January is usually the lowest month for camera shipments with the main winter holiday season catered for. The camera market should see a steady rise until a big push in April as the summer season kicks in. What we need to see is just how much the market has sunk over the previous year as we certainly expect it to do. It would, of course, be good to be surprised by a rise or even a bottoming out of the market for digital cameras.

We will take a look at the market as usual by camera type and geographical zone to get the bigger picture. The DSLRs vs Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (MILCs) battle will also be addressed as well as the average price for each camera type and zone. Firstly, the overall global picture for January 2016 as reported by the industry body CIPA Japan.

Global Camera Shipments

Overall global unit shipments of all types to all zones were down -19.6% when compared to the same month the previous year. This drop was largely due to the steep fall in the shipment of Fixed Lens Cameras (FLCs) such as compacts and bridge cameras. As far as geographical zones the Americas and Other areas saw the biggest year on year falls with the Americas falling by -31.1% and Other areas falling -38.2% by units.


The total value of shipments of all types to all zones was down -18.7% in Yen when compared to the same month the previous year. Mirrorless (MILCs) were up 48.8% whilst DSLRs and FLCs were down nearly -30% each. In terms of geographical zones the Americas and Other areas saw the biggest year on year falls with the Americas falling by -41.7% and Other areas falling -52.1% by units. Surprisingly Asia were just down -2.9%.


Global Camera Shipments by Geographical Zone

Percentage Split of Market between Regions

Europe is the biggest market by geographical zone in terms of units shipped with 34% of the market over the last year. Asia and Americas are nearly equal at 24%/25% with the Japanese market about half their size, 14% and Others at just 2%. Looking at the last 6 months up to Jan 2016 we can see a weakening in the Asian market to just 22% whilst Europe and Americas both make gains of 2%.


In terms of Total Value of all cameras shipped Asia is the largest market with 33% of the last 12 months. Again over the last 6 months, we have seen a weakening of all Asian markets and a subsequent rise in the market share of Europe and Americas. This, of course, all in the context of a falling overall market.


Year on Year Change by Month

Comparing the units shipped to each region the overall fall of -19.6% was made worse by a large -31.1% fall in the Americas market. While less significant the fall of -39.2% for Others was yet another bad month for expansion into other areas of the globe.


The total value of all digital cameras shipped fell by -18.7% with largest affecting areas being Americas, down -41.7% and Japan down -29.1%. Asia propped up the market with just -2.9% and Europe -12.7%. We can see the reason when we look next at the average unit cost for each region.


Asia came to the rescue with shipments of more valuable cameras whilst up 16.1% on the same month a year ago. Europe remained fairly neutral whilst Japan, America and Others opted for cheaper cameras.


Trends in the Market by Regions from 2014

Looking more closely at the unit shipment trends since 2014 across the regions all are lower and still falling. This constant falling is due to people moving away from the dedicated digital camera to the use of Smart Phones and other devices. There was an indication the market may be bottoming out in the first half of 2015. Subsequently, a slide in the Asian market along with the Americas and now followed by Europe have shown no signs of reversing and 2016 is predicted to see more shrinkage in the overall market.


Overall total market value is trending down across most zones with Japan holding steady.


Despite the drop in unit sales and revenues, the average unit cost is still trending up. This is especially noticeable in Asia. Europe has been flat over the last 12 months whereas Americas, Japan and Others have been rising all last year. Just a sign now of a downturn coming into 2016 in all but the Asian market.


Global Camera Shipments by Camera Type

Percentage Split of Market between Camera Types

The market continues to move away from Compact (FLCs) with little sign of that changing. DSLRs also show a slight decline in share over the last 6 months. Mirrorless (MILC) cameras have seen an acceleration in market share over the last 6 months taking some of the DSLRs share. This is due to the decline in FLCs and DSLRs rather than any real growth in Mirrorless units shipped.


From a Total Value viewpoint, Compacts are continuing to decline but are steady at 34% of the market. DSLR's are also steady at 48% but Mirrorless are starting to nibble away with 18% of the market value. This is most likely due to the introduction of more advanced expensive models such as the Sony A7 range.


Year on Year Change by Month for Camera Type

Year on year comparison for Jan 2016 shows a -27.9% decline in units shipped for FLC's and -11.8% for DSLRs. Mirrorless is moving into overdrive with 22% rise in units shipped. It will be interesting to see if this rise in MILCs continues into Spring. Production is scheduled for this rise to continue but sales may have other ideas.


In total value terms, FLC's dropped by a similar -27.1% and DSLR's by a huge -29% whilst MILCs rose by a whopping 48.8% in YEN revenue. The next figure on average unit costs should spread some light on why.


Clearly we can see the average unit cost of Compacts has hardly changed. Probably due to prices having reached the bottom and have nowhere left to go. DSLRs have dropped in all respects, units, total value and down -19.3% in average unit cost. Mirrorless have shown a healthy rise in unit sales, total value and a 21.8% rise in average unit cost. So a ray of sunshine on an otherwise dull report. Just remember Mirrorless account for just 10% of the overall market in terms of units and 20% of total value.


Trends in the Market by Camera Type from 2014

The ongoing trend for unit shipments confirms Compacts and DSLRs are still falling whilst Mirrorless is showing a slight upturn. The rate at which Compacts are falling has accelerated over the last few months and DSLRs that had been steady during the first half of 2015 are also falling steadily.


Overall revenues are being driven down by Compacts and DSLRs whilst Mirrorless is heading up towards them at an increasing pace.


Average unit values have been rising over this period but DSLRs have slipped behind Mirrorless. Greater expendable income of the 'baby boomers' who want to downsize is showing in the Mirrorless sector. Young people who still prefer DSLRs simply lack the money to buy more expensive models.



From a global perspective, the market for Still Digital Cameras continues to shrink and this shrinkage has accelerated over the last 6 months. The shrinkage has been equal in both the number of units shipped as well as the total value of the shipments meaning the average unit value has stayed about the same in Jan 2016.

The largest geographical zone for units shipped is Europe but by Total Value it is Asia, taking Japan as a separate zone. Shipments to the Americas and Other regions have been weak for January. The only positive news is the average unit value of Mirrorless cameras to Asia has increased significantly.

Trends are generally down apart from the average unit values that seem to keep rising, perhaps due to people buying more expensive cameras that can outperform their Smartphones.

DSLR vs Mirrorless

Over the last 6 months, Mirrorless cameras have started to eat into the market share enjoyed by DSLRs. DSLRs however, still outsell them by 2.7 to 1. January was a particularly good month for Mirrorless with a large increase in shipments and higher value models being sent out. We will have to wait to see if this is sustainable or just an aberration.