Global Digital Camera Market Report January 2017

Another year begins in the Digital Camera Market and a critical year it could turn out to be. Over at Petapixel, they have a story of the demise of yet another big camera store that failed. They also released an article showing that in 2016, 98.4% of all consumer cameras sold were Smartphones. After the production problems of 2016, we need to see the strong close to the year continuing into 2017 to feel that the industry is not heading for oblivion.

Predictions for 2017 are down again, for a look at the figures see global digital camera market predictions 2017. At the end of 2016, overall stand-alone camera sales as recorded by CIPA were back to the early 1990’s in numbers sold. This might not be too bad considering, but back then I am sure there was a lot more margin for the retailer when selling a camera. We can't go back to having all those small specialist camera shops that we had back then. So we are reliant on the internet or large store chains to sell them. How long will they want to continue in the market the way it is going?


  • Overall Camera shipments down just -1.7% year-on-year
  • Mirrorless Cameras shipments up 48.3%
  • Unit trend shows signs of leveling off


January traditionally is a low month in camera shipments following the main push for the winter holiday period. As production recovers, we saw that December was better than usual. Would January continue the recovery, or would it peter out and the market continue to slide?

Would we see an end to the route on Compact fixed lens cameras?

Digital Camera Production

As we can see from the chart below, camera production is a cyclical thing with usual peaks in April, July/Aug and Oct. The summer of 2016 saw issues and that led to a larger more sustained production at the end of 2016. This has now reverse and production levels have fallen but the good news is that they are about the same year-on-year as Jan 2016. Will they hold up in Feb or continue to slide to new lows?

All camera types have fallen in production but the usual suspects, Compact cameras have sunk further, whilst Mirrorless are doing better but still falling.

Looking at the different camera types. Compact cameras are down -24.2%, Mirrorless down -10.7% and DSLRs down -26.0% month-on-month. Year-on-year, for the same month, this leaves Compact cameras down -12.3%, Mirrorless up 37.5% and DSLRs down -2.7%. So a promising start to 2017 in camera production.

Global Digital Camera Production Units (K) by Type - 2014 to 2017

Global Camera Shipments

Turning attention to actual camera shipments in January 2017, the figures show only a slight decline of -1.6% in overall cameras shipped in comparison with the same month the year earlier.

Global Digital Camera Units Shipped Year on Year Change 2016-17

From a total value viewpoint, we see another positive figure. Caution is required in reading too much into the value figure as these are in ¥en. The currency has seen considerable volatility over the last 2 months. Rising ¥en values could be due to a weakening currency but that could be easily reversed.

Global Digital Camera Total Value Shipped Year on Year Change 2016-17

Dollar vs ¥en for 2016 to Jan 2017

Note the similar pattern.

dollar vs yen 2016

Global Camera Shipments by Geographical Zone

Year on Year Change by Month

Digital Camera Unit Shipments - % Change on Previous Year 2016

During January, the supply focused on Japan and America with Europe and Asia again suffering poor supply levels. Europe and Asia are the two biggest markets, although the manufacturers are doing their best to choke them.

Digital Camera Total Value Shipments - % Change on Previous Year 2016-17

Total value is up in all geographical areas except Asia. More expensive cameras leading the way even though the mass market is demanding lower prices. So the mass market can stick with smartphones whilst ‘well-off’ enthusiasts pay ever higher prices. Not a good recipe for expansion.

Global Camera Shipments by Camera Type

Year on Year Change by Month for Camera Type

Digital Camera Unit Shipments - % Change on Previous Year 2016-17

In terms of camera type, Mirrorless cameras have made substantial gains in the last two months. Year-on-year comparison for Jan 2017 shows Mirrorless up 48.2% on the same month whilst DSLRs are down -11% and Compact down -7.1%.

Digital Camera Total Value Shipments - % Change on Previous Year 2016

Overall market value has increased for all types although the average price of Mirrorless cameras has dipped a little.


Global Digital Camera Unit Trend (K) by Type - 2014 to 2017

For the second month in a row we can see signs of a leveling off in the trend graph, or even a slight increase in the number of cameras shipped. Compact and DSLRs are stable whilst Mirrorless has made a slight upward move.

Is this an indication of the bottom of the market we have been looking for or just a reaction to the production issues of last summer? We will need to wait a few more months before we can be sure of that one. Positive signs are there and if we get the right product to the front line things could be looking up.

DSLR vs Mirrorless

The Mirrorless wars have begun. All guns blazing. Will that force prices down to where the average consumer will buy. The Fujifilm XT-20 will no doubt set the pace on that one.

Still, I see more DSLR sales than anything else and so I don’t believe the market share between Mirrorless and DSLRs will change very much over this year. True, there have been some gains over the last 6 months with high-end Mirrorless cameras coming to market. The next few months will see more really good DSLRs come to market so gains may be reversed.

Overall shipments of DSLRs now stand at 1.5 per Mirrorless camera, down from 2.16 last month. However, this changes between 0.95 for Japan, 1.1 for Asia, 2.1 for Europe and 2.6 for the Americas.

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