According to figures just released by the NPD Group, despite an expected slowdown in digital camera sales — why buy a camera when your phone will take the picture? — US digital camera unit sales increased in 2006 at a rate comparable to 2005 increases, 19.8% and 19.1%, respectively.

Emily Fassanella, a research analyst with Photo Marketing Association International (PMAI), surmises several reasons for the better-than-expected sales volume: "While many households already own a digital camera, during the past holiday season some households acquired an additional unit. Family households may now own several digital cameras as spouses and children purchased or received cameras as gifts. Also, some households that already owned digital cameras chose to upgrade to cameras with a resolution of at least 6 megapixels or bought an entry-level DSLR."

Of course, she added, late adopters of digital cameras are helping to drive sales too.

There is a darker side to the picture, however. The unit sales growth of digital cameras was unable to outpace declining prices.

Revenues from digital camera sales were only up 7% in 2006, compared with 14% the year before.

Unfortunately, NPD expects that the slower revenue growth period will persist as digital camera prices remain highly competitive and prices for DSLRs continue dropping.

Via eMarketer