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Editorial, April 29: Dramatic downturn in camera sales

During Canon’s announcement this week of its first quarter 2013 financial results, it cut its full year estimate of camera sales, revising compact camera sales down 21 percent on 2012 levels, while it predicts interchangeable lens camera sales will be up by 12 percent.

However, Canon compact sales actually fell by 37 percent in the first quarter, while interchangeable lens sales were down 15 percent, so it has nine – make that eight – months to make up a considerable shortfall. Canon Australia’s $13 million ad spend announced last week will hopefully help the cause locally.

Canon’s forecast for 2013 is not dissimilar to camera manufacturers’ association CIPA’s for the whole of the camera market. CIPA predicted in January that there would be a total decline in the market of 11 percent, with compacts dropping 18 percent and interchangeables (DSLR and mirrorless) up 12 percent.

But the reality of the first quarter – both for Canon and the market as a whole – begs the question of whether these forecasts are overly optimistic.

CIPA’s production and shipment figures for Jan-March are as negative as Canon’s first quarter results. Everything is down, including the mirrorless interchangeable segment, the big hope for keeping sales reasonably buoyant.

According to CIPA, overall Jan-March camera shipments are down to 57 percent of 2012 Jan-March levels in volume. Broken down into categories, compacts are down to 52 percent of 2012 levels (that is, around half as many shipped) while DSLRs are at 77 percent of 2012 levels, and mirrorless interchangeables are at 82 percent of 2012 levels.

So it would seem cameras are going to be a hard sell this year – in case you hadn’t noticed! Prices and margins are likely to fall further as camera companies fight for sales and some perhaps for survival. (Canon and Nikon are somewhat cushioned by their dominance in the more profitable DSLR/mirrorless segment.)

On the other hand, there are a lot of DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeables in the market already. It this climate, it might be more profitable to add more weight to accessory and printed product sales, targetting those who have already committed to photography, rather than swim against the tide.

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