The first set of CIPA numbers are out for January 2020, and they are pointing to what we all feared. This year will be rough on the camera industry. What the figures show is a record low in terms of interchangeable lens cameras sold in January since the industry peaked in 2012. 

Shipment quantity plummeted to 446,330 in January 2020 compared with 546,188 shipped in January 2019. The trendlines were already negative for the industry as it deals with the onslaught of smartphones, which continue to push the capabilities of their cameras. You only have to look at the recently released Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra to see the rapid improvements. 

Then there’s the growing outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus, which has ground manufacturing to halt in China and threatens to spread its supply shock to most of Asia. We have already seen signs of the impact with the recent release of the Fujifilm X-T4. Supplies will be constrained even under the rosiest of outlooks. 

That assumes the coronavirus stops essentially right now. There’s zero evidence that is happening with the reverse being true, as ramped-up testing is expected to reveal an accelerating outbreak.

I theorized camera companies would have to focus on shipment value over quantity, but January numbers showed a 19% drop in terms of value for mirrorless cameras to correspond with the 11% drop in shipment quantity. It’s a brutal start to 2020, and you only have to look at the sudden silence out the mirrorless camera leader, Sony, to feel something is wrong. 

The company is starting 2020 with it’s slowest product announcement pace in years. When was the last time you’ve known Sony not to announce a camera every few months? 

Yes, we have the upcoming Canon EOS R5. It was supposed to make its debut at CP+, which was canceled over coronavirus fears. It joins a long list of conferences and tradeshows which have been canceled. It also calls into question if Photokina goes ahead. There’s some scheduling room in there to make the call closer to the conference to monitor the coronavirus, and we all hope it has subsided by then.   

The fears of a lost 2020 have leaped into mainstream photography YouTube channels. 

Tony is correct in that investors are normally lenient when something outside of the company’s hands impacts its forecasts. The issue becomes how many companies can they spare when the supply shock is felt in most industries? 

The likes of Canon, Fuji, and Sony strike me as safe. Nikon? The company was already feeling the financial pressure before the coronavirus. How long the coronavirus continues to impact manufacturing at the component level will tell the tale of if there is consolidation within the camera industry or if there’s an exit of one of the lagging companies.

All of our hopes is that the virus fades quickly, and the second half of 2020 shows strength, or we may be looking at a lost year at a time when the industry can’t afford it.

Gear. TV. Movies. Lifestyle. Photography. Yeah, I’m the type who sees a shiny object and is immediately captivated. Wait... There’s another. You can reach me at marcus@newsledge.com

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