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Quiet revolution in camera market

The Japanese Camera & Imaging Products Association has announced its outlook on camera shipments from Japanese manufacturers for 2013, predicting a big boost in shipments of interchangeable lens cameras and lenses within an otherwise shrinking market.

CIPA's forecast for 2013 continues a trend over the past three to four years of interchangeable lens cameras becoming the driver of growth in the industry. (Source: CIPA)
CIPA’s forecast for 2013 continues a trend over the past three to four years of interchangeable lens cameras becoming the driver of growth in the industry. (Source: CIPA)

Based on CIPA figures, the dramatic change in the nature of consumer demand for cameras can’t be overstated:
– In 2010, one camera in 10 shipped was an interchangeable lens model (108 compacts, 12 million interchangeables);
– Last year, one camera in every five shipped was an interchangeable lens model (80 million compacts Vs 21 million interchangeable);
– CIPA predicts this trend to continue in 2013, with 64 million compacts and 23 million interchangeable to be shipped. That is, one camera in four will be an interchangeable model.

CIPA says that total shipments of cameras contracted 15 percent in 2012, declining to 98.1 million units (January to December).

By way of background, (CIPA has been tracking camera shipments since 1999) digital camera shipments have until the last few years recorded steady growth, reaching 100 million units for the first time in 2007. In 2009, sales slackened for the first time, due to the impact of the global recession. Total shipments recovered and reached an historic high in 2010 but contracted again in 2011. CIPA attributed this decline in shipments to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the floods in Thailand.

But if that was the full story, pent-up demand would have manifested in increased demand in 2012. However, the recovery anticipated by CIPA last year failed to happen, with compact camera sales plummeting 21.9 percent, dragging the total camera figure down 15 percent.

During the same period, however, interchangeable lens digital camera shipments grew by 8.4 percent. So for 2012, 78 million compacts were shipped, while interchangeable lens camera shipments surpassed 20 million units for the first time (20.2 million units).

CIPA attributes at least some of this growth to the introduction of mirrorless interchangeable models, underscoring the oft-stated truism that the photographic industry thrives on innovation.

Accessory lenses can be seen as a ‘slave’ category, driven by sales of interchangeable lens cameras, and CIPA says that in 2012 shipments of interchangeable rose 16.7 percent to 30.4 million units. That is, around one-and-a half lenses for each interchangeable lens camera shipped.

Interchangeable lens sales also lag behind interchangeable camera sales, so that a bumper year for interchangeable lens cameras can lead to an increase in lens sales the following year.

CIPA forecasts the decline in overall camera shipments to continue this year, down to 87 million units, or 11.3 percent.

For those retailers who specialise in interchangeable camera sales, however, the story is far more positive, with healthy growth for both cameras and lenses, by 12.4 percent and 12.5 percent respectively.

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