1st Quarter 2017 Market Update

This short article provides a 1st quarter 2017 camera market update based on recently available CIPA statistics.

NOTE: Click on graphs to enlarge.

The first interesting statistic that caught my eye was the overall digital camera market showing some signs of recovery with a total of almost 6 million digital cameras shipped in the first quarter of 2017. This is a modest improvement over the first quarter of 2016 of about 2.6%.

The first quarter of 2016 was unusually strong from a historical perspective in terms of that quarter’s share of the total annual market. So, I went back and did some analysis using 10 years of CIPA data to dig a bit further. Based on what the first quarter typically represents we could be witnessing some recovering in the digital camera market.

Obviously it is still quite early in the year but it would appear that we could see an overall camera market of about 29 million units in 2017 as depicted in the graph above. From a worst case scenario the market could be as low as approximately 23.5 million units which is only very slightly below 2016 shipment volume. This appears to indicate that the camera market is at least stabilizing, and could be showing some early signs of recovery.

Even the fixed lens camera market may be showing some early signs of a modest recovery when we look at longer term volume trends. The actual volume of fixed lens cameras was basically flat with 2016 with about 3.25 million units shipped. Again, the first quarter of last year was stronger than its historical trend. When I looked at the 10 year averages, the first quarter of 2017 could be showing some early signs of a modest recovery. At this point the fixed lens camera market is showing a potential annual volume of 15.7 million units as seen in the graph above, assuming that the first quarter of 2017 represents average importance. Worst case, the fixed lens camera market should come in no lower that 12.1 million units which is only slightly below the 12.5 million units of 2016.

In terms of geographic importance in the fixed lens camera market, Europe has softened somewhat but is still the most significant market and followed by the Americas. The market in Japan continues to strengthen on a relative basis and is now tied with the market in Asia.

It was also interesting to look at the interchangeable lens camera market. The first quarter of 2017 came in at just over 2.7 million units shipped, slightly better than the 2.55 million units in the same period of 2016. As noted earlier, the first quarter of 2016 was stronger than normal in the camera market. When we look at historical trends, and the average importance of the first quarter over time, the uptick in shipments in the first quarter of 2017 could be pointing to a market the size of 2014, potentially coming in at 13.88 million units as seen in the estimate in the graph above. A caution, of course, is that we are only looking at first quarter 2017 data. From a worst case perspective it appears that the interchangeable lens camera market should come in at 12.2 million units compared to 11.6 million units shipped in 2016.

The shipment of DSLRs in the first quarter of 2017 was about 1.7 million units, down in absolute numbers from the 1.88 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2016. When we look at the 5 year trend (CIPA only began breaking out DSLRs and mirrorless in 2012) we could be seeing the DSLR market stabilizing at about 8.44 million, if the first quarter of 2017 is of average importance. Worst case, the DSLR market could contract further to an estimated 7.74 million units. This market dynamic will likely put additional pressure on Nikon to bring out some larger sensor mirrorless cameras.

The importance of the DSLR markets in Europe and the Americas have increased relative to the market in Asia and Japan. Let’s have a look at mirrorless camera shipments.

Mirrorless camera shipments were very strong in the first quarter of 2017 with about 987 thousand units shipped, well above the 681 thousand units shipped in the same period in 2016. When we look at the 5 year trend this may be indicating a significant ramp up of market acceptance of mirrorless cameras, especially in Asia. Based on first quarter 2017 shipment volume it appears that the mirrorless camera market could be a minimum of 4.57 million units in 2017, and could reach as high as 5.06 million if the first quarter this year is of average importance. This assumes that the current trend holds.

Based on the 1st quarter of 2017, the mirrorless camera market in Asia is now more important than the rest of the global market combined. Whether this will continue for the balance of 2017 remains to be seen.

The share of mirrorless cameras as a percentage of the entire interchangeable lens camera market increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2017 to 36.4% of the total interchangeable lens camera market.

From a strategic marketing perspective this means that thus far in 2017 18.27% of all interchangeable lens cameras shipped globally were mirrorless units to Asia…or almost 1 in 5.

Here are the mirrorless camera shipment volumes the four major regional markets for the 1st quarter of 2017:
Asia 495,186
Europe 194,697
Japan 140,901
The Americas 125,291

Whether this spike in mirrorless camera shipment continues will be something I’ll be watching in future camera market updates.

The shipment of interchangeable lenses also showed some very modest growth in the first quarter of 2017 with 4.35 million units compared to 4.29 million units for the same quarter last year. As cited a number of times in this article, the first quarter of 2017 was a bit of an anomaly in terms of the strength of the camera/lens shipments during this period. When looking at historical trends over the past decade, it appears that the interchangeable lens market may come in at a minimum of 19.46 million unitsĀ up from 19.18 million units in 2016. There is some potential that the lens market could recover to 21.76 million units in 2017 if the first quarter of 2017 is of average importance.

When we put all of the camera market segments together we can see that the strong first quarter of 2017 could be the early signs of a modest recovery in the market, if the market estimates based on the average performance of each segment in the first quarter is accurate.

As is often said, ‘one quarter does not a year make’…so I will be monitoring these trends in future camera market updates. I will be publishing an update at the end of each quarter throughout 2017.

The biggest thing I will be looking at in the 2nd quarter 2017 market update is whether these small signs of a potential market recovery have continued in the 2nd quarter.

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