The camera sales rollercoaster is crazy, but amazing May was driven by the high-end models

 People enjoy an autumn night riding a rollercoaster at Fuji-Q. Mt Fuji stands tall in the background during the sunset.
(Image credit: Raquel Felice/Getty Images)

There has been some serious concern in recent years over the declining number of camera sales. Clearly, a significant factor has been the rise to dominance of camera phones. However, promising statistics between May 2022 and May 2023 show an 11% increase in digital camera exports from Japan – and a lot of that positive activity in interchangeable lens cameras.

Since the start of 2023, there has been a gradual increase in the shipment of digital cameras from just 262,228 units shipped in January compared to 548,242 units in May 2023 representing a 117% increase. Interchangeable lens cameras (DSLRs and mirrorless cameras) are the main reason for the increase which is no surprise considering the release of the Fujifilm X-T5 in November 2022 (which took a while to actually ship), the Panasonic Lumix S5 Mark II in January 2023 and the Canon EOS R8 and EOS R50 in February 2023. 

• These are the best mirrorless and compact cameras you can buy right now from Nikon, Canon, Sony and more.

CIPA May 2023 digital camera shipment results

Overall camera sales; 2021: purple dotted, 2022: black, 2023: orange – CIPA (Image credit: CIPA)

Results from CIPA (Camera and Imaging Product Association) show a rise in integrated lens cameras (those with lenses built-in) in the last two months, but it is only keeping pace with last year's pre-summer rise and is still behind 2021. With Sony releasing not one, but two vlogging-focussed cameras (the ZV-E1 and the ZV-1 II) within the space of a few months, plus Canon’s first vlogging-centric camera (the Powershot V10 in early May) we are seeing a shift to people buying a dedicated camera for vlogging and filmmaking rather than just relying on phones. 

CIPA, we should point out, is a Japanese trade association, so the figures give a good idea of what's going on but miss out a lot of devices too.

Perhaps the reason for the steady increase in camera shipment is partly due to the fact people have more need for them now – during 2021 and 2022, many camera brands were still struggling with the repercussions of the pandemic. There was a worldwide parts shortage leading to delays for many new cameras releases such as the Nikon Z8 and Canon EOS R6 Mark II.

CIPA May 2023 digital camera shipment results

Cameras with built-in lens sales; 2021: purple dotted, 2022: black, 2023: orange – CIPA (Image credit: CIPA)

Even if digital camera shipments continue to increase throughout 2023, based on previous years' results we can expect there to be a drop in shipments as November and December approach. While people may have spare cash to spend on new camera equipment through Spring and Summer, the Christmas sales period is often slow for actual camera sales while more affordable kit such as the Fujifilm Instax series and camera accessories generally sell better than professional cameras and ethe best camera for beginners.

CIPA May 2023 digital camera shipment results

Interchangeable lens camera sales; 2021: purple dotted, 2022: black, 2023: orange – CIPA (Image credit: CIPA)

These stats are still a long way behind the number of cameras being shipped over a decade ago – in 2010 for example 121 million units were sold according to LensVid – but the uptick, especially in the quality products, shows hope at the end of a period of uncertainty for many camera manufacturers.

Read about compact cameras are making a comeback while DSLR sales continue to decline

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.