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Camera market to continue to shrink, but is US-China trade war partially to blame?

Camera market to continue to shrink, but is US-China trade war partially to blame?
(Image credit: Newswitch)

We're terribly sorry to bring you doom and gloom on a Monday morning, but it's not looking good for the camera market at the moment. From plummeting compact camera sales to the looming US-China trade war, it seems that the camera market is a pretty inhospitable environment at the moment.

Over the weekend, Japanese website Newswitch published an interview (opens in new tab) with Canon CEO Fujio Mitarai where he said that the camera market will continue to shrink over the next two years. In this interview, Mitarai stated that (translated by Google Translate) "Single-lens cameras… peaked at 18 million in 2012… the number of units [has] decreased by almost half to 10.3 million units, and this trend will continue for another two years." 

Mitarai goes on to say that Canon is preparing for compact camera sales and single-lens camera sales to each respectively fall to 5-6 million units. However, this isn't the only difficulty that Canon (and likely other camera companies) are facing. 

"The external environment is also bad due to trade disputes between the US and China," Mitarai stated. 

Trump ignited the trade war in March 2018 by applying tariffs to $50 billion of Chinese goods

Trump ignited the trade war in March 2018 by applying tariffs to $50 billion of Chinese goods (Image credit: Donald Trump)

When asked whether it's been necessary to review Canon's existing production system due to the intensifying friction between the US and China, Mitarai replied: "We have been reviewing it for some time. We have been focusing on reducing costs by using robots for production, focusing on Japan, and in-house production of robots and other equipment. [When the] software development and re-education in the machine design field are completed… overseas factories will not be necessary."

As we recently reported, both Olympus and GoPro (opens in new tab) have already moved production out of China, so we're not surprised that Canon is making moves to do the same. 

With a fresh wave of tariffs having gone live yesterday, we do wonder how this will continue to affect the camera industry. Yesterday, The Guardian reported that (opens in new tab) "once all the measures have taken effect by December, nearly all of China’s $540bn worth of exports to the US will be subject to the levies." 

Whether this means that companies will continue to move production out of China, or that prices will be hiked in response to the tariffs, it's certainly going to be an interesting few months for the camera industry.

However, despite the recent onslaught of troubling (opens in new tab) camera (opens in new tab) news (opens in new tab), Mitarai remained positive, "Bad things were concentrated this year, but the growth of new businesses is steady and we are looking forward to next year."

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With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab) and  Digital Photographer (opens in new tab). Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.