Worldwide shipments of digital still cameras will hit 10.8 million units in 2000 and are poised to rise higher still in 2001, according to an estimate from Japanese market research company Nikkei Market Access (NMA).

Shipments have steadily increased all year from 1.8 million units in the first quarter to nearly 4 million units expected in the fourth quarter of the year, NMA said in a statement.

Snap expansion The latest forecast represents a healthy 109.5 per cent increase on global shipments in 1999, although is slightly lower than the 11 million unit forecast by NMA in August this year.

For 2001, NMA said it expects the global digital still camera market to expand by a further 71 per cent to reach 18.5 million units. The year is likely to be characterized by fast expansion in Europe and Asia, which have lagged North America and Japan in the last few years, according to NMA. Shipments are expected to drop slightly in the first quarter, to slightly more than 3.5 million units, and then steadily rise to more than 5.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2001.

While 3 megapixel-class digital cameras are becoming more popular in Japan, the next year is likely to see 2M-pixel cameras become the most common type in the global market, according to NMA. Such cameras provide an acceptable image for most users and strike a balance between the lower quality of 1M-pixel cameras and the higher memory demands of cameras capable of 3M pixel and higher resolutions.

Among the major manufacturers, Olympus and Sony are likely to share the top position in 2000, each holding 21.5 per cent market share. Sony's success is thanks largely to the popularity of its floppy disk-based camera in the U.S. market and new cameras in Japan. Fuji is forecast to hold third place, unchanged from 1999, although Fuji has increased its market share to 15.2 per cent, said NMA.

Notable in the lower ranks of the market was a jump from seventh to fifth position by Canon, thanks largely to the success of its credit-card sized Ixy Digital.