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Rapid Advances in Digital Imaging are Reshaping Visual Communication

Digital Imaging Landscape Market Analysis and Commentary

07 Nov 2017 - The number of people capturing images worldwide, along with the variety and volume of imaging devices, is increasing as technological advances and societal influences are changing the very nature of what it means to take photos, finds Futuresource Consulting in its latest Imaging Devices Landscape Report.

The worldwide installed base of all imaging devices reached 6.1 billion units in 2016 and is set to rise by 2% (CAGR 2017-21) to almost 7 billion by 2021. This growth is being fuelled by increased adoption of smartphones and the rise of dedicated imaging devices such as toy/video drone cameras, action cams, instant print cameras, 360 consumer cameras and wearable cameras.

Consumer demand for these dedicated imaging devices has been influenced by changing social behaviour, where social media, security and convenience now play a significant role.

The report notes that communication methods have changed significantly in recent years, with services like Snapchat and Instagram moving communication towards visual media such as photos, videos, filters, emojis and avatars and away from text-based communication. This is particularly so among younger consumers for whom text often plays a secondary role.

Meanwhile, powerful digital image processing techniques (computational photography) and hardware advances like depth/motion sensors and dual lenses have enhanced the user experience and introduced a new way of using imaging. Futuresource believes that depth imaging technology will continue to be enhanced by further developments in camera hardware (image sensors), which are likely to support further advances in smartphone applications that include identification, biometrics, measurement/inspection, gaming and augmented reality (AR).

Image sensors continue to improve (better quality in low-light, for example) and the number of sensors per device is set to rise, fuelled by dual lens smartphone cameras and depth/motion sensors. Dual lens cameras were present in 2% of worldwide smartphone volumes in 2016. This is set to reach 6% in 2017 and 15% in 2019.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another key area of innovation in the imaging market. Examples of AI (or machine vision and machine learning) techniques include the identification of familiar faces that triggers automatic burst capture (e.g.15 frames per second) when a subject is smiling.

At the same time, and perhaps because of the saturation of digital images, there has been a resurgence in demand for tangible outputs and the opportunity to be creative with physical prints. For younger consumers, an instant print, with the accompanying fashionable retro look and feel, is often their first experience of a physically printed photo, while for older consumers instant print cameras combine modern camera technology with hints of nostalgia.

Capture and consumption of video content is becoming increasingly important, particularly to the younger demographic. The report incorporates the brand new 'Imaging Ecosystems' consumer research by Futuresource and highlights the importance of 4K capture for both interchangeable lens cameras (e.g. DSLR) and smartphone owners.

The population of photographers has grown by a factor of 7 over the last 10 years, to more than 4 billion, while the number of photos captured annually continues to increase. The overall number of photos captured is set to rise by 9% CAGR 2017-21, driven entirely by the growth in smartphone capture.

"Smartphones continue to raise the bar in terms of what consumers want and expect from their digital camera; at the same dedicated digital cameras are falling behind smartphones in terms of usability and convenience, ultimately forcing consumers to consider the trade-off," commented Arun Gill, Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting. "Photography has expanded from traditional capture, such as family events, to now include non-traditional capture using techniques like augmented reality or mixed reality. This has been enabled by developments in both hardware and software including dual lens cameras, computational photography and artificial intelligence, which are set to play a significant role in imaging devices moving forwards."


Futuresource Consulting is a specialist research and knowledge-based consulting company, providing organisations with insight into consumer electronics, digital imaging, entertainment media, broadcast, storage media, education technology and IT. With a heritage stretching back to the 1980s, the company delivers in-depth analysis and forecasts on a global scale, advising on strategic positioning, market trends, competitive forces and technological developments. 

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