DSLR sales have crashed in Japan. Time to iron your black suit?

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Yes, we know – people have been saying "DSLRs are dead" for years. And yet, DSLRs are still alive. However, a slow painful death is a death nonetheless – and right now DSLRs are on life support, particularly in Japan.

There's still a place for the best DSLRs – just ask my colleague Mike Harris, who just bought a DSLR instead of a mirrorless camera. But sales data doesn't lie: less and less people are buying cameras, period, and less than ever are buying DSLRs, with sales crashing by 60.8% in the East year-on-year. To put that in perspective, only 2,689 DSLRs were sold in Japan in June. Just let that sink in for a minute.   

• The DSLR vs mirrorless cameras debate rages on

Things are only moderately better on a worldwide scale, where DSLR sales "only" dropped by 23.4% in June 2023 compared to 2022. Again, for context, that's a total of 94,609 DSLRs sold for the month. According to CIPA, that compares to a total of 671,384 cameras sold overall in June – 432,642 of which were mirrorless and 144,133 were integrated lens cameras. 

This means that compact cameras are selling over a third more units than DSLRs. Which, when you think about how smartphones have pretty much decimated the compact segment, is a pretty startling statistic.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. While overall camera sales were down about 2% worldwide, in the Americas they were up 5.9% – and in China sales are skyrocketing, up by 24.3%. CIPA estimates that around 5.72 million cameras will be sold in 2023. 

Obviously the camera market is never going to recover to the heady heights of 2012, where sales hit an astonishing 20.16 million cameras. But any growth is welcome – particularly given the ongoing component shortages. Sadly for DSLRs, though, it really does seem like the only way is down. 

The DSLR still has its place. The best budget DSLRs are ideal for students and beginners, and DSLRs are still some of the best cameras for professionals. Still, the best mirrorless cameras offer performance that's pretty hard to beat. 

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.