When new CIPA (Camera and Imaging Products Association) figures are released the charts always made for interesting reading – provided you’re into that sort of thing. But even if you weren’t the type to read in digits and lines the story they paint has been of value. They provide the kind of macro overview of the industry that our day-to-day jousting about where the market is heading and what it’s doing really can’t. CIPA figures give us something a bit more tangible to base those assessments off of.

The last time I reported on CIPA figures it was for the 2017 Jan-October period, and a specific look at shipments of units against the backdrop of preceding years, and the picture is painted was unusual.

From what could be gathered, the divided ILC market was also divided in performance when it comes to units moved. Where October traditionally is a bullish month for camera sales and with that comes the shipments, that didn’t seem to happen this year, and the numbers had remained relatively flat even with an overall YoY increase of 11%. The sentiment on that, however, is that could be resultant of the resumed and ramped production of the Kumamoto factory.

What they’ve just released for November is perhaps more in line with what we would expect, and it’s a bit bleak. November, traditionally (and as one would expect), tends to also be a major calendar period for camera sales, but the figures are worse (comparatively) than October. To give some perspective, here are the November figures for the 4 years prior:

2013 5,957,073
2014 4,313,284
2015 3,148,484
2016 2,601,792
2017 2,166,788

2017 then, dropped off by near-as-makes-no-difference 17% from 2016 and a whopping 30% lower than the year prior. Also interesting to note is the more significant drop in ILCs compared to years before. Here’s a look:

2013 1,723,033
2014 1,363,698
2015 1,245,809
2016 1,243,100
2017 1,003,265

Mirrorless still is doing better than DSLRs in many respects in that the gap between the two shrinks as mirrorless shows steady growth and DSLR sales are dropping. Is this the bell tolling for DSLRs? No, not quite. Not yet anyway, and emerging markets like China and so on could stave off their end. But you’d have to have a significant ability to look facts in the face and deny them to not see it’s not far off.

What’s Next?

Well, that’s sort of anyone’s guess, but these figures give us an educated guess that camera sales will continue to decline and probably in contrast to the rate at which phones improve.

We already know that camera sales growth isn’t in the low end, but the higher end, and Sony’s admitted as much with their sort of obvious release decisions. Then, if we consider mirrorless’ marketshare and where that growth is mostly (Asia), we can understand then that the way forward is to grow the market on a whole (via mirrorless), which means getting cameras into the hands of those who aren’t serious pros or serious enthusiasts, but hobbyists. That means competing with phones, and to do that camera manufacturers are going to have to make the experience, aesthetics, and usability focuses of the products.

If I could go out on a limb here I’d wager that platform sharing becomes a thing for cameras. I mean, case in point is the Leica releases this year with their TL2 and the CL. Inside they are the same camera, and will take the same pictures, but they look entirely different, feel different, and appeal to different people. Basically Leica figured out that the quality of imagery was fine but that different people want different things and pleased that market.

I wager we’ll see more of that in the future as it will allow more units for less development costs while pleasing a broader audience. It may also make cameras cheaper. I’m all for it.

[REWIND: The Sony Story No One Tells, Not Even Sony | It’s Not In Our Nature To Snuff Out The Fire]

As I speculated before I would put money on their being market growth for companies like Fujifilm, Sony, and Leica, and perhaps even Olympus as they seem to be the ones addressing that market with mirrorless – they’re the ones that are squeezing a camera model in every available space in case a customer somewhere is hiding. And it seems to be working.