CIPA is out with its April worldwide interchangeable lens camera shipment numbers, and the graph doesn’t inspire confidence. Compared to 2018, shipments in April are down 27%. It’s a trend interchangeable lens cameras have been following for all year.
Last year saw the release of the Sony a7 III in April which juiced sales over the 2017 mark. Are we in a place where we need Sony to ride in and save the market? Sony fans might say yes, but the reasoning is a bit more nuanced. What were the favorite critique of Sony before the mark III and a9 bodies released? Lack of lenses. That’s gone now thanks to a multi-year head start in the mirrorless camera market.
Today, it’s Canon and Nikon lacking native lenses to pull professionals and enthusiasts to their mirrorless systems. Not only lenses but professional cameras period. The Canon RP? Nice price, but the lenses set you back over $2000 each. It’s also plagued by Canon’s entrenched position of excluding features consumers expect, leaving them for the unreleased pro-style mirrorless camera.
Panasonic? The S series is intriguing, but again, lack of lenses and an AF system which leaves you shaking your head in bewilderment.
If companies want to be late to the mirrorless party, it helps if you don’t make the same mistakes Sony endured. The idea is to take the lessons and launch comparable cameras. Not start at the beginning.
The most common response to falling shipment numbers is to place the blame on smartphones. And that’s a valid component to the falling numbers. Smartphone cameras get better every year and have essentially killed point-and-shoot systems and cheaper DSLRs.
However, smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are enduring similar drops in shipment numbers as consumers are more comfortable holding onto their phones for longer periods. Replacement cycles get longer, forcing companies to rely on shipment value. You only have to look at the iPhone X to see the shift. $1000 phone?
Take the same approach to the interchangeable lens camera market. Yeah, shipments are down, but what about shipment value?
High margin cameras are making up for the loss in volume. Mirrorless is tracking with last year, which is impressive considering the launch of the Sony a7 III. DSLRs? The best you can say is it could be worse. 2019 is shaping up as a transition year. Get ready to see a ton of mixed signals on the health of the camera market. As long as the shipment value holds, don’t be surprised to start seeing upticks in shipments come 2020.
Sure, we all want growth. But eventually, everything reaches saturation. Ask Apple and Samsung.