It’s no surprise that camera sales are nowhere near where they were 20 years ago. Or even a decade ago. While sales had already started to slump by 2013, they were still significantly higher than they are today. But out of those cameras being sold, what is it that people are actually buying? And how has the pandemic affected camera sales in the last few years? Turns out, CIPA gives us an easy way to find out.
Iddo at LensVid took a deep dive into the numbers, covering from 2007 until 2022 to see just how camera buying trends have changed over the last 15 years. But the total number of cameras isn’t necessarily what we need to focus on – if you’ll pardon the expression. There are definitely things in the data that come as no surprise whatsoever, but there are one or two things that actually might raise an eyebrow.
The total number of cameras has obviously gone down over the last decade or so. But the numbers possibly aren’t quite as bad as they might look once you start to dig a little beyond the overall camera sales. There’s been a big shift in the types of cameras that are being sold over the last ten years. This is largely thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and the demise of the compact camera. When we look at the number of total cameras sold of all types, this is what it looks like.
When we start to split things up into camera type, though, things start to look quite interesting. For example, if we look at the total number of non-interchangeable lens cameras sold over the last 15 years, the relationship between the numbers for each year, their overall trending direction for each year and relative amount, it’s pretty close to the overall camera graph. The numbers, too, are much closer to the total than we might have considered.
The two graphs look virtually identical in overall scale and the relationship of the bars to each other. Compact cameras (and bridge cameras) are essentially dead due to the onslaught of smartphones. Smartphones these days have some pretty amazing capabilities (even if it is largely AI software-based), and they’re just handy. We’ve always got one in our pocket, we can pull it out any time we like and get a snapshot we’re happy with. So, why would anybody really buy a compact anymore?
When we take away these non-interchangeable lens cameras (point & shoots, bridge cameras, etc.) and we’re left just looking at interchangeable lens cameras, the trends in numbers is a little different. In fact, up until the Pandemic, if we look at 2019, the world sold more interchangeable lens cameras than it did in 2007. There’s a sharp solid rise at the beginning until 2012, and then the numbers started to dip. Up until 2020, however, they were always higher than in 2007.
Breaking things down even further, another trend that will surprise absolutely nobody is the reduced sales of DSLRs and increased sales of mirrorless cameras. And Mirrorless sales definitely seem to be on the up again. In 2022, CIPA reports, 4.1 million mirrorless cameras were sold worldwide. That’s the same number as sold in 2017, and the only year with more sales was 2018 at 4.2 million.
It’s no surprise that DSLR sales are disappearing in favour of mirrorless. After all, most camera companies had pretty much given up on DSLRs by 2018. It’s also when Canon and Nikon finally announced their new mirrorless systems, not to mention Leica, Sigma and Panasonic teaming up for their new L mount alliance. The future looked… well, mirrorless. The numbers obviously dipped during the pandemic, but if 2022 is anything to go by, it looks like they’re bouncing back.
Of course, pretty much every country in the world right now is suffering from some kind of recession, depression, cost of living increase, or other monetary issues that will limit their spending power. So, it might take a little while for that number to actually start increasing.
I think that once they do pick up, though, overall sales will potentially increase again over the next few years. At least for a little while. As DSLRs start to die off, they’re going to need to be replaced. And chances are, they’re going to be replaced by mirrorless cameras. Sure, there will be a thriving used DSLR market for quite a few years to come – and there are a handful of camera models I’m keeping an eye out for myself – but I think most people looking to replace their ageing DSLRs as they die will probably go mirrorless and not replace them with a used DSLR.
It’s totally possible that I’m completely wrong and that interchangeable lens cameras will continue to drop off. 2022’s bump might simply be that people were buying because they were able to go outside again. There’s still an overall downward trend from 2019, which may continue. Until we hit 2024 and see 2023’s sales numbers, though, it’s going to be impossible to really know for sure.
Once you take compact cameras completely out of the equation, though, the figures for interchangeable lenses – although also down overall compared to the past – don’t look quite as bad as we may have thought!
[via LensVid / Images used with permission]