I had a few minutes today to go on the CIPA website to take a look at the state of the camera market. Not surprisingly the overall numbers show that digital camera sales continued to decline in 2015.
This is the first of a small series of short articles that look at various statistical aspects of the digital camera market.
Note: click on graphics to enlarge.
When looking at specific markets I think it is always a good thing to go back in time, especially when a major technological change has happened within a market, to understand fundamentals. For the camera market that technological shift happened with the introduction of the digital camera in 1999.
Prior to the introduction of digital technology the worldwide film camera market peaked in 1997 with the sale of 36.671 million units. By 2008 the film camera market was dead as there was a rapid change-over in consumer buying behaviour.
Digital technology opened up photography to a vast number of new users and sales of digital cameras surged and reached their peak in 2010 when 121.463 million units were sold worldwide.
As we all know it wasn’t too long before cellphone manufacturers began to incorporate cameras into their products with Samsung being the first company to introduce this capability in June 2000 in the South Korean market. The first cellphone with a camera was sold in the United States in November 2002. Consumers loved the concept and sales began to explode. By the end of 2003 over 80 million units had been sold worldwide.
Successive rounds of improvement with sensors and features in camera phones occurred and soon consumers began to eschew their point-and-shoot digital cameras, favouring the all-in-one convenience of their cellphones. Since 2011 the global sales of cellphones has reached into the hundreds of millions annually.
This helped contribute to a precipitous drop in overall digital camera sales. So where was the camera market at the end of 2015? Just below where the film camera market previously peaked in 1997 with 35.395 million digital cameras sold in 2015.
Early data for the first couple of months of 2016 point to continued decline in digital camera sales, although the rate of decline appears to be slowing.
One quite interesting sidebar to all of this has been the growth of the interchangeable lens market. Back in the film camera days the camera lens market peaked in 1990 when 6.74 million lenses were sold. Another spike occurred in 1998 with the sale of 6.466 million lenses.
The advent of digital cameras meant that many consumers had to switch over to digital lenses. Sales ramped up dramatically from 2005 through to 2012 with lens sales growing from 7.053 million units in 2005 to 30.372 million units in 2012. Since that time lens sales have been in decline with 21.658 million units sold in 2015. The rate of decline has slowed with about a 5% volume drop between 2014 and 2015.
The good news for camera and lens manufacturers is that the size of the worldwide lens market even at 2015 levels is still more than triple the size it was back in the film days when it peaked at 6.74 million units in 1990.
This has a rather obvious strategic implication for camera makers -that being that interchangeable lens cameras represent a significant cross-selling opportunity. As such they constitute a higher growth potential portion of the market than do fixed lens cameras.
No one can predict with certainty where the sales of digital cameras will eventually settle. My best guess looking at historical camera sales volumes is that we will see some additional erosion…with the market potentially levelling out in the 25 million to 30 million unit range by 2020.
Next article in the series: Digital camera market winners and losers
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