Weak demand for mirrorless cameras hurting major manufacturers


posted Friday, August 9, 2013 at 3:10 PM EDT


Despite the widespread critical appreciation for some models, it seems mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras overall aren't selling quite as well as expected, and disappointing sales figures are putting pressure on some of the world's biggest camera manufacturers. Mirrorless cameras are an excellent compromise between the small size of a compact camera, and the image quality and control of a DSLR. With more and more people using smartphones in the place of traditional compact digital cameras, mirrorless cameras were hoped to pick up some of the slack in sales -- but unfortunately for some manufacturers, this hasn't happened.

Nikon's recent quarterly financial results have shown that compact camera sales are shrinking faster than originally anticipated, and the mirrorless market is slowing down. Despite being fairly early to market and boasting fast focusing systems, Nikon's 1-series of mirrorless cameras haven't caught on with consumers -- especially enthusiast photographers -- as the company had hoped. Due to lower mirrorless sales, as well as problems in Nikon's non-imaging divisions, the company has had to lower its full year sales forecast. Nikon originally forecast an 85 billion yen year-long profit, and 7.1 million units sold -- these numbers have now been lowered to 65 billion yen and and 6.55 million units respectively.

Nikon is hardly the only one facing down this problem. According to Reuters, Olympus Pen sales fell 12% last quarter, and official CIPA industry statistics show weak mirrorless sales outside of Japan. However, this is part of a larger narrative, as well. A recent study in the U.S. by the NPD Group showed that, for the first time, interchangeable lens cameras (both mirrorless and SLRs) eclipsed point-and-shoot sales.

It's arguable that the decline in low-end camera sales has caused camera manufacturers to focus more on premium compact models, rather than spend much effort on entry-level point-and-shoots. In fact, we've recently seen Fujifilm and Olympus dramatically reduce their low-end compact lines. But if mirrorless cameras continue to sell worse than originally hoped, it could spell trouble for a number of major manufacturers.

(via Reuters)