NEW YORK (Reuters) – Shoppers reached for more digital cameras in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of holiday bargains and fueling better-than-expected shipments of the devices for the full year, according to research firm IDC.The shipments, including point-and-shoot models as well as more-advanced Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras, grew 31 percent from the same quarter a year ago, to 16.6 million units, IDC said in its quarterly report.

“Despite a lackluster overall holiday season for consumer electronics, the digital camera market continued to defy expectations and post strong growth,” said IDC analyst Christopher Chute.

Demand for the cameras appeared to be cooling at the start of 2007, amid signs the market had matured. But cameras soon found new favor with the introduction of models sporting varied colors and sizes that appealed to the notion that they had become a kind of fashion accessory.

Analysts have also noted that lower prices meant that consumers could replace older cameras with more powerful models for reasonable prices.

“Experienced consumers flocked to (digital SLRs), while doorbuster deals for Black Friday ensured players like Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony would be able to maintain and grow their shares,” he added.

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