imaging industry as it has been for the world at large. With the stock market dropping to levels not seen in a decade, imaging manufacturers and photo dealers across the country have been forced to brainstorm in back rooms to come up with innovative products and methods to get the public buying again.

Let's face it, photography is still considered a luxury to a lot of people and when the economy goes sour, products stop moving. Add that to the continuing misperception that digital cameras are still too expensive, or that they don't take as good pictures as traditional cameras, or that they're hard to use, or that you can't get the images out of the camera, or that you can't print with them-and it's no wonder photo industry sales are down by more than three percent from a year ago.

But despite all that, things might not be as bad as they seem. According to InfoTrends, nearly 10 million digital cameras will be sold in 2002, marking a 27 percent increase over last year. That's a lot of digital cameras.

Or is it?

Other research shows that while digital camera penetration continues to grow, it's only hovering at about 11 percent in the U.S. It's funny, 11 percent doesn't seem like that much when you think about it.

More disconcerting still is the fact that only 20 percent of the over 30 billion digital captured each year are actually printed. Consider an anecdote by Mike Worswick, president of the Photographic Research Organization (PRO) in one of this year's State of the Industry reports. Mike writes about his 18-year-old daughter who loves shooting with her digital camera and sharing the images via email with her friends, but who hasn't quite caught on to printing those images at home or retail yet. According to Mike: "My daughter and millions like her are our biggest challenge now." And he's absolutely right.

All of which brings to mind a social paradigm known as "The Tipping Point." Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2000 book of the same name, "The Tipping Point" is a term taken from epidemiology to define when a trend or product suddenly becomes popular after interest reaches critical mass. With 11 percent penetration in the U.S., it's clear that digital photography is teetering on the tipping point right now. Getting Mike Worswick's daughter-and the many, many others out there like her-to print their digital images however, still has a ways to go.

In this year's State of the Industry reports that follow, you'll read about how the industry is forging ahead despite tough economic times, with new products and ideas designed to push digital photography, and the industry as a whole, beyond the tipping point, so everyone can benefit.

-Dan Havlik

By Stanley E. Freimuth,
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer,
Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc.

The ability to get photographic quality prints from digital cameras, as easily and affordably as is now done with film, represents both the most serious challenge and the most significant opportunity our industry has seen in many years.

Our own research has shown that most digital camera users would purchase prints from their digital media at retail, if a service comparable to one-hour film processing were offered. Therefore, manufacturers need to make getting a digital print as simple and inexpensive for the consumer as getting a traditional print. And manufacturers need to make it easy for the retailer to succeed in both the digital and traditional film processing business.

Fujifilm started on this road with the invention of the first digital minilab. Today our Frontier Digital Lab Systems hold the leading position in the worldwide digital minilab market. Fujifilm also offers its Aladdin and Printpix digital photo kiosks and a range of other photo processing products and services to enable retailers, from small specialty shops to big chain stores, to capitalize on these profit opportunities.

However, we still need to better educate consumers about their digital printing choices while also better educating retailers about how to attract those consumers.

For example, Fujifilm recently undertook what we call our "Digital Camera Developing" program, which is devised to help consumers understand the digital photography services that are available to them at their local retailers. We are also in the second year of our "Picture of America" Truck tour, which is showing consumers around the country how they can shoot, store, print and share their digital images.

In the end, consumers will continue to want what they've always wantedto obtain easily and affordably high quality pictures of the important people, events and places in their lives. By working together, retailers and manufacturers can meet these wants and needs with new products and services that expand business opportunities for all members of the imaging industry.

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