Camera sales to fall by half? Huh, don’t bet on it…
posted Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 7:30 AM EDT
Canon's legendary Chairman Fujio Mitarai went on record recently, saying that he expected interchangeable-lens camera sales to fall by half over the next two years. As a result, he would be prioritizing Canon's R&D efforts on the industrial and medical sectors.
Of course, this immediately sent the industry into a tizzy, ourselves included.
Seriously, sales to fall by half?
Honestly, that just seems absurd, especially given the renaissance we've seen over the last 12 months. With new platforms launched by Canon themselves (the EOS-R series, now with two bodies and a number of lenses), the Nikon Z series, the new L-mount alliance, with cameras coming from Panasonic, Sigma and Leica themselves, and with exciting models like the Fuji X-T3 and Fuji's forthcoming 100 megapixel medium-format monster, on top of all the advancements that Sony has been making, it seems beyond absurd to think that the ILC market is going to shrink by half in just a couple of years.
I have the utmost respect for Mitari-san; I referred to him as legendary above, and it's an accurate label. The story of how he led Canon to be the global powerhouse it is today is one of the most remarkable corporate turnarounds I've ever read about. It wasn't just a flash in the pan, either, but a process that unfolded over a 20-year time frame.
He's seriously out to lunch on this one, what can he be thinking?
If I were a betting man (and he were too ;-), I'd be willing to put a lot of money on that prediction being wildly inaccurate. Even if you view this year's CP+ attendance as a temporary blip, caused by the launch of no less than three entirely new camera platforms within just a few months of each other, there's no way we're going to see anything even close to Mitarai's prediction. (Readers, feel free to come back two years from now and roast me if I'm wrong on this ;-)
We were frankly amazed by the lines of people waiting to try out Panasonic's new S1 and S1R full frame bodies, but perhaps even more so by the similarly long lines to play with Sony's new 135mm f/1.8 G Master lens. Not to disparage lenses in general or that one in particular (which does indeed seem to be pretty amazing; read Jaron Schneider's hands-on review of it) but honestly, people standing in line for 30-45 minutes, just to try a lens?!
In our executive interviews, most execs seemed to agree with us. They pretty much all projected a worst case of 20-25% reduction in camera unit sales, but that seemed to be a worst-case consensus and some (Toshi Iida from Fujifilm in particular) felt that we might even see a small increase in sales over the next period of time.
Our crystal ball had to go back to the shop for periodic maintenance, but we couldn't disagree more with Mitarai's pessimistic projection. When you look at the unbelievable array of technology that's available, there's never been a better time to be a photographer, in the history of the world!