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Camera shipments held steady in 2021

Supply constraints contributed to another ordinary year for the camera manufacturers, while somewhat more positive results in lens shipments indicate that there may be life in the old dog yet!

Supply-side issues worked against a bounce-back from 2020. (Source: CIPA)

Camera shipments for Jan-Dec 2021 were down on 2020, which was a disastrous year for the camera manufacturers. In truth, the total drop in shipments last year was just 6 percent on 2020 levels, but it was the lack of recovery following the blanket lockdowns in the first year of Covid which disappointed.

While the 2021 CIPA camera production and shipment figures don’t look too bad for 2021, the hoped-for bounce back after the disaster of 2020 did not occur, largely due to lack of supply. The upper figure addresses number of cameras, the lower value in 1000-yen units. (Source: CIPA)

At the end of 2021, shipments are just above 50 percent of those in 2019, but it’s fairly clear that the issue today is not a lack of demand for cameras, but chronic supply issues.

Nonetheless, recent financial results from the camera manufacturers aren’t too shabby: Canon posted its full 2021 results on January 27 and reported a significant increase in revenue and profitability on 2020. In the new Imaging and Printing division, sales were up 12.1 percent, even with supply constraints, and profit was also up by 7.2 percent, with cameras the standout at 25 percent: ‘The sustained profitability of the camera business has increased significantly, resulting in an overall 25 percent increase in camera sales and a significant improvement in profitability in 2021.’

Canon forecasts ‘solid double digit growth in sales and profitability in 2022, tipping the camera market to grow by 5 percent. If that proves to be true, this will be the first uptick in camera sales in over a decade!

Here are some further positive comments from Canon: ‘In 2020, cameras, which are a core component of the imaging group, saw significant decline in unit sales due to the impact of COVID-19. As a result, we posted a temporary decline in the profitability of this group. However, profitability recovered to a normal double-digit level in 2021.

‘As for camera demand, despite concerns that it would shrink significantly due to the pandemic, demand remained relatively strong. This reflects a number of factors, including an increase in the number of people using their extra leisure time to capture videos and photos in the home and disseminating them online, and the impact made by new full-frame mirrorless cameras released by each company.

‘As for the size of the market in 2021, although it shrank by 200 thousand units, due to the insufficient supply of products by each company, it was still 5.4 million units.’ – Canon says this will rise to 5.65 cameras this year.  (This seems to contradict CIPA camera shipment figures in a major way. While Canon says the camera market was 5.4 million cameras in 2021, CIPA has the number of cameras shipped at 8.36 million.)

Nikon has just announced a year-on-year increase in its third quarter revenue and profit ‘partly because of favorable foreign exchange rates, despite some constraints in supply caused mainly by the shortage of semiconductors.’

Elsewhere in the financial report Nikon predict supply problems to continue well into 2022: ‘As we focus on address(ing) parts procurement constraints, we expect to be impacted into next fiscal year.’ (Nikon’s financial year starts in March.)

Nikon upgraded its operating profit forecast for cameras and lenses by 5 billion yen in the 3rd quarter report.

Sony didn’t fare so well in cameras – perhaps reflecting market acceptance of the new full-frame Canon and Nikon mirrorless releases in 2021 – but had a bumper year in image sensors.

Lenses sharpish

Both Canon and Nikon referred to good contributions from lens sales in their financial reports, and this is reflected in CIPA’S 2021 lens shipment figures, which are actually – wonder of wonders – better than 2020 shipments.
CIPA states total shipments for 2021 were 9.6 million units, about 500,000 more than 2020, with value of the shipments – which roughly relates to an increase in average selling price, up by around 30 percent.

Now, given that lens supply has been less constrained by computer chip shortages, perhaps this uptick in shipments is a leading indicator for a more buoyant camera market this year.

But don’t take our word for it, even Canon says there will be more cameras sold in 2022 than in 2021 – provided punters can get their hands on them.




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