Survey: only 42% of people own a camera – and most do not use it

Photographer
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Only 42% of people actually own a camera, and most of them don't even use it. That's according to an eye-opening new survey that underlines just how redundant traditional cameras are becoming in modern society.

The Camera Awareness Survey was jointly conducted in Japan by two companies, Brock and Hamaya. It found that 41.8% of people have a dedicated camera, with 58.2% not owning one – many feeling that the best camera phones (opens in new tab) are all they need. 

So, what is the best camera for photography? (opens in new tab)

"A smartphone is enough for the camera," was one comment quoted by the study (opens in new tab). "Rather, the smartphone has better performance [than a traditional camera]." Indeed, the report notes the enormous 92.6% decline in camera shipments from its peak of 120 million in 2010 to just 8.9 million in 2020. 

However, the study didn't just underscore how few cameras are sold these days, or how few people still own one; it also broke down, for people that do own a traditional camera, how often they actually use it. 

And the answer is that, overwhelmingly, they don't

Of the respondents that own a camera, a staggering 37% don't even use it once a year. Only 8.8% of people use their cameras once a year, 12.7% once every 6 months, 11.8% once every three months, 11.5% once a month, 4.3% once every 2 weeks, and just 5.4% use their cameras once a week. 

Interestingly, though, of the 41.8% of people who own cameras, only 11.9% of respondents have actually sold a camera – something that I can definitely empathize with, evidenced by the many bodies that sit like trophies and heirlooms on my camera shelf. 

Still, a significant 39.7% of those who sold their cameras did so because they no longer use them – which strongly supports the notion that the uptake of smartphone photography is definitely eroding the need to use (and even keep) a camera. 

We would be fascinated to see this study conducted outside Japan, but it still paints a fascinating – if disconcerting – picture of the state of photography in 2022. 

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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.