Year-End 2016 Market Update

For readers who enjoy getting periodic updates on statistics on the camera market, this year-end 2016 market update provides a few slides detailing market volumes globally and by geographic region, as well as some insights on the relative size of various regions in terms of their importance.

NOTE: Click on graphs to enlarge.

Since one of the bigger camera news items in 2016 was Nikon’s cancellation of the DL Series of cameras I thought having a look at the fixed lens camera market volumes would be a good start to this update.

As you can see in the slide above the fixed lens camera market continued its precipitous decline in 2016. As I noted in an earlier article I think these market conditions contributed to Nikon’s decision to cancel the DL line. The fixed lens camera market peaked at over 110 million units in 2008 and has declined to just over 12 million units in 2016.

The slide above further details the volume of fixed lens cameras by geographic region as determined by CIPA. You can see that all regions have experienced dramatic losses in fixed lens camera volume with the Americas and Europe showing the largest unit declines.

In terms of fixed lens camera regional importance, Europe is still the world’s largest market representing over 35% of volume in 2016. You’ll note that the Japanese market has been gaining in importance over the past 5 years or so as its rate of unit volume decline has been less severe than other regions.

Unit volume of interchangeable lens cameras grew steadily from 2003 and peaked in 2012 at just over 20 million units. While this market has been declining it has been doing so at a much slower rate than the fixed lens camera market.

All regions have experienced a decline in the unit volume of interchangeable lens cameras with Asia now being the largest market for this type of camera.

The slide above shows that the market in Asia now accounts for over 35% of interchangeable camera volume. The Americas, once the largest global market for interchangeable lens cameras is now third behind both Asia and Europe.

Beginning in 2012 CIPA began to break out DSLRs and MirrorLess cameras in their reporting. In the slide above you can see that the unit volumes of DSLRs has been in decline for many years with the rate of decline moderately slightly the past two years.  The unit volumes of DSLRs has declined from over 16 million units in 2012 to approximately 8.5 million in 2016.

The Asian market is the world’s largest market for DSLRs, with the Americas and Europe posting about the same market volumes. The market in Japan has seen a slight increase in DSLR volume the past two years.

Asia has been the most important market for DSLRs, representing about 35% of market volume for the past three years.

It may be a surprise to many readers, but the unit volumes of mirrorless cameras has not increased over the past 5 year period. Since 2012 when CIPA first began to report mirrorless cameras this type of equipment has gone from almost 4 million units down to just over 3.15 million units in 2016.

Asia is the only region that has shown unit growth in mirrorless cameras over the past three years. Europe has been flat with declines in Japan and fairly flat volumes in the Americas. The Americas is the smallest regional market for mirrorless cameras.

The importance of the market in Asia for mirrorless cameras has increased by over 10% from 2012 to 2016, now sitting at over 45% of global unit volume.

The unit volume of interchangeable lenses increased steadily from 2003 through to 2012 when the market peaked with over 30 million lenses. Volumes have been declining since 2012 with almost 19.2 million lenses in 2016.

All regional markets have seen declines in lens volume since 2012. Volumes in Asia have been slightly ahead of the Americas and Europe for the past three years.

As you can see in the above slide the importance of the market in Asia has increased dramatically since 2003, growing from 11.7% of global volume to about 30.6% in 2012. The Americas has declined in importance during this same time period, falling from about 40% down to 28%.

I find this final slide very instructive as it shows that the unit volume of interchangeable lenses is larger than fixed lens cameras, or interchangeable lens cameras – both DSLRs and mirrorless.

Strategically this final slide indicates to me that camera companies will need to concentrate more on developing and marketing interchangeable lenses to create a profitable product portfolio. Also, given the precipitous decline of fixed lens cameras I think we’ll see more higher-end speciality fixed lens cameras and the eventual complete disappearance of inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras. I think this final slide also helps to explain why the Nikon DL Series of cameras were cancelled.

So far in 2017 with only January and February CIPA data available, there are hints that the camera market is stabilizing a bit. Unit volumes of fixed lens cameras is still declining but so far in 2017 volume is down about 3.9% compared to the same period in 2016. Interchangeable lens are up slightly with a 1% increased year-over-year. Interchangeable lens cameras are up over 11% so far in 2017.

January and February are traditionally small volume months so we’ll have to monitor things are 2017 progresses. Once March 2017 CIPA data is available I will do a first quarter 2017 update.

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6 thoughts on “Year-End 2016 Market Update”

  1. Camera manufacturers are still hung up on what happens to enable us to take a picture. Not what we do with it afterwards.

    With a smartphone you can take a picture and instantly share it. With a digital camera you cant.

    Digital cameras have kept up with technology, i’m just not sure the’ve kept up with how people use images.

    1. Hi Mark,
      I agree that camera manufacturers could have done a much better job creating ways for photographers to connect their cameras with social media. There are some attempts by camera makers to correct this issue. My Nikon 1 J5 has built-in WiFi capability and Near Field Communication (NFC) for ‘sharing your photos while on the go’. I have no idea how easy, or how well, this feature works as I personally have no need for it and have never used it.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I believe the reason why a lot of people now use phone camera, lies in the ultimate simplicity to produce a photo. Using them is even easier than P&S cameras, without worrying about bad results since camera phones have sophisticated program to assist users getting satisfactory photos.

    Phone camera shooters usually possess little knowledge about theory of photography, and they simply do not care or bother to learn. But I am amazed that now camera phones can generate very good results in terms of accurate exposure and auto white balance. And the best thing is the ability to share online instantly to collect ‘like’ on FB or other social media. None of them can be done by ordinary P&S cameras.

    Sometimes I try to explain about noisy selfies in dark or bad photos after ‘zoom’, but it seems they do not care much and consider carrying additional camera is ‘heavy and difficult to use, plus no instant share online’.

    Also, the diminishing usage of computer has contribution. Since many people just view photos on phone screen, they always think their photos taken by their phone are great. View them on a computer LCD will reveal all the defects- motion blur, grains….but you know what, they will blame LCDs.

    I will keep shooting RAWs with my cameras, with 1″ they give me so much better results, no to mention even those with larger CMOS. Just my thoughts.

    1. Hi Peter,
      I agree with the points made in your comment! The increased use of cell phones for photography seems to go hand-in-hand with social media for many people. Everyone has their individual needs and for many people the quality and convenience taking photographs with their phones is ideal for them. Its kinda funny that when I upgraded my cell phone I purchased a Samsung Galaxy 7. One of the reasons was that it was rated (last year at any rate) as having the best picture quality. My initial plan was to take a few photos with it on a semi-regular basis and write a few corresponding articles on my blog. Well…that lasted for one article. I just didn’t like using it for that purpose. It did come in handy when I needed to take some photos of an accident last fall when I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light.

  3. Most people who I know now only use cell phone cameras. Aren’t most of them fixed lens cameras (although with multiple other uses)? Mine has two fixed lenses-a wide angle and normal angle lens.

    1. Hi Robert,
      Most cell phones of which I am aware would have a fixed lens camera, or dual fixed lenses like your cell phone. I think there is a new cell phone (perhaps from Motorola?) that has a small zoom lens attachment that can be purchased as an add-on. Cell phone cameras would not be reported by CIPA as this is a camera manufacturers’ group.

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