Think the standalone camera market is doomed? Perhaps it’s time to think again!


posted Friday, April 8, 2016 at 6:59 AM EST


Conventional wisdom has it that the market for standalone cameras is doomed, crushed by the onslaught of the omnipresent smartphone. An interesting article published by the folks over at Photography Life indicates that things may not be as bad as has been suggested, however.

In his article "A Few Thoughts About the Camera Market", Photography Life's Thomas Stirr analyzes data provided by Japanese industry body CIPA, the Camera & Imaging Products Association, to try and get a clearer picture of where we've been, and where things may be headed. Both the article and the graphs within are extremely illuminating.

Global camera unit sales, 1951-2015. The blue line indicates the peak of camera sales in the film era, set in 1997. Digital cameras appear in the figures from 1999 onwards.

Without question, our industry has seen a major shift with the introduction of digital cameras, and another with the rise to prominence of the cameraphone. But what's really interesting is that if you look at unit sales of standalone cameras, we're still far above levels seen in the 1960s, 1970s, or even those heady days of the 1980s, an era that saw the widespread adoption of autofocus and the introduction of Canon's EOS camera line and EF lens mount, among other landmarks.

In fact, if you want to see unit sales higher than those in 2015, you'll have to look as recently as 1997, just two years before the tide change caused by the arrival of digital cameras on the scene. In other words, while the camera market has seen a major correction in recent years -- and sales of fixed-lens cameras have certainly tanked -- overall, global camera sales are much as they were prior to the shift to digital. And if you stop to think about it, that makes a whole lot of sense, because the rush of sales as everyone made the leap to digital (and then upgraded once, twice or more as the technology rapidly matured) clearly wasn't sustainable in the long-term, even had cameraphones not come along to change the game once more. Seen in this light, the correction in recent years has been more of a return to normalcy, rather than a decimation of the marketplace.

Global lens unit sales, 1955-2015. The blue line indicates the peak of lens sales in the film era, set in 1990. Note that figures from 2007 onwards exclude medium and large-format lens sales.

Perhaps even more interesting is what has happened in the interchangeable-lens camera market. Here, we see sales of interchangeable lenses at what would have been considered record levels just six years earlier. Yes, lens sales have certainly declined a bit since their peak in 2012, but the picture isn't really as bleak as one might think. Lens sales are still far, far above where they lay at the end of the film era.

There's a whole lot more data and analysis in Photography Life's article, and we think it's well worth a read. We came away from the piece feeling rather more confident about the state of the camera business, and we think you will too! Hop on over and peruse it now!

(via Photography Life)