JD Power Announces The Best Cameras of 2008

J.D. Power and Associates has just released the results of its 2008 Digital Camera Usage and Satisfaction Study, based on responses from over 8,000 digital camera purchasers between April 2007 and March 2008. Not only does the study identify which cameras consumers liked best, but it also gives an indication of what consumers are doing with their cameras and what kind of features they want.

The report breaks out digital cameras into four sub-categories: digital single-lens reflex (DSLR), point and shoot, premium point and shoot, and ultra slim. Then each of those categories is evaluated with four criteria--picture quality, performance, operation, and appearance--which are then rolled up into an overall score. Here are the overall winners in each category:

(two-way tie)

  • Canon EOS Digital SLR
  • Nikon D Series

Point and shoot:

  • Fujifilm Finepix S Series 
Premium Point and Shoot:
(two-way tie)

  • Canon PowerShot G Series
  • Lumix (Panasonic) DMC-TZ Series
Ultra Slim:
  • Sony Cyber-Shot T Series
    With the exception of the Nikon D series DSLR, each of the above overall category winners were also the best-in-class in each categories' picture quality ratings as well. The Canon EOS Digital SLR scored higher than the Nikon D series in picture quality, but the Nikon beat the Canon in performance, operation, and features. For the most part, if a camera was best in picture quality, it won the overall rating--indicating that despite a camera's features, ease of use, and its appearance, the quality of the pictures a camera produces is still the most important factor.

    Source: J.D. Power and Associates' 2008 Digital Camera Usage and Satisfaction Study

    "Digital camera manufacturers are constantly adding new features in efforts to differentiate themselves from their competitors," said Larry Wu, senior director of the technology practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, in adding new features, ease of use becomes critical in maintaining satisfaction, as average satisfaction scores are 235 points lower among customers who say their features were difficult to use, compared with those customers who say the features were easy to use. Designing features with the consumer in mind and providing clear and concise instructions can help maintain high satisfaction levels with new features and functions." 

    Perhaps not surprising to HotHardware readers, is that when doing research for digital camera purchases, consumers used "Internet product and review sites" more frequently than other sources, even family or friends. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of DSLR owners purchased extended warranties, with the other camera categories ranging from 13 to 17 percent. The reports cites "customers who purchased an extended warranty report significantly higher overall satisfaction scores (768, on average) with their cameras, compared with owners who did not purchase a warranty (732, on average)." While there is no disputing that the satisfaction score is higher with extended warranty owners, the difference in the satisfaction scores between extended warranty owners and those who did not purchase an extended warranty actually has little to no statistical significance. Our interpretation of this result is that purchasing an extended warranty does very little if anything at all to increase a user's satisfaction with her camera. In other words, few seem to feel that the purchase of an extended warranty was a necessity.

    As to who shoots the most pictures, if you guessed DSLR owners, you are right. Here are the average number of pictures shot per month for each category:

    •   DSLR: 454
    •   Premium point and shoot: 159
    •   Ultra slim: 96
    •   Point and shoot: 83
    And as to what consumers are looking for in their next camera:

    "The study finds that among features that owners want in their next camera, weatherproofing is mentioned most frequently by owners in both the point and shoot (67%), and premium point and shoot (68%) segments, while ultra slim owners desire 4 GB internal memory capacity and DSLR owners desire waterproofing (63%)."

    The study seems to indicate that the digital camera market has matured to the point where it shouldn't be difficult to find a camera that offers the right balance of image quality, performance, ease of use, and styling. If you are in the market for a digital camera, you might want to consider one of the cameras listed above or check out the J.D. report, available via the link below. However, not everyone necessarily agrees with all of the findings of the study. CNET's digital camera pundit, Lori Grunin, challenges a number of the study's findings, some of which seem to contradict her own experience. Grunin has been covering the digital camera market for many years and her sage advice and observations are often right on target. Our own takeaway is that this data can help purchasing decisions, but as one should with any such report, it should be taken with a grain of salt.