There was a time a few years ago when camera sales started to wane and quickly it seemed like they had bottomed out. If you remember, it was when phone cameras really started to be able to hold their own and the public-at-large began to embrace the ‘good enough’ ability their iPhone 4 brought them. But then camera sales, it turned out, weren’t at their lowest, and sank further into the mantle where they’ve kind of resided for the past year. Well, the latest statistical data from CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association), suggest the numbers are on the rise.

If we look at numbers over the last three years as provided by the data from CIPA, we can see clearly a large fall in the total camera shipment numbers between 2015 and 2016, and that encompasses all types and worldwide. Toward the end of 2016 (around November) however, we can see things began to turn around with 2016 actually ending up better off. The momentum has carried over into 2017 which, so far, is besting the 2016 figures.

Those who are familiar with CIPA and the source of this information might consider mentioning that numbers cited are not direct sales figures but physical movement of inventory/shipments, and that may lead you to think it doesn’t quiet equate to sales. This is probably accurate but probably a detail that doesn’t warrant dwelling over too much as the variance between sales and shipments is just really the transient nature of inventory in/out. If we accept that most businesses won’t be stocking what they can’t forecast to move (typically), we can assume that the shipments and sales figures are close enough for the sake of basic argument.

Anyway, harking back to the emergence of the capable phone camera, cameras with built-in lenses (read: point and shoot types) have been in steady decline for a good 4 years, quarter over quarter, but they seemed to have leveled off which is a marked improvement. Interchangeable lens cameras shipped are up 6% from last year and the value of said cameras is more than double that (Mirrorless cameras are included in the bunch, and without surprise they continue to grow in marketshare).

To give a little bit of context, however, it’s important to understand that camera sales are down more than a whopping 1/3rd since just a few years ago! That’s massive, and after such consistent decline what could be responsible for the shift overall for the positive change now? Some of the common thinking is that last year’s camera purchases were down because of the sheer problems with production and procurement in and around Kumamoto with the earthquake; that there just was a stifling of availability and now the market is gasping and making up for it.

[REWIND: Capture One Pro 10.1 Adds Enhanced Fuji X-Trans RAW, PSD Reading, & Sony A9 Support]

Draw your own conclusions but, while there’s something to be said for that, there’s reason to believe it could be cyclical and we’re in a period of slightly higher purchasing due to a high four years ago and now it’s gear replacement time – or frankly other factors I’m not savvy enough to think of. It’s just many retailers are reporting consistently lower sales numbers and it’s hard to think why that would change right now. What could it be? Those who really care about the very latest features and who tend to complain about and abhor incremental updates in new bodies are more pros and enthusiasts, but we don’t make up the larger base of purchasers; Canon and Nikon keep pushing out the consumer-level bodies because they still continue to sell. It just seems the other segments are positioning at the higher end for better margins – definitely for compact anyway.

What do you think is going on here, and do you think we’ll see a rebound of camera sales to anything like there was 5 years ago?

Source: DigitalTrends, CIPA