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Sony Announces Dramatic Drop in Forecasted Sales

Just as Canon announced that profits from its camera division have dropped by almost two-thirds, Sony has given an indication that it is not optimistic for the future, predicting that it will sell 1.4 million fewer cameras than it did in 2017.

Sony published its financial results for the first quarter of 2019 on July 30 and digging through the company’s figures can be quite tricky, perhaps as companies have a tendency to make bad news slightly awkward to find.

Tucked away on page 4 of a document entitled “Supplemental Information” is an indication of how sales are performing and what Sony expects over the remainder of the year. In 2017, it sold 4.4 million cameras, dropping to 3.6 million in 2018. The company now anticipates another fall of 800,000 units by the end of 2019. It’s worth noting that these figures are for cameras and do not include information for sensors.

Screenshot from "Supplemental Information" from Sony's Earnings Releases, July 30, 2019.

As a huge company with a wide variety of products being reported, trying to gauge how cameras are performing in terms of sales is no simple task. As reported by PhotoRumors, Sony Corp has revised its forecasts down as sales of games consoles, televisions and smartphones have dropped off more quickly than expected. A combination of factors such as market saturation and various trade wars are having an impact.

From these figures, it’s impossible to have any idea of how Sony’s downturn compares to that of Canon. If you’ve any thoughts on this, be sure to leave a comment below.

My thanks to C.E. Teal for digging through the data.

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81 Comments

jacob kerns's picture

It might be just me but I've been holding off buying any new cameras until I can see where Canon and Nikon go. I love mirrorless but nothing has made me dump my DSLRs yet. I do a have Sony a6000 I bought to play with but my Nikon DSLRs still produce what I need and I did the same thing when digital first came out I waited.

Rob Davis's picture

I agree with you. Now is a good time to hold for an all-around camera. Let’s see how much traction the new mounts from Canon and Nikon get as well as what’s going to happen with the L-mount alliance. I can’t think of a make-or-break reason to ditch DSLR’s for conventional photography.

adrian ferg's picture

You're going to be waiting for about 3 years. Just think of this logically.. Canon & Nikon sat around for almost 6 years... 6 YEARS... without taking mirrorless seriously... now we expect them to put out something well rounded in 2? What's missing from the idea of a well rounded camera that's realistic? As a user and trainer, ive met very few people who've maximized their use of any particular camera they've owned.

Rob Davis's picture

Mirrorless is just another type of viewfinder. Sensors haven’t changed much in recent years and won’t change much for the next few years. Maybe 36MP will become the standard rather than 24MP, but they’ll still be 14-bit Bayer sensors. No rush.

jacob kerns's picture

Well I don't see Nikon taking 3yrs. The Z6 and Z7 almost checked all the boxes. Their Nikon 1 line wasn't that bad if they took what they learned from that they could make a killer FF Nikon. The only issues I had with the Z6 and Z7 its that they were first cameras. I don't buy anything first round unless they are proven to be good after a year or so. Z6/Z7 seem to be holding up other than the IBIS issue. The single memory card slot didn't bother me as much as no vertical grip available for it.

Canon EOS R they only thing I don't like is the sensor and the controls.
Sonys seem to be hitting all the technology marks but lack in weather sealing.
Panasonic seem to have winners but I don't trust their FF frame yet but once they get all the lenses out it and been out for a while will have me keeping an eye out on them.

All Nikon has to do is release the Z6 with a vertical grip and maybe a 2nd memory card slot. Then I would buy it and use for the next 4-7yrs

David Pavlich's picture

Well, I wonder when Jared will make one of his 'News Fix' videos about Sony's downward forecast. I think I'll make a comment on his latest You Tube video that mentions Canon's downward trend. Maybe he hasn't heard about Sony's latest.

Tim Cray's picture

Why? He's just going to make another video with that stupid sniff test. LOL!

John Raison's picture

Nothing stupid about the sniff test. The lens will be very close to your nose. I choose by scent before focal lengths. Mmmm “vanilla-toothpaste”.

Tim Cray's picture

Really? If you believe that, then you're just as stupid as his stupid sniff test.

jared polin's picture

someones salty.......

Tim Cray's picture

I'm not salty at all, Jared. In fact, I'm subscribed to your channel. I like several aspects of your channel. I especially enjoy the real world tests you do with various cameras, lenses, accessories, etc. Just get rid of those idiotic sniff and wind tunnel tests and your channel will be one of the best ones on YouTube.

michaeljin's picture

As much as I enjoy new technology consistently coming to market, the truth is that they are probably iterating too quickly at this point. The cameras currently on the market are so good that it's very difficult to argue that upgrading is going to make a meaningful difference in all but the most extreme scenarios so it's becoming increasingly difficult to make a strong case for why people should upgrade to a new product. Obviously, the smartphone market has been dinging overall camera sales for a while now and that's not likely to hold up. Developing a new camera, however, costs R&D resources, which are probably difficult to make a good profit when you're turning over models so quickly in a shrinking market.

People have complained about Sony turning over their cameras too quickly in the past, but back then MILC's were fairly new and there were pretty big jumps between models. With the 3rd generation, I think that the cameras have matured quite a bit and despite this, we're already seeing the A7RIV announced even though one can very much argue that the A7RIII is still at the top of its class with no legitimate competition in sight. There's something to be said for staying on top, but I think that Sony could probably pace themselves a bit better and let their products breathe a bit before replacing them at this point. I'm not really sure how sustainable this rate of turnover is.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

Agreed.

It's the same as the maturity of the PC industry. In the '90s, you would experience a dramatic increase in performance between this year's new model and the one that came out last year.

At that time, to keep a computer for five years and make no upgrades meant you were missing out on substantial performance improvements and there were tasks that you were not going to be able to perform with your existing setup.

Now, you can keep a computer for 8 to 10 years without needing to upgrade, unless your computing requirements significantly increase.

These MILCs have rapidly gotten to that point of diminishing returns.

I love the innovation. MILCs have significantly and rapidly expanded what capabilities we expect from a camera...stuff that DSLRs just can't do.

But we may now be reaching the point where there's not a whole lot more real innovation they can offer, as opposed to just padding stats like AF points, megapixels, frame rates, or similar things that just become vanity metrics beyond a certain point.

We may eventually end up with 150 megapixel cameras that can shoot 45 frames per second. I don't know what good that will do in a mass market camera, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if we end up there eventually just because it can be done.

adrian ferg's picture

This is when Sony should stick to the 3's and 4's 3 cameras per class - Refreshed every 4 years, firmware updates every 4 months, at least 3-4 lenses or accessories released a year, and focus more on continuing the development of their users communities. Create more of a sustainable eco system for the application of the end user products. I love what they are doing with the trips and be alpha program. They need to expand on that... Slowing down cameras is definitely needed bc right now everyone is racing to the moon for no real reason. Most over wanting from their camera, dont have the computing power for the video demands they are asking for. We have so many ridiculously great options for cameras now that it is mind blowingly frustrating to see people bash the current line ups for the demands of stuff they'll never really use besides making youtube b roll of the same shots over n over lol

Eric Salas's picture

It will definitely slow down but I think they jumped to staying ahead of the game and in more positive ways than negative, made the right decision.

Easier to continue pushing than play catch up as we’re seeing with Canikon now.

Deleted Account's picture

Oh hang on, I thought they were taking over the complete industry.

Eric Salas's picture

Considering Canon is down 22% in units and 55% in profits even after releasing the EOSR... the numbers are still in favor

Deleted Account's picture

I honestly don't give a shake about the numbers, or market share. My concern is that my camera works for me. It does.

Eric Salas's picture

You brought it up...just providing the facts.

Deleted Account's picture

I did, as a purely sarcastic comment. ;)

S M's picture

That may explain the 800,000 extra influencers/ambassadors to join team Sony last year.

Felix C's picture

Up to last year, Sony had a monopoly on mirrorless cameras. Now Nikon, Canon, Panasonic have joined the party. The were bound to lose market share/units sold because of this.

Ubique Pulchritudo's picture

Felix C we don't know from those numbers exactly where the units are being lost and so can't really make any assumptions about marketshare in MILC specifically. Overall unit decline was expected due to contraction in the overall market.

Doug Pardee's picture

I believe you mean full-frame mirrorless cameras. Olympus, Panasonic, and Fujfilm have been making mirrorless cameras for many years, and Canon's had APS-C mirrorless for over seven years now.

Hard numbers seem impossible to come by, but it seems generally accepted that full-frame is still a minority part of the camera business, whether DSLR or mirrorless. The drop in "digital cameras" is almost certainly driven by a big drop in Cyber-shot models, as the compact camera business implodes.

adrian ferg's picture

over 7 years? what interchangable lens mirrorless did canon have before the m50? anything without a pentaprism mirror is a mirrorless camera. So technically any point and shoot is a mirrorless but youre wrong. Canon has not been making ILC mirrorless for 7 years. You're thinking Sony. Epson actually made the first mirrorless camera if im correct. It's not about who did it first, it's about who lead the charge first. Saying that was anyone but Sony right now is rubbish. Where were all these mirrorless cameras when you walked into stores and saw NEX 5r's and 6's an 7's an 3ns? You had Samsung making their apsc mirrorless. You had other players making mft mirrorless. But no Canon was Not making mirrorless cameras 7 years ago

Doug Pardee's picture

Canon EOS M, announced July 23, 2012. The first of the EF-M cameras. As with most early Canon MILC, it didn't have an EVF.

My comment wasn't about who was first. My comment was to contradict the statement that, "Up to last year, Sony had a monopoly on mirrorless cameras. Now Nikon, Canon, Panasonic have joined the party." Canon and Panasonic have been part of the "mirrorless" party for many years, just not full-frame mirrorless. Which is what I think Felix C. had meant.

Ubique Pulchritudo's picture

from 3.6 to 3.0 is about a 17% drop which mirrors Canon's 17% drop which is very close to Canon's stated drop in the overall market of 18%. So really nothing exciting to see. Both companies are being affected by the overall market trend about evenly.

Andrew Morse's picture

The reality is the whole industry is contracting, and that will very likely continue to be true for the foreseeable future. Every camera company will be impacted by it, and in most cases the financial statements of these companies will be constructed in a way which makes it difficult to really tell which camera company is being chosen by photographers more. Cameras aren't the only product most of these companies produce, and protecting their image to investors means that they are more likely to blend struggling Camera performance with something else to make it hard to see how it's going.

The real issue and risk in my mind is when a company with other options starts to see their consumer camera division as an anchor on performance of other parts of the business. Would they decide offload their consumer camera division and focus on where they're making money, leaving users high and dry? Canon has their medical technology which is making money, Sony has entertainment which is making money, Nikon has several other business units too. Why would these companies pump money into a market which is shrinking when they own market in areas which are growing and giving them growth? Seeing a Sony or Nikon or Canon walk away from consumer cameras would upend a lot of photographers - that's the real risk.

Pedro Pulido's picture

my friends, there's a very easy solution. Drop your prices.
I know of cameras that arrive at the shop at 700$ and are sold for 1400$... This is not uncommon.
Stop being greedy and make your product more appealing. Lower the prices.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

Why they don't start educating people what they can do with their cameras instead of selling them new ones. I understand that they need to make money to survive and that's how this system is design for but again this entire camera market is simply ridiculous how it operates. Sorry for my little rant...

michaeljin's picture

Not entirely sure what you're looking for in this regard... there's more education readily available from manufacturers as well as independent sources than there has ever been before.

michaeljin's picture

Pretty much all of these companies not only host events and workshops, but they have tutorials on YouTube and their ambassadors regularly upload educational content on their respective channels. Is there some specific sort of education you're looking for?

michaeljin's picture

Ahh, well I was referring primarily to showing people how to use the cameras that they have already purchased. If you are talking about trying to get people to upgrade from their phones to purchasing their first dedicated camera, I'm not entirely sure that there's a simple way to do that. :/

michaeljin's picture

I'm not sure... You're going to run into a lot of challenges. You need to convince people to pay hundreds of dollars for another device to take up space on their person. Unlike a phone, a camera can only serve two functions (photos and video), both of which are available on the phone already. Cameras and sensors on phones are pretty good already for everyday use and are aided by AI enhancements as well as direct app integration.

Dedicated cameras have a learning curve and since you can't just edit and upload images or video straight to social media from the camera, it creates a more complicated workflow for people who are always looking for more convenience. For the average phone shooter who doesn't yet own a camera, what are the practical benefits of moving to an ILC system?

Newer phones already have multiple focal lengths built-in. They can simulate pretty much whatever DoF you want convincingly enough. They have built-in HDR modes and AI-assisted low-light capabilities that actually produce decent results for screen resolution (most people don't print). Of course the image quality is objectively lower, but does this really matter all that much when you're posting on IG? It's a tricky sell. :/

The way things are going, I think Sony may just win the photography wars by killing off the dedicated camera market entirely with the sensors that they're selling to cellphone companies.

adrian ferg's picture

it's not as difficult as you think. Have someone take a picture in their house during the day without turning on every light in the house. Tell someone to take their phone to a concert. Smartphones are great for close range shooting. That's it. People flock to stores intimidated by the technology or the idea of a camera thinking it's complicated bc old school photographers suck at sharing any type of info and make themselves seem more significant than they are by overcomplicating photography. THATS what really holds people back.. It's not that people want to stick with their phones bc most people do not want to shoot with their phones because they know the quality once it goes to a bigger screen or print. The mobile photography industry is breathing life into camera sales. The simple fact is cameras are NOT phones OR cars. You dont need a new model every year. People should hold onto a camera for realistically 4-6 years before wanting an upgrade. Pro's are the only people who should be hot swapping camera bodies... For consumers to do that is just stupid.

michaeljin's picture

I disagree. The #1 thing that holds people back is the fact that they don't want to carry another device around-particularly one as bulky as an ILC camera. This is the same reason why the dedicated portable audio player pretty much died and it's only diehard audiophiles that still carry them around with their portable headphone amp attached. The average person simply doesn't care about the quality difference enough to warrant dropping hundreds of dollars on dedicated gear that weighs them down.

Alec Kinnear's picture

Good photography is complicated. Heck I've been shooting for over forty years now (started when I was eight with one of those reflex top down cameras) and while I'm good at natural light portraits, performance, sports and landscape I still have a great deal to learn in landscape, wildlife, fashion and commercial portrait. And that's leaving out film and fine art photography entirely.

It isn't just throw down $2000 and walk away with amazing images. For someone in this category, a top tier cellphone camera might just be more forgiving.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

I am not sure if You can call this education. They want to move their product and their objective is to sell it. I think if people would know what they can actually do with their gear they wouldn't upgrade it every time new toys hit the store. I don't want to be sarcastic but they want clients who dont know what they can do with their equipment... thats why we get those flashy commercials loaded with technicalities which most people dont even understand and rings and bells which most of us dont need just to make us feel insecure so we can buy their product.

michaeljin's picture

That's an unfortunate part of relying on a corporation to educate you. As I said, however, there are plenty of other third party online resources who are not sponsored by a particular corporation out there with free educational material. Unless people are suggesting that these companies band together and create some sort of accredited school or something, I don't understand the "lack of education" complaint. There's certainly no lack of education available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

What I mean by lack of education is exactly what you have said. The content is produced by third party resources. Those companies don't create any content to help their customers to use their products in better way. Actually its very hard to find anything everything depends on those so called photo gear reviewers who most of the time can talk about the products itself but they are not professional photographers. I see thousands videos about which camera is better but just very few good educational videos where You can actually learn something which will make you a better photographer. Maybe I am wrong but that's the way I see this entire industry.

michaeljin's picture

Obviously I'm not going to go through every single company and all of the various ambassadors, but this is just some of the stuff that's out there and not difficult to find (this took about 5 minutes of searching as I write this).

Obviously, anything sponsored by a company is going to use their own equipment, but just replace "Sony 85mm f/1.4 G-Master Lens" with "fast 85mm lens" or "Profoto Beauty Dish" with "beauty dish" and you can get general advice. There's everything from tips and tutorials specific to particular gear to general photography education.

Sony: https://alphauniverse.com/explore/
Canon: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/learn/education/
Nikon: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrTWTpnPJnyy7rulW0LtZlsQSE1j0ulYg
Elinchrom: https://youtu.be/WKpj-QyUKOk

Profoto: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLusyj0Ti_MhACqrO1KXCX3xI2-71xQPUj
Hensel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmfJURui7X_ps33bPZNc9c3E6mTdTXkRu
Adorama: https://www.youtube.com/user/adoramaTV/playlists

Even if you take away all of the independent resources who aren't sponsored by any particular brand, if you think that there's a lack of education, I think you're just not looking hard enough. There's more than enough readily available education out there to take you from complete beginner to a photographer capable of producing professional results. :/

Rafal Wegiel's picture

We're running circles right now and we are going nowhere with this discussion. The links you have sent me they are pushing the product not knowledge. Either they show you someone who shows you great images and tell you if you use this equipment that's what you gonna get but nobody tells you exactly how to get from point a to point b or they show something to make you feel insecure to buy their product. Please look at them closely and try to analyze them. You confuses inspiration with education and those are two completely different things. Anyways nice chatting with You.

michaeljin's picture

Even just that one Elinchrom video is literally a guy spending an hour going over shooting with a single light and explaining exactly why he's doing what he's doing. Yes, he uses Elinchrom gear because he's an Elinchrom ambassador, but you can just replace Elinchrom light with Godox or whatever else and Elinchrom octabox with whatever other brand octabox and it's the same exact thing. The Nikon Live talks are their ambassadors going through everything from their choice of gear and settings to their thinking process behind the subject matter and composition. The Profoto link has some extremely in-depth knowledge that can be applied to anything brand of lighting. The Canon link has tips about their specific gear to help you use it better.

Obviously all of these companies are going to use their specific products and take the time to promote them. That's a given and that's why I said that it's best to replace a specific product with just the generic category when you watch them. There's a wealth of real knowledge in there if you look for it. If you just want to "get from point a to point b", you wouldn't even get that at an accredited university-level photography program. There are so many "point a's" and "point b's" that it makes no sense to teach like that. You teach the functions of the camera. You teach exposure. You teach concepts of composition. You teach how light behaves and how lighting modifiers behave. Taking the concepts and putting them together to create a desired result is up to the student. It's not reasonable to expect these companies to attempt to reach out and hold every single person's hand in that kind of manner. They're talking to a broad audience so the education is bound to be somewhat generic.

Tim Cray's picture

@ Rafal Wegiel...Nikon's "Learn and Explore" section on their website offers plenty of tips, techniques, etc. on how to use their cameras.

michaeljin's picture

I don't see this happening, but there will most certainly be a LOT of angry people if it does.

Tim Cray's picture

Good one, Pat. LOL!

Edison Wrzosek's picture

You just couldn't resist to come into another Sony article to troll with your diatribe I see...

Look at the world economy as a whole, and not just the micro corner of photography, and you'll see MANY companies are in trouble and reporting significant drops, just look at Nissan, Samsung, Ford, and your precious Canon and Nikon, to name but a few.

This is a sign of things to come on a broader scale.

I know you're foaming at the mouth to see Sony die for some stupid reason, but save your salivating for yourself and spare us your hyperbole.

Gerald Bertram's picture

I saw the title of this article and my first thought was "I wonder what my good friend Jan will have to say about this!" I'll be honest you were a little restrained :-)

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