Camera Shipments Down 35 Percent From Previous Year, 250,000 Less Sales

Camera Shipments Down 35 Percent From Previous Year, 250,000 Less Sales

Figures show that between February 2018 and February 2019, camera shipment figures were down 35 percent, meaning 250,000 fewer interchangeable lens cameras were dispatched.

Via Digital Camera World, a new announcement indicates the industry has gone “from decline to freefall.” The figures themselves come from the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA), the international industry body whose latest report calculates 521,217 shipments of interchangeable lens cameras for the past year. For context, the total number of cameras shipped (fixed lens systems included) was 935,148 — just shy of 70 percent of the number shipped (1,340,995) in February 2018. 

It correlates with a concern shared by Canon CEO Fujio Mitarai, when he admitted he was anticipating that the camera market could shrink by 50 percent over the next two years, blaming the sales decline on a surge in smartphone sales:

People usually shoot with smartphones. The digital camera market will keep falling for about two years, but professional and [advanced] amateurs use about 5 to 6 million units. Finally, [the market] will hit the bottom.

A separate report unveiled last month from LensVid noted that the camera market has collapsed 84 percent since 2010.

What does this spell for the future of photography? Should we be concerned?

Lead image credit: JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.

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Sean Sauer's picture

I think there is a slight concern. If the masses don't buy cameras the camera companies will slow their development at a certain level. They'll still make cameras but most of their development will go into cellphone tech etc. The pro-market will still be there but we'll see less new bodies, lenses, pro-gear...etc. We might also have to wait longer for those new products. Just a guess but it makes sense. Less money equals less stuff and less of a priority of getting that stuff to market.

Robert Nurse's picture

Or, hopefully, it'll light a hotter fire under their butts to not be so conservative.

Rob Davis's picture

Seriously. Their blaming smart phones for being innovative.

JetCity Ninja's picture


Paul Asselin's picture

Maybe if they put a phone in the camera! Yeah, that's the ticket!

Eugene Braack's picture

So - are smartphones the only reason for declining sales? I think not. Where I live, a Nikon Z7 (body only) costs the equivalent of 3 months of the average monthly salary. A Nikon Z6 costs the same as 1.5 months of average salary. Let's face it - cameras and lenses are seriously expensive. There is simply no way that the average person can afford a decent camera. And why should he/she buy one? Most smartphones takes great photos that are, to the man in the street, almost indistinguishable from ones taken by a professional camera. The difference in image quality simply does not justify, for an average person, the expense of buying even a modest DSLR or mirrorless camera. The industry has priced itself to near extinction.

Alex Reiff's picture

I don't think your assessment is accurate, for a couple reasons. One, cameras at that price point are marketed towards professionals, who know and depend on the increased capability of a dedicated camera. In the US, you can get a new entry level DSLR for about 20% of what a Z7 costs. A used one for like 5-10%. Also, from what I can tell, the prices for new equipment haven't been increasing.

charlie sanders's picture

Cell phones are great for... but, take it on safari and see how close a “pride” will allow you near their crew. For most people I know that received a camera as a gift leave it on the shelf

I have seen this article appear many times, and I think this statistic is not representative of the overall market demand of ILC gear. I believe most camera company’s are now focusing on what they call “value add” Products, i.e. manufacturer’s self made lenses. Now we will see less camera sales volume, and lower pricing of ILCs, but higher pricing of lenses. Thus the camera is more the hook that draws you into the system, and the lens is the repeat money maker. Lenses are much cheaper to produce, can be made in house with manufacturers’ own parts (value add here), and sold in multiples.

Please see Tamron quarterly earnings report on the Japanese market, they are growing and making money. It’s because they have the luxury of selling only value add products.

Thus the camera market as a whole may be shrinking, but certainly not collapsing.

David Pavlich's picture

If a phone camera is good enough for a person, this person is not likely to buy a real camera. I was at an owl lecture a week ago. The advert had in it, 'bring your camera'. Out of about 30 in attendance, I had the only camera. All other shots were taken with phones. It is the way of things today.

It's more of the photography gears market stabilizing around the actual buyers who would use such gears rather than general consumers who just need any camera to take a picture to post in their social media.

Eventually, except a smaller percentage of general photo shooters, the only ones who would need a dedicated camera would be serious amateurs, hobbyists, passionate photographers and professionals.

In a way this will be good as number of products will come down and focused, gear manufacturers will pull their act together and instead of maintaining 10-15 line of gear, they would keep 5 - 8 line of gears with less crippled.

Whichever company that couldn't sustain the photography gear market realignment will be out of business. The photographers wanting dedicated gear will put their focus back to photography (not going to be easy - GAS ain't easy to break)

Mike Gillin's picture

I would really be interested to see how the sales volumes compare to film SLRs over time say 40/30 years ago. The point being cameras like the Pentax K1000 were the same model for a couple of decades, and many people used the same one for many years.

For a while we saw dslr technology evolve exponentially where a 2 year old camera was very different than a brand new one. Now, looking at my 7 year old D800 it still performs well, and more than adequately, and newer cameras are not leaps and bounds ahead.

Robert Smith's picture

FEWER; not less.

Sridhar Chilimuri's picture

Smart phones triggered my interest in photography. I moved to cameras and lenses. There is problem with supply and demand. Camera companies must learn from phone companies. It is not uncommon that you have to wait months after orders are placed- D850, Sony Lenses, Nikon 500 mm and list goes on endlessly. If you want to beat smartphones you need to keep up with supply and demand. Just a suggestion.

Ryan Burleson's picture

I haven’t bought a new camera since Jan 2014, only camera I want is a decent cinema one. The camera updates in the past few years haven’t inspired me a bit on the photo side of things, and the 5d3 still amazes me quite often,

jacob kerns's picture

Could be for that fact that most cameras for the last 5+yrs are still good enough for most photographers. I would love to have a nice Z6/Z7 or Sony full frame mirrorless. However, my D610, D750, D850 and A6000 still provide really good photos. I can't justify replacing a body just because they release a new one. I would rather invest in new glass but I'm not switching bodies every year. I still have a D300 and D200 on the shelve and they still take really good photos.

Now I have to buy a different mount camera and adapt. I'm still waiting on Canon, Nikon and Sony to see what they do in the next 2yrs before jumping to full frame mirrorless and right now Sony is the cheapest route using adapted lenses because their older bodies are cheaper even with the speed booster adaptor.

barry cash's picture

Many serious amateurs have been burnt buying just released products, like z6&7 having a camera and waiting for firmware to fix a few things. This is quite a bit like the buying of a new laptop the change over and learning curve for some is not worth the effort until the tool in bulletproof.
A bigger issue is the introduction of NEW with not being a complete system. So you got the camera and then your missing an important lens, one card slot, no cable release, dont like the menus etc.
You can look at almost any manufactures product line today and see holes but if you buy the cameras from two or three years ago those holes disappear granted they might not have the same features but they are usable for pro work and amateur alike.

Andre Goulet's picture

Excuse my ignorance, but have there been very many new bodies released in the last year or two or three? I'd imagine that some of that decline is coming from the lack of any new bodies that are compelling enough to cause us to upgrade. It'll be interesting to see how these current numbers stack up to those in a year or two now that FF mirrorless are here.

I know that, for what I shoot, my trusty 6D still works great and nothing Canon has come out with since makes me want to switch from what I know, and know so well that it's like an extension of my hand.

Maybe many of us are also burning out from all the marketing hype. Over promise and under deliver is the norm, to the point that I don't believe that any new camera is going to make my photography better.

I hope they change enough to break this sentiment as I'm not alone.

All this incremental change, if there made a jump like say the 5d mk II which was a revolution instead of just a few more megapixels and maybe one more stop of ISO

A lot of people don't care that a cellphone shot can't be made into a print without significant loss of quality. It's good enough to post on FB or Instagram, and that's good enough for them. My daughter-in-law has a mirrorless camera, she never uses it. It's too much trouble to learn.