by Andrea Doyle | September 01, 2012
As of February 2012, nearly half of American adults were smartphone owners, according to the Pew Research Center. With so many people walking around with high-quality cameras built into their phones, where does the digital camera industry now stand? Just fine, say industry experts.

"People may use their cell phones to take a quick photo here and there, but they are still not sophisticated enough to trust with your most precious memories," says Heather Chevreau, special accounts manager for Fujifilm North America. "Cell phones also don't work well in low-light conditions. Digital cameras with large zooms do extremely well in the incentive business because they appeal to both men and women of all ages," she adds.

Cameras still have broad appeal. "Digital camera products continue to be the 'universal incentive product,'" says Shelly Colla, national sales manager, premium incentive group, Sony Electronics. "The romance of capturing memories plays directly into the rewards business," adds Carey Berg, vice president of special markets for Vivitar.

Scott Crawford, Nikon's manager of special markets, points out that Facebook is one of the largest repository of images in the world. "This is a result of people wanting to share their lives. Every moment is a photographic moment and they always have a device to capture them," explains Crawford.

Crawford reports that there has never been greater demand for digital imaging. Although the basic entry-level digital cameras are losing ground to smartphones, single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera sales are up double digits, year-over-year. The benefits of a SLR camera are the quality and variety of lenses and the fact they excel in low-light situations.

Kimberly Carrette, manager, special account sales, Canon USA, agrees that there is a need for a dedicated digital camera even in the age of smartphones. "You will find that digital cameras far surpass the image quality of any smartphone," Carrette says.

As smartphone cameras improve, camera companies have responded by creating even more unique offerings such as rugged cameras that can be used underwater or in icy conditions - situations where smartphones cannot be used.


The PowerShot D20 (shown above) and PowerShot SX260 (not pictured) are two of Canon's most popular incentive program models. The SX260 is a long-zoom model, while the D20 is waterproof to 33 feet, temperature resistant from 14 to 104 degrees, and shockproof up to five feet. Both cameras include GPS tracking, which is ideal for travel.  $349.99 for both models


The Fuji FinePix S4500 has a 30x (24mm-720mm) Fujinon optical zoom lens that captures everything from wide-angle landscapes to amazing close-ups filled with detail. Easy-to-use features include a three-inch LCD screen, automatic scene recognition, face detection with automatic red-eye removal, and various pre-programmed scene modes that do all the work to create the perfect shot. It also captures movies in high definition. $359.99


According to Crawford, the Coolpix L810 does what a smartphone cannot: It brings zoom and sharp focus to images taken when you can't get close, capturing stills and movies with 26x optical zoom versatility. $279.95


Incentive winners can overcome the elements with the rugged Sony DSC-TX20. Waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof, it captures stunning 16.2-megapixel pictures and high-definition videos. The user can view creative picture effects on its three-inch touchscreen LCD display before shooting. $329.99

Vivitar's ViviCam i7 makes it easier than ever to upload photos and videos and share them online through Facebook and YouTube. The iPad-docking digital camera captures images with 7.1-megapixel resolution, and includes an iPad photo editing app that lets you edit, organize, and add special effects. $100.