Let’s find the positive in camera sales

It’s time for the annual CIPA report, which numerous tech blogs and analysts comb over to deduce the trends ailing the camera market. The news can be sobering, especially when leaders like Canon predict a 50-percent drop-off in camera sales within the next two years. On the bright side, the boom in the instant camera category shows there’s life in the category, but it’s going to take a different shape than what we are used to.

Clearly, the impact of the smartphone on first compact digital cameras and now interchangeable lens cameras is being felt. In 2008, CIPA members shipped almost 120 million digital cameras. It was still the golden age: Smartphone cameras were no match in terms of image quality and photo apps such as Instagram or Snapchat hadn’t been invented yet. Further, action cameras like GoPro and drones like DJI hadn’t captured the fancy of hardware enthusiasts.

A decade later, however, the situation has changed considerably. As this chart from Statista indicates, “global camera shipments by CITA members dropped by more than 80 percent since peaking in 2010. Last year, the world’s largest camera makers shipped 19.4 million units, the lowest number of digital cameras since 2001 and the lowest number of cameras per se since 1984.”

The fine people at Lensvid have been tracking this trend for some time, and have produced this graphic to demonstrate the decline:

Source: Lensvid

“In 2016 we predicted that it is likely that in 2017 we will see the global camera market go below 20 million units. Well, we were wrong, but only by a year. Despite what the major manufacturers were hoping – the release of new full-frame mirrorless models by Canon and Nikon did not affect sales in a meaningful enough way.

“To be fair these models were released late in the year and mirrorless camera sales in the last three month of 2018 did increase slightly compared to 2017 (by about 2-3%) and as more advanced models will be released during 2019 we might see an even bigger increase in the sales of mirrorless cameras.

“However, the sheer number of cameras and lenses sold does not tell us is the full story. We also need to talk about how much money we spent on cameras and lenses in 2018. This is actually the first time we are looking at this piece of information which is also part of the data CIPA collects and what we have found is pretty interesting.

“In 2018 the number of cameras sold went down as we have mentioned by about 24% compared to the previous year – however the amount of money spent worldwide on these far fewer cameras only went down by 4.5% compared to 2017 and even more interestingly while in 2018 we purchased almost 7% fewer lenses than the year before – we spent 5% more money on buying them.”

Bright spots are there if you look for them

Taylor Swift Takes an INSTAX Selfie

On the other hand, the market for image-capturing devices is booming. Of course, when the highest quality camera available is a DSLR, that’s what consumers and professionals will buy. Today’s image-makers, however, are dazzled with an array of image capture tools. Action cameras now boast 4K resolution and remote-capture functions. DJI invests in Hasselblad, to bring a hybrid drone, the DJI Mavic Pro, to market. The convenience and availability of 4K video mean a high-quality frame-grab can yield outstanding prints. (Our friends at Panasonic have been featuring on its Lumix cameras as 4K Photo mode.) Today’s camera enthusiast, hobby photographer and serious pro have more options than ever for creating outstanding images. (And not to mention software to make their vision a reality.)

Perhaps one of the most stunning elements from Fujifilm’s most recent earnings report was the revelation the company sold nearly 900,000 Taylor Swift-themed Instax SQ20 cameras during a nine-month period of the last fiscal year. Consider, for the entire year CIPA reported digital camera sales of 19.4 million units for 2018. Fujifilm sold 8.5 million Instax cameras in nine months.

Let the tech blogs and DSLR hobbyist sites wallow in the misery of declining camera shipment numbers. Over here, we’re going to continue to focus on the market-expanding possibilities presented by film cameras, smartphones, DSLRs, drones, mirrorless cameras, and more.