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CIPA: The incredible shrinking camera market gets smaller!

CIPA (Japanese camera manufacturers’ association) figures indicate 2019 was a bad year for camera and lens sales, and 2020 will be even worse.

CIPA 2019 graph
The poor result for interchangeable cameras masks a truly appalling result for DSLRs, which dropped about one third of unit sales compared to 2018. The mirrorless sub-category actually increased in value compared to 2018, on a slight drop in units shipped.

Total shipments of digital cameras in 2019 (the cumulative total of shipments from January to December) fell by 21.7 percent year on year to 15,216,957 units. ‘After the dramatic continued growth of the early-days of the digital camera market since 1999, the year our statistics started, shipments fell for the first time in 2009. The market shrunk again in 2011 because of the serious impact on production brought about by the Great East Japan Earthquake and flooding in Thailand, as well as the emergence of smartphones,’ CIPA wrote.

‘Shipments have since continued to decline. An increase was observed in 2017, though 2018 and 2019 saw consecutive declines.’

Interchangeable lens digital cameras now account for more than half of total shipments, and in dollar terms represent around three and a half times the value of the digital compact market. This is the most profound change in the overall camera industry: before smartphones, both in the digital and analog camera eras, inexpensive compacts always easily outsold interchangeable lens cameras. That market for snapshooter cameras now barely exists, replaced by smartphones.

Shipments of fixed lens compact digital cameras decreased by 22.0 percent year on year to 6,755,467 units. Shipments of interchangeable lens digital cameras (single-lens reflex and mirrorless) also decreased by 21.4 percent year on year to 8,461,490 units. Within the category, mirrorless cameras performed rather well in contrast to single-lens reflex cameras, whose shipments fell by 32.0 percent, falling by only 4.4 percent.

Mirrorless inrechangeables are now by far the most valuable of the three sectors (compacts, DSLRs, and Mirrorless), with total dollars spent on the category over double that spent on compacts. However, the most surprising single piece of data nesting in the CIPA figures is that the average selling price of a mirrorless camera is, converted to Australian dollars, around $980. The average selling price of a DSLR, on the other hand is a mere $532! While there were around half a million less mirrorless cameras sold that DSLRs, they represent about two-thirds more in dollar value.

Column 4 in this chart represents Jan-Dec 2019 compared to the 2018 year. Column 2 compares December to November 2019 and Column 3 December 2019 to December 2018. This year, for the first time ever, mirrorless cameras passed DSLRs in dollar value. Almost inevitably, this will be followed in 2020 with mirrorless overtaking DSLRs in units shipped as well.

Casting around for a positive, the CIPA report noted that ‘shipments of interchangeable lenses for digital cameras were 70 percent larger than those of bodies.’ However it has always been thus – the number of lenses compared to bodies has typically been around 1.6 to 1.7 – even way back into the film SLR era.

Shipments of interchangeable lenses decreased by 21.0 percent year on year to 14,236,912 units.

2020 Outlook
CIPA isn’t painting a rosy picture for this year, predicting basically more of the same: ‘Total shipments of digital cameras in 2020 are projected to be 11.67million units, a year-on-year decline of 23.3 percent. Of those, shipments to Japan and those to regions outside of Japan are projected to be 1.78 million units (a year-on-year decrease of 23.3 percent) and 9.89 million units (a year-on-year decline of 23.3 percent), respectively. Broken down by product type, shipments of built-in lens digital cameras are projected to be 4.8 million units (a year-on-year fall of 29.0 percent).’ – This appears questionable – the fall in 2019 compared to 2018 was ‘only’ 22 percent and if anything the digital compact market is more stable than the DSLR market, which fell 32 percent, and more in dollar terms.

Shipments of interchangeable lenses are projected to fall 16.4 percent year on year to 11.9 million units.


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