How Camera Phones Will Save the Photo World
By Eric Lin, Tue Feb 10 21:45:00 GMT 2004

Guy Kewney took a trip to PaperWorld, the trade show for office and stationary goods of all places, and found that the analog world couldn't be more excited about digital photography, especially cameraphones.


The excitement over digital photography in the paper world is being generated by the new print stations from Kodak and others that seem to be popping up at stores and tourist attractions everywhere. In the world of camera-based photography, print kiosks fill in a gap for tourists in the Gizmodo set. Digital cameras are still too expensive or too technical for most of the world, but those who can afford them need a place to print out their cherished memories. Or do they?

The paper industry is relying on two factors to stage a comeback on. The first is that people who take digital photographs will need a place to print out their snapshots. But predicting success on this idea alone is not very wise. Those who are digital or wealthy enough to use take digital photographs are not necessarily interested in making their memories analog, i.e. printing them out. They are more interested in the immediacy of bits, sharing pictures in online photo albums, or by email, or even in pixels through new digital devices like Nokia's Imagewear.

The second critical assumption is that cameraphones will be everywhere. And thanks to operator subsidies, they really mean everywhere, not just everywhere in industrial nations. The ubiquity of digital camera devices (phones, PDAs, and everything else, most likely) means that there will be a way to capture every moment- a technology for genuine snapshots, not just posed pictures. As the CEO of Ilford (a photographic paper company) puts it, "Maybe only a minority of the pictures taken this year will be judged worth keeping; but every one is a photograph that otherwise wouldn't have been taken, if not for the availability of a camera in someone's mobile phone."

Once these cameraphones get into the hands of people who don't own computers or printers or digital picture frames, they will need a way to save the snapshots worth keeping. And this is the sector that has the paper industry (as well as film processing giants like Kodak) genuinely excited. They've all heard the complaints from Digerati that the cameras in phones or other devices aren't good enough to print as picture, but these companies realize that integrated cameras are improving, and the digital snobs probably have higher expectations than those of the rest of the world. Whether cameras improve or standards are lowered, people will need a way to save the pictures stored in our phones, and the photo paper industry is looking forward to that day.