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Interchangeables where the action is

The Camera & Imaging Products Association (Japan) this week announced its 2013 annual camera and lens production figures along with its outlook for camera shipments for 2014.

In 2013, total camera shipments from Japanese manufacturers declined 36 percent year-on-year. Total shipments reached 62.8 million cameras. In 2012 total shipments were 98.1 million cameras! In 2014, CIPA is estimating total shipments of 55 million cameras – a further decrease of almost 20 percent.

The Pentax K3 was one of the stand-out DSLR releases of 2013, the year  the interchangeable camera and lens business left digital compacts in its wake.
The Pentax K3 was one of the stand-out DSLR releases of 2013, the year the interchangeable camera and lens business left digital compacts in its wake.

From 1999 (when CIPA began tracking camera shipments) there was steady growth through to 2008, with the 100 million unit milestone achieved for the first time in 2007.

In 2009 shipments fell due to the global recession and in 2011, according to CIPA, because of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and flooding in Thailand.

CIPA expected shipments to rise again in 2012, but they in fact shrank, as they did again in 2013. (In reality, these natural disasters likely masked a softening of demand for cameras, and led to strategic errors, such as continuing development of more digital compacts than the market wanted. Camera manufacturers mistakenly assumed there was pent-up demand for unfulfilled supply. That demand was either not there, or disappeared as smartphones became a more attractive alternative picture-taking device.)

The decline in shipments of compact digital cameras was particularly pronounced in 2013, falling to 45.7 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 41.4 percent.

The money is in interchangeables
In 2012, when the digital compact market started to collapse, shipments of interchangeable lens cameras continued to grow at a healthy pace; but in 2013, even interchangeable lens camera shipments declined – for the first time since digital SLR shipments were measured by CIPA in 2003.

In 2013 shipments of interchangeable lens cameras totaled 17.1 million units, a year-on-year fall of 15 percent.

However the unit figures are not as relevant as the value contained behind them. This tells the real story of the contemporary camera market: In 2012 interchangeable camera shipments were about line ball with compact camera shipments in monetary terms: 753 billion yen versus 715 billion yen. In 2013 digital compacts accounted for 490 million yen and interchangeables 678 billion yen.

– So in just one year, the interchangeable camera category swept past the snapshooter category in its significance to camera manufacturers. The trend is only likely to continue.

One of the effects of the rapid decline in demand for digital compacts is that interchangeables now represent almost one in three cameras sold. Shipments of interchangeable lens cameras climbed to 27.3 percent, from 20.5 percent in 2012.

As mentioned, CIPA predicts total shipments of digital cameras in 2014 at 55 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 19.6 percent.

In a breakdown by product type, shipments of compacts cameras will reach approximately 33.8 million units – a decrease of 26 percent – and interchangeables 16.7 million units – down just 2.3 percent.

Shipments of digital cameras with interchangeable lens are expected to remain firm
throughout the world with shipments to Japan reaching 2.5 million units, a
year-on-year increase of 8.7 percent, and shipments to markets outside of Japan totaling 14.2 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 4.1 percent.

Lens sales at 26.7 million units were also down in 2013, a year-on-year decline of 12.1 percent. Shipments of accessory lenses are forecast to reach 25.6 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 4.1 percent, with shipments to Japan totalling 4.2 million units, a year-on-year increase of 5 percent, and shipments to other regions reaching 21.4 million units, a year-on-year fall of 5.7 percent.

COMMENT: The value of interchangeable lens camera sales in 2012 just surpassed compact sales for the first time in 2012. By last year, there were 678 billion yen’s worth of interchangeable camera sales and just 490 billion yen in compact sales. There is probably some double counting involved, but add at least some of the 505 billion yen in accessory lens sales to the sales of interchangeable lens cameras, and it’s clear that the industry has fundamentally changed in the space of two years from one which sold most of what it manufactured to the mass market, with a strong niche business to enthusiasts and professionals; to a predominantly niche business with a fast-disappearing mass market component. It looks like the chasm can be crossed either way!
COMMENT #2: While the above CIPA data paints a fairly gloomy picture, it’s a far from complete picture for photo specialists. Setting aside the billions of images taken with smartphones which have the potential to be printed in some way, shape or form, the CIPA figures don’t include sales of Samsung cameras from Korea. Nor do they include the sales figures of one of the most successful camera companies in recent years – GoPro. Nor the Phoenix-like Polaroid. Japanese data no longer tells the entire story of the camera market. 

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