Compact cameras are making a comeback while DSLR decline continues

CIPA APRIL 2023 Results
(Image credit: CIPA)

The latest figures from the Camera & Imaging Products Association in Japan (CIPA) have been released for the month of April 2023, and it seems that compact cameras with built-in lenses are much more popular than we thought.

Is it due to the rise of Sony's new vlogging cameras like the Sony ZV-1 II and Sony ZV-E1? The good news is that we seem to be clawing out of the pandemic peril of supply shortages and economic uncertainty, but influencer culture might be about to bury what's left of traditional DSLRs. 

• See our picks of the best compact cameras

It's not until you dig into the hidden numbers and statistics of the latest April 2023 data sheet released by CIPA that the silent uprising of compact cameras becomes clear, and the numbers speak for themselves. 

The graph below might show that compact cameras ("Built-in Lens DSCs" as CIPA calls them) seem to be pretty steady with the previous years, which is true, but the latest data proves that they are actually outselling DSLRs.

CIPA April 2023 data graph for compact camera shipments (Image credit: CIPA)

The CIPA's Statistical Classification of Camera-related Items PDF sheet specifies that when it refers to Built-in Lens Cameras as a term, these are "almost exclusively compact digital cameras". So it's safe to assume that we can class built-in lens cameras exclusively as compact cameras by this definition. 

In 2021, CIPA data sheets reported that 3,013,250 cameras with built-in lenses were shipped worldwide between January and December, and this number fell to 2,084,865 in the following year. The number of compact cameras shipped worldwide to date in 2023 (from January to April) came to a total of 511,296 units. 

However, take a look at the number of cameras with built-in lenses that were shipped between January and April 2021 (1,014,118) compared with the same period for 2022 (579,736) and 2023 (511,296). Now compare this with the number of DSLR shipments from the same months in 2021 (840,625), 2022 (652,437) and 2023 (344,049), and you'll not only notice a decline, but that compacts have caught up and now overtaken. 

We've put together an infographic below for more stats and figures from CIPA's report that support and contextualize this emerging data trend. 

An infographic breaking down the latest CIPA data (Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Digital Camera World)

The data and figures from the recent CIPA report make a lot of sense, actually, given that DSLR cameras in recent months have either been discontinued, replaced by a more expensive mirrorless successor, or are no longer being manufactured at all for various reasons that certainly include the global parts shortage

As with most statistical data, it's essential to take these findings with a pinch of salt. And, as we endure the ongoing cost of living crisis, many brands and manufacturers are now embracing and tapping into the refurbished and secondhand markets, with an uptake in consumers purchasing used cameras over brand-new ones. 

Camera gear specialist MPB reported last year that 30% of consumers could no longer afford to buy cameras in "new" condition. Those who can afford to buy a brand-new camera, however, are usually looking at higher-end product releases, as well as the latest gear that other photographers and videographers are raving about. 

This TikTok user @tbatphoto noticed that the Sony RX100 Mark VII is perfect for photographing concerts from the crowd, as the design is subtle and inconspicuous enough to make it past security without being confiscated. With over 3.5 million views, a lot of people caught on to this, and also took note of the expensive price of the compact camera – to which the original TikToker responded: 


♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys

This further supports the theory that consumers are coming to realize that secondhand camera equipment is the way to go, especially for college students who might be on a much tighter budget. A more cost-friendly alternative to the Sony RX100 VII, however, is the Sony ZV-1 vlogging camera, as well as the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III, both under US$1,000. 

A lot of popular YouTubers, vloggers, and filmmakers are now opting for compact cameras due to their lightweight and slim design, making them ultra travel-friendly without compromising on quality, with the ability to shoot 4K video. 

Therefore, it's plausible to predict that this consistent rise in compact camera sales is directly linked to social media influencing and people wanting to own the same cameras used and recommended by content creators and influencers. Some of the best cameras for Instagram are considered to be pocket-sized compacts or even smartphones that boast high-resolution camera units, beating out DSLRs. 

Sony RX100 VII

The Sony RX100 Mark VII in action (Image credit: Sony)

What this data tells us isn't exactly that DSLRs are doomed, or even that mirrorless cameras are the future, but more so that the current camera market (at least for new and branded equipment) is becoming tailored to a new generation of user-friendly point-and-shoot cameras for everyday use, and reflective of the persuasive influencer culture with vlogging style compact cameras at the trend peak. 

You might also be interested in the best DSLR cameras, plus the best mirrorless cameras, as well as the best cameras for TikTok videos.

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.