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Latest CIPA figures show camera sales bouncing back

CIPA April 2021 camera sales
(Image credit: CIPA, Fujifilm)
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CIPA reports an upturn in camera sales from January to April 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. The figures are still well below those of 2019, but considering we’ve had a worldwide pandemic and the economic uncertainty and stock supply issues that went with it, this latest news is encouraging.

The Japanese trade organization CIPA summarizes its reports into charts showing sales of interchangeable lens cameras (DSLR and mirrorless) and compact fixed-lens cameras, as well as a combined chart for both.

Overall camera sales are up on last year

CIPA's lates camera sales data show that 2021's figures (orange) are still well below 2019's (dotted blue) but higher than the numbers in 2020 (black). (Image credit: CIPA)
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The January 2021 figure of 636,863 units is lower than the 2020 figure of 804,646, but the February figures are almost identical and in March and April the 2021 figures are well clear of those recorded in 2020. However, it’s worth taking a closer look at the compact and interchangeable lens markets separately because the trend is not the same.

Interchangeable lens cameras are fuelling growth

All the growth is in interchangeable lens cameras (DSLRs and mirrorless). (2019 figures in dotted blue, 2020 figures in black and 2021 figures to date in orange.) (Image credit: CIPA)
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In January and February, CIPA’s figures show that DSLR and mirrorless camera sales were slightly below those in 2020, but in March and April they show a big recovery, getting almost half way back to the levels we saw in 2021. Of course, two month’s data is not much of a basis for extrapolation, but the signs are certainly encouraging.

Compact camera sales remain flat

In contrast to interchangeable lens camera sales, compact camera sales are flat. (2019 figures in dotted blue, 2020 figures in black and 2021 figures to date in orange.) (Image credit: CIPA)
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Where DSLR and mirrorless camera sales are showing signs of a recovery, the sales of compact fixed-lens cameras remains at 2020 levels and well below those in 2019. This could be part of a broader move away from this t type of camera as users switch from point and shoot compacts to smartphones or upgrade from compact cameras to mirrorless models.

Oh, and the DSLR isn’t dead!

CIPA’s raw data goes into more detail about camera types, and we learn that DSLRs are not dead sin the water after all. From January to April 2021, some 823,462 DSLRs were shipped worldwide, as opposed to 1,041,845 mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras have certainly taken the lead, but DSLR sales remain stronger than many might have imagined.

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Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.