Photographic industry in freefall? Camera shipments down a shocking 35%

Photographic industry in freefall? Camera shipments down a shocking 35%
Image: CIPA

It may seem like a broken record at this point, but the problem is that the scratches and skipping are getting worse – much worse. According to the latest reports, the camera industry has gone from decline to freefall, with 34.7% fewer camera systems shipping in February 2019 than February 2018.

That's according to international industry body CIPA, the Camera & Imaging Products Association. In its latest CIPA Report (opens in new tab), publishing statistical data from February 2019, it found that shipments of interchangeable lens cameras was down to just 521,217 – over a quarter of a million fewer cameras than were shipped (798,014) in the same period last year. 

The "bigger" picture isn't much better. The total number of cameras shipped (including fixed lens systems) was 935,148, just 69.7% of the number shipped (1,340,995) in February 2018. 

Total camera shipments are 'only' down 31.3% year-on-year for February (image: CIPA)

Total camera shipments are 'only' down 31.3% year-on-year for February (image: CIPA)

Canon made headlines in January when its CEO, Fujio Mitarai, prognosticated that that camera market could shrink by 50% (opens in new tab) in just 2 years. The reason, he said, was that smartphones were cannibalizing sales.

"People usually shoot with smartphones," said Mitarai. "The digital camera market will keep falling for about two years, but professional and [advanced] amateurs use about 5 to 6 million units. Finally [the market] will hit the bottom."

Last month, Fujifilm's Toshihisa Iida's response was emphatic. "Totally, totally disagree," said the General Manager of Fujifilm's Optical Device and Electronic Imaging Products Division. "We really just cannot believe that projection of Canon's."

Last month, however, the annual LensVid report noted that the camera market has collapsed 84% since 2010 (opens in new tab). Whether you feel that Canon is being too pessimistic, or Fujifilm is being too optimistic, these reports don't lie – and they paint a troubling picture.

While the best camera phones (opens in new tab) keep getting better and better, the camera-buying public isn't reacting the same way to technological developments in the traditional camera world. If shipments have slumped by over a third despite Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus putting out new product, Mitarai might actually end up being an optimist with his prediction. 

Read more:

Smartphones could halve camera market in two years, Canon warns (opens in new tab)
Camera market to halve in 2 years? "Totally, totally disagree," says Fujifilm (opens in new tab)
Camera market has collapsed 84% since 2010 (opens in new tab)
The best camera phone in 2019: ultimate smartphone cameras on test (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web 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 as diverse as 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, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). 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.