While the results should not surprise, given the higher quality cameras increasingly built into popular phones -- the iPhone 4S packs an 8-megapixel model, up from 5 on the iPhone 4 -- the survey offers a quantified look at how much the smartphone market is eating into the low-end camera market.
Who Needs A Camcorder?
The percentage of photos taken with a smartphone by a sample group answering online questions rose from 17 last year to 27, while the share of photos taken by camera dropped from 52 percent to 44 percent.
In separate findings, NPD's Retail Tracking Service found that so-called "point-and-shoot" camera sales fell 17 percent in units and 18 percent in dollars for the first 11 months of 2011. The drop in pocket camcorder sales was slightly lower, 13 percent in units, but steeper in dollars, 27 percent, while flash camcorders declined 8 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars.
Just over 30 percent of respondents said they now use phones for taking photos while on vacation, and just over 50 percent said they use phones for casual photos. The numbers were similar for video , with a higher number, about 55 percent, using their handy smartphones to capture spontaneous moments for posterity (or YouTube).
"Thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before," said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD, in releasing the results. "Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments, but for important events, single purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice."
The survey was taken Nov. 11-21 from a sample of adults over 18 and teens ages 13-17.
Manufacturers and carriers are increasingly seeing the value of good cameras as a selling point and differentiator. In June, HTC and T-Mobile released the MyTouch 4G , with an 8-megapixel camera, promising no shutter lag -- a big drawback of many digital cameras. With its fast data speed, the MyTouch is a good option for taking good pictures and sharing them quickly, T-Mobile said at the time.
"Smartphone cameras are getting good enough that people will only buy a digital camera if it is much better," said analyst Gerry Purdy of MobileTrax. The benefits of a dedicated, higher-end camera over a phone, he said are optical zoom, available only on select phones, large lens capture and better digital image capture chips.
"It's a trade-off of fidelity vs. convenience," Purdy said. "People want to have a really good camera for a wedding, but convenience is going to drive the popularity of camera phones, which are good enough for most situations."