Two thousand and sixteen will rank as camera manufacturers’ ‘annus horribilus’, with plummeting shipments partially attributable to an inability to get cameras into the hands of consumers, rather than pure lack of demand.
According to Japan’s CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) total shipments of digital cameras fell 32 percent to 24.2 million units. (‘Peak Camera’ was in 2010, when 122 million units were shipped.)
Shipments of digital compacts declined 44 percent, while shipments of interchangeable lens models fell 11 percent in units.
The six-month interruption to image sensor supply following massive damage to Sony’s sensor factory from the Kumamoto earthquake in April defines 2016 as an unusual year. It’s probably impossible to know what portion of the negative result is due to a fall in demand and what is due to inability to supply stemming from the earthquake. CIPA describes the impact of the Kumamoto earthquake as ‘not minor’. A lack of demand is a challenge to which an industry can respond. A lack of supply to fulfill existing demand is something else again.
It’s useful to note that sales of Canon interchangeable lens cameras actually increased 2 percent in 2016. Canon interchangeables don’t use Sony sensors, so maintained consistent supply. Canon compacts, which do use Sony sensors, fell 38 percent by unit.
Shipments of lenses for interchangeable lens cameras fell 11.4 percent, roughly in line with the fall in camera shipments, and maintaining a 1.65:1 ratio of lenses to cameras.
While the annual figures make grim reading, there was a promising increase in shipments following the resumption of full supply from Sony Kumamoto. In fact, for the month of December shipments of interchangeable cameras beat December 2015 by over a quarter, and even surpassed December 2014 by around 100,000 units!
CIPA predicts that shipments of interchangeable lens cameras will decline by a relatively modest 6 percent in 2017. Let’s hope that turns out to be hopelessly pessimistic, and that 2017 is a photo industry annus mirabilis!