August 8, 2019

The Digital Camera Market Is In Serious Trouble

Shipment figures across all camera categories indicate a drop by over 50% in the last twelve months.

The last twelve months have seen a rush of new Mirrorless cameras from just about every camera manufacturer. From Nikon's Z6 and Z7, to Canon's EOS R series, to Sony's massive 61MP A7R IV. But with all this focus on new mirrorless designs, plus assurances that DSLRs will still be developed, sales of digital cameras worldwide remain in free fall. What can turn things around?

The statistics come from the Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) and shows a disturbing downward trend, not only with DSLR shipments (which we would expect thanks to the mirrorless revolution) but it turns out that sales of all these new mirrorless cameras have dropped even more dramatically! Here's the brief breakdown:

  • Shipment of digital camera dropped by 74.8% in June 2019, compared to June 2018
  • There are no signs the situation may get better
  • DSLR shipments have dropped by 56.8% compared to 2018
  • Mirrorless camera shipments have dropped by 79.8% compared to 2018
  • Lens shipment has dropped by 67.1% compared to last year
  • Compact camera shipments have dropped by 88.2% compared to last year

Compact cameras have dropped by over 88 percent because of the iPhone.

That is pretty much a given. Nobody carries a pocket camera with them anymore. The ease of having a smartphone camera in your pocket has been just too compelling and convenient, even for photo philes who pride themselves on having the latest and greatest.

“In Imaging System, we expect sales and profit of interchangeable-lens cameras to decline, due to the continued impact of mainly entry-class DSLR market contraction,” said Canon’s Executive Vice President and CFO Toshizo Tanaka. “However, in the area of mirrorless cameras, where we are focusing our energy, the effects of expanding our lineup will continue to lead to sales growth.”

But then we take a closer look at DSLR shipments (down 56.8%) and a shocking 79.8% on mirrorless cameras. Even in the year of Canon's focus on mirrorless designs, and Nikon's Z series, have done nothing to reverse the downward sales trend. Even Sony has taking it on the chin with a drop in 800,000 camera units projected by the end of the year. And shooters aren't buying lenses much either, with a drop of over 67% in the last year. 

Canon sales figures show a steep decline in camera sales

Taking a close look at Canon's 2nd quarter sales figures, which were released last week, we see a significant decline, posting a 24.9% decrease in sales over the same quarter in 2018. This translates to a profit loss of over 64%. Canon attributes this loss  to the prolonged US-China trade dispute, with the US imposing another 10% tariff beginning September 1st, on top of the 25% in tariffs already enacted.

This dispute is causing uncertainty in the market, which in China and Europe is currently in dealing with a volatile economic picture. It's also having an impact industry wide, and could explain the steep drop in sales. Why pay a 35 percent tax when you don't need to? As a result of the decline, Canon has revised their estimates for the fiscal year downward, but will still end up with an operating profit thanks to a robust medical Systems industry, which enjoys a 7.2 percent sales increase.

Toshizo-san thinks that Canon can turn the dismal sales outlook around by focusing on three strategies. Enhancing their lens lineup, with five new EOS-R mirrorless models, bundling cameras with  accessories (like the R-EF lens adapter) to increase value and generate user interest in mirrorless cameras in the long run, and by creating opportunities for interested shooters to get hands on experience with the EOS-R system.

These strategies are also being picked up by Nikon, which is also offering their Z series lens adapter as part of a bundle, and is also offering filmmakers the opportunity to shoot with the Z6 and Z7 with a camera loan program. And with the 2020 Summer Olympics right around the corner, you can bet that we'll be seeing plenty of mirrorless cameras being shot by professionals to get the right exposure. Literally.

That's all any of the camera companies can do, until the US and China make a trade deal that relieves the pressure. But it still looks like it's going to be a long, hard trade war before that can happen.     

Your Comment

11 Comments

This is surprising knowing that Mirrorless cameras are quite cheap.
But then again the speed with which camera phones are developing a great quality image, they are shortening the gap between a good camera and a good phone.
Trade wars will always be there but I don't think that people who are crazy about cameras will stop because of the dollar increase.
People are still buying iPhones despite their exorbitant prices.
The consumer will always be there to buy stuff.
But Phone cameras today are doing what a DSLR with two lens kit did ten years.
You can zoom, create bokeh effect and amend several changes which would cost much higher in a DSLR.
I know so many cinematographers who carry expensive cameras but take most photos from their phones.
It saves time and it is easy to edit as well.
But whatever be the case, the decrease in sales is an alarming sign of massive trend shifts in how we shoot content in the future.

August 7, 2019 at 6:06PM

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Shitiz Srivastava
Film Director/ Screenplay Writer
153

Agree! The trend will be iphones and top resolution+lenses cameras. Nothing in the middle!

August 8, 2019 at 3:18AM

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Javier Diez
Director/Writer
230

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August 8, 2019 at 4:29AM

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Chashmir
Director of Education
84

Cool story bro.

August 8, 2019 at 11:04PM

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Weird that you don't mention the BMPCC4K, I think this camera took a big chunk of the market. They sell like crazy. It would be nice to see Olympus and Panasic numbers too, because I bet their lenses sales numbers went up because of the BMPCC4K.

August 8, 2019 at 4:35AM, Edited August 8, 4:35AM

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"Compact cameras have dropped by over 88 percent because of the iPhone."

The iPhones, the Samsungs, the Xiaomis, the Pixels, the Huaweis, the LGs...

You understand that Iphone isn't generic for smartphone and that a lot of Android phones sport similar or even better cameras than the iPhone, don't you?

August 8, 2019 at 5:05AM

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Álex Montoya
Writer/Director
450

The problem is the technology is quite stagnate as of the last two years.

Partially because of the price gouging that has been happening with the higher end manufacturing. The other being that newer cameras have failed to provide enough of a dramatic shift to get casual consumers interested in upgrading.

Maybe once they can shrink down some components we could see a dramatic increase in quality but as of right now... really only see resolution getting pushed higher and higher.

August 8, 2019 at 9:33AM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
981

I think the reason is that it's easier to take an appealing photo with a phone than with a camera. And it's always in your pocket.
Nice DSLRs are bulky and they demand more skill. Why putting in all the effort when you can get something easier?
There used to be a huge market for DSLRs because all the hobbyists needed decent tools but they actually took horrible pictures. These people all fell away after realizing that their phones help them to make better pictures.

August 8, 2019 at 10:14AM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
502

Another we/you/them person - "And it's always in your pocket".
Speak for yourself. You assume because You do something, why Everyone does.
Just more of the dumbing down of all humanity - "Oh, it's SO easy, I don't have to read, or learn a Thing ! It will do it all for me!"
Think of the modern quality of sound recordings or Movie/cinema Tech & what does everyone watch it on - a Tiny tiny screen or shitty headphones and MP3.

August 8, 2019 at 3:33PM

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Exactly.

August 10, 2019 at 8:17AM

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Owen Mulligan
Writer/Filmmaker
184

I think sales are reaching a healthy plateau. The digital revolution made cameras more accessible to amateurs and hobbyists: you didn't need to have a dark room or spend a lot at the local shop to get you prints developed. This made digital cameras a whole lot more appealing to a lot of people. But now that smartphone cameras are getting really good, the demand for decent digital cameras is declining. Of course professionals will still use higher end cameras and lenses. But a lot of people don't feel te need for that anymore.

Another factor at play is the law of diminishing return. Are current generation cameras really that much better than 4 years ago? If you camera still works perfectly fine, is there a need to upgrade? Granted, video is a big factor to pick a new camera. But stills? I think not. And judging by these numbers, a lot of people agree.

August 13, 2019 at 6:34AM

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Sander Vermeer
Software Engineer / Amateur Filmmaker
13