A comparison of the Japanese camera manufacturers’ association (CIPA) shipment figures in the Jan-June 2014 half year compared to the same figures five years later, in June 2019, tells a story of a camera market undergoing massive change.
There’s been nothing so disruptive since…well, since the digital camera initially became a viable picture-taking device around the turn of the Millenium.
In the Jan-June period in 2014, there were 19.9 million cameras shipped. That has plummetted to just 7.3 million in the Jan-June period in 2019. Well over half the market has simply disappeared! But 2014 was by no means the year of ‘peak camera’ – unit sales were already in free fall from 2011.
Faced with such a slump, its hardly surprising that only one of the main manufacturers – Sony – has managed to increase profits in their most recent annual financial reports. That most of them are managing to turn a profit at all, faced with such a slump in sales, is to their credit.
2014 Jan-June: Total – 19.9 million; Compacts – 13.5 million; DSLRs – 4.9 million; Mirrorless – 1.5 million
2019 Jan-June: Total – 7.3 million; Compacts – 3.4 million; DSLRs – 2.1 million; Mirrorless – 1.7 million
In 2014 digital compacts were ther major part of the business, with 13.5 million shipped. (Although DSLRs were the most valuable part of the market.) With smartphones now having established themselves as the alternative to the snapshooter camera, compact shipments are now at just 3.4 million – just over one quarter of the 2014 figure. The good news for camera manufacturers and retailers is that the fall in shipments in fixed lens cameras has started to level out over the past 12 months or so. But it’s difficult to see any technological developments which will win back any of those sales – they are most likely gone forever.
(There is one obvious opportunity to make cameras more competitive with smartphones – the camera makers have so far been clueless in making their devices fit for purpose in a connected world. As photographer Andy Day noted recently on the F-stoppers website, and veteran pundit Thom Hogan bangs on about every month or so, there are fridges out there which are more part of ‘Internet of Things’ than your average camera – compact or interchangeable: ‘It’s 2019 and I can’t post a photograph from my camera straight to Instagram,’ wrote Andy Day. ‘Canon’s photocopiers have better connectivity than its cameras, and if even my Mom’s fridge is connected to the internet, why isn’t my shiny new Sony mirrorless? And it may be that very few hardened professionals want that functionality, but that’s not the market that Canon is saying goodbye to, and seeing its profits hammered accordingly.’)
Back in 2014, interchangeable lens cameras were less than a third of the overall market, with 6.4 million units shipped. And mirrorless interchangeables were less than 10 percent of the all cameras shipped, at just 1.5 million units, while DSLRs dominated the interchangeable segment with 4.9 million cameras shipped.
This year, (Jan-June) there are way more interchangeable lens cameras shipped than compacts, and mirrorless interchangebles have moved from having a sub-10 percent share of the total market – compacts and interchangeables – to over 25 percent. Growth is good, but to achieve this apparent growth, the mirrorless segment has done little more than stand still – those 1.5 million mirrorless camera shipped Jane-June 2014 has only risen to 1.7 million in Jan-June 2019.
Yet by doing slightly better than just standing still, mirrorless interchangables have become the most valuable part of the market – by a country mile! Mirrorless interchangeable shipments are worth twice the value of compact shipments and, even though they still represent only about 40 percent of all interchangeable camera shipped, their value to the camera makers is almost 50 percent more than DSLRs.
It’s highly likely that whichever camera manufacturer eventually prevails in mirrorless interchangeables – and Sony would appear to have a generational head start – will emerge as the leader of the camera market.
Compared to last year…
Our colleague Margaret Brown has also had a look at the CIPA figures for the half year and compared them to the 2018 figures. The graph below tracks the change in value of the three segments:
She writes: While these figures aren’t exactly pretty, the condition of the market isn’t quite as gloomy as we might have predicted.
The graphs show peaks around April, which is the Northern Hemisphere spring when a lot of people there buy new gear as the plan and go on holidays.
But a couple of things are clear from the figures:
– The overall market is declining in both units shipped and value;
– The mirrorless sector is maintaining its relatively high value with minimal decline in units shipped and value;
– The DSLR market is declining probably because manufacturers continue to iterate models with minor ‘enhancements’ in new generations. Virtually no innovation is taking place in this market sector.
– The growth in the fixed lens camera market is almost totally due to a combination of ‘super-zoom’ models with smaller sensors at competitive prices and models with larger sensors, better (but more conservative) lenses and high prices.