CIPA Report: Mirrorless continues to grow rapidly, DSLRs fade
The demise of the DSLR lineup is still permanent – as soon as Nikon and Canon entered mirrorless competition from 2018, it wasn’t a question of if, but when.
We can see the monthly summary of the number of cameras shipped and shipped by CIPA (International Press Association for Imaging Technology) in the past 5 years as shown in the table below. Aside from the uneven and decreasing number of shipments, it looks like 2017 will be a much better year than 2021. That’s 25 million cameras shipped, compared to just 8.4 million units last year. Perhaps, to everyone’s surprise, 2022 (green line) is actually worse than last year.
Not only that, DSLRs also have to compete with the strong development of cameras on increasingly flowery smartphones. This is certainly having a very noticeable effect on the overall sales of the digital camera market.
Number of cameras shipped over the years worldwide according to the CIPA report
It’s easier to see if we look at the cumulative shipments for the year (below), where we’re at the equivalent of the dire situation during the 2020 COVID pandemic. That said, the years 2020, 2021, and 2022 are both at similar levels, suggesting that shipments could reach around 8.3 million units this year. We are heading towards an economic recovery with the opening of factories and demand exceeding supply.
Overall, the camera market is complex, as shown in the chart below in terms of shipments (dotted line) and value (solid line).
ILC Shipping and Value
What’s clear is that the in-camera and DSLR models both have similar low shipping ratios, each equating to around 20% of the total. But in stark contrast, mirrorless models took the lead for the year.
It is the interchangeable lens camera (ILC) segment that has become the driver of the professional market and a focal point for manufacturers. Last year shipments reached 5.3 million, with CIPA predicting the same number for 2022 while Canon is more optimistic suggesting it could reach 5.6 million. If we expect a “boost” by Christmas, then 5.8 million units seems achievable and 6 million units achievable. It seems that the demand is there and the more important question is whether the supply is adequate?
In fact, looking back at this year, mirrorless cameras account for 50% of shipments, compared to 24% and 26% for DSLRs and in-cameras. However, when you look at the shipping value, it drops to 76%, 14%, and 10%.
It’s clear that a big chunk of revenue comes from Mirrorless Expeditions. Perhaps more noteworthy is that their shipping numbers and values are very similar for DSLRs and built-in cameras.
2022 and beyond
The figures above highlight three strong trends in the industry right now, which are happening faster than expected.
First, shipments are being driven by mirrorless models as most major manufacturers are shifting their production lines to mirrorless models and consumers are also gradually ordering more of this product. Additionally, Canon and Nikon are also expanding their mirrorless production lines, which means they have to be adept at moving production lines to new camera models and increasing productivity.
What’s suspicious is that they currently need more capacity, and it’s a tricky balancing act to shut down DSLR production to make way for mirrorless. However, after a period of battling with the COVID outbreak and areas where contracts were forced to some extent, they also had to shut down permanently and move production to new locations.
If – and it’s a big if – Canon and Nikon can increase production, we can imagine that ILC shipments will return to 8 million units. It seems like too positive an outlook for an industry that’s been in decline, but it’s a unique moment in the industry and the pivot to mirrorless, following the difficulties of COVID, has made a difference on an unprecedented level.
Second, built-in cameras are still a profitable (and we have to assume) active segment, albeit a relatively small one. This is due to low-volume, high-value products aimed at the travel and vlogging market. So while Canon may have shut down one of its factories in China, this confirms corporate hijacking.
Third, the DSLR still retains many values like the built-in camera segment. This – in contrast – represents products that lose value when out of fashion and are likely to have low profit margins. As I noted above, it can also be an inconvenience to change the production line for mirrorless models.
Nikon has publicly stated that it intends to have DSLRs make up only 5% of its total camera shipments by 2025. When you scale the company down as it decreases naturally, it’s simple: the flow of products in a short time will help reduce costs. If there’s one word to describe the DSLR of the future, it’s: obsolete.