THE GRID: PICTURE THIS

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Eastman Kodak recently announced that it would buy the rights to a rapid film-processing system that converts film into digital images. Thanks to this technology, next year people will be able to take their film to kiosks, where prints will be made and digital images will be burnt onto a CD in just 10 minutes. It's part of Kodak's bid to make services for users of traditional cameras more competitive with what's been available for digital camera users.

And it's happening none too soon. As the price of the average digital cameras falls and image quality improves, the digital models are making a serious dent in the traditional camera market. Last year, sales of digital cameras were an estimated $3.1 billion, almost eight times the $400 million spent just five years earlier. This year, the number of digital cameras sold is set to outpace that of traditional cameras, according to a projection by the Photo Marketing Association International, a Jackson, Mich.-based industry group. By 2008, some 25.2 million digital cameras are expected to be sold, almost twice the 14.5 million projected for this year, reports Photofinishing News, a Bonita Springs, Fla.-based magazine.

Just who is snapping up these digital gadgets? Considering that the cost for one of them, on average, will set you back $328, compared with the $137 you'll need for a 35mm camera, it's no surprise that point-check-shoot-and-scanners tend to come from affluent households, according to Mediamark Research, Inc. Half of the buyers of digital cameras this past year were 35 to 54, the prime age group for family formation. (Can you say “baby pictures�?) These consumers tend to surround themselves with high-tech electronics and are more likely to own camcorders, MP3 players and minidisc players than the average American.

To find counties where ownership of digital cameras is above average, American Demographics teamed up with Claritas, a San Diego-based market research company, to design the accompanying map. The PopUpdate boxes highlight counties of more than 100,000 households and where the households are most likely to have a digital camera. These counties tend to be in major metros along the coasts, such as Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. These affluent coastal urbanites enjoy seeing the world and are more likely to travel abroad than the average American. Apparently, their propensity to travel fuels their drive to get the picture and show that they've seen it all.

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