Photography Industry Health Check – Things are bad and going worse

Click the image above to get a bigger view (courtesy lensvid.com)

Our friends at LensVid posted their annual analysis about the photography industry. They put an extensive look into what happened in the photography market in 2016. And things do not look good, definetly not.

To sum up the figures immediately: LensVid computed there was 81% less volume in 2016 than in 2010. This seems to be a pretty drammatic figure, which makes me wonder for how long the industry can cope with it. And it is not just about compact cameras, but DSLRs, MILCs, and lenses too.

Some points that are worth to spend a thought or two about.

  • Smartphones killed the compact camera market
  • Mirrorless are not fulfilling their promise
  • The DSLR market is shrinking
  • Cameras are for older people

I do not know if what is listed above explains what is going on. For sure always less people believes the “mirrorless-is-for-pros” fairy tale, and the whole mirrorless hype is going to slow down. That smartphones cut a significant market share was already known. And likely the young and very young would never think to start shooting with a DSLR instead of their smartphone.

LensVid also made some (cautious) predictions:

  • In 2017 we can safely predict that the entire global market for cameras will drop below 20 million cameras (or 1/6 of what it was in 2010).
  • Over the next couple of years camera manufacturers will continue to cut jobs – just like Nikon recently did after their announcement on major financial loses.
  • We will also see less innovation as less and less free money will be available for R&D.
  • The professional segment will get much more attention and camera and gear prices will increase (as production costs will rise due to the decreased production levels).
  • Can all the existing camera manufacturers survive this change in the market? so far most of them did, barely. However given the fact that this market will likely never return to the levels that we have seen in the beginning or even in the middle of the decade – we will not find it surprising at all if one or more of the main manufacturers will not be with us before the end of this decade.

If this story catches your interest, the video above takes you further, or you can head over to LensVid for the whole story.

  • Meshtli

    Mediocre camera user is getting older because prices are increasing. I know many people about 20-30 years old, who will be glad to get into photography but have not enough money for start with brand new stuff. They bying used cameras and lenses from previous users. Those people desn’t presented in this charts. Also many of them doesn’t see any real reason to take a latest model, because older used one is performing in much the same way than modern and difference isn’t so noticable for such huge price difference.

  • Antonio

    dear admin, first of all, thank you for investing your time keeping this webpage alive, secondly i don’t understand what you want to say with this statement:

    “For
    sure always less people believes the “mirrorless-is-for-pros” fairy
    tale, and the whole mirrorless hype is going to slow down.”

    what have to pros to do with that market / market share? do you think that if it is not for pros, nobody is buying it…? sorry, i just don’t get the link between “mirroless for pros” and “hype is slowing down”.

    aside a shrinking market, the relative numbers say that 2013 of 26 ILCs 5 were mirrorless (19.2%) in 2016 of 37 ILCs 13 were mirrorless (35.1%), are those number saying the mirrorless hype is slowing down? isn’t it quite the opposite?

    as a side note, i use to say that the best camera is the camera you carry around, so sadly/obviously cell phones, it has to do with size…. and yes, size matters :-)

    • Rick

      most of that growth for mirrorless is asia .. not exactly the hotbed for the expensive mirrorless bodies. Also since 2013, many vendors weren’t even shipping mirrorless – and this is shipment states not and sales.

  • Karl Raupp

    Wow – who else watched the video and caught that number – 1.5 BILLION smartphone sales just last year alone, a 5% improvement from 2015. So that means 2015/2016 smartphone sales were about 2.9-3 BILLION and total DSLR/mirrorless sales were what, 45 million? If you take compact out then it’s only about 26 million. That explains why it appears that whenever you go to an event there is 100 phone shooters for every 1 dslr shooter!

    Although I have an apsc DSLR with a half dozen lenses, a backup DSLR body and a Fuji X100S to use whenever I want, more and more often they just sit on a shelf and I use my iPhone when I go out. Just the other night I went out with some friends and we were all using our phones taking pics at the dinnertable and all of us within seconds were txt’ing the photo’s to each other and txt’ing them to other people who weren’t there. Out of eight of us, I was the only one who had a camera at home that he used, the others just used their phones. I asked and the reasoning is their phone pics are totally fine for social media or sharing with friends and if they need to get ‘real photos’ done for a special occasion, they will just get a guy-with-a-camera (like me) to take them for them.

    Back to camera’s – the belief is because sales will slow down even more prices will rise (again!) to make up for shrinking volume. Looks like my camera and gear buying days are for the most part over. To improve what I have and to get a lens or two I am looking at a substantial investment at this point. An ‘inexpensive’ full frame DSLR is $2000.- in my country, with a 24-105 kitlens I’m looking at $3k with tax. Since I have a few apsc lenses, I would need to replace those so that’s even more expense. No thanks. Will stick with what I have and the fact that I’m using my phone more and more often, my camera gear won’t be showing any signs of wear and tear for as long as I have it.

  • Tech Addict

    What a depressing article. I’ve only gotten back into photography the last couple of years. And I’ve been waiting for the new 6D. But it looks like DSLR photography is going the way of the dinosaur.

  • 250ninja

    Thank you lensvid and cw for creating and posting. There was nothing too unexpected in this graphic and video except the absence of people at photokina. Wow. This is a permanent shift in the photo industry similar to when digital took over film. Kodak didn’t adapt quickly enough to the shift to digital. Camera manufacturers aren’t doing much as far as I can see to adapt to the shift to cell phone cameras. The DSLR decline is steady and troubling. We all know that compacts will effectively disappear in a few years. I’m surprised they’ve hung on as long as they have. But DSLRs? I am guessing it’s a combination of lost sales due to buying and using 1. Cell phones 2. Mirrorless 3. Used DSLRs 4. Not upgrading since it’s not worth the money. 5. A fundamental shift in user sharing behavior. No longer do we shoot film, print, populate a photo album and show it to our friends and family. Shooting digital and populating an online photo album is also waning. Shooting on an iPhone and then posting to social media (instagram, Facebook, snapchat, etc) is the new user behavior and DSLRs and mirrorless don’t do this well. Even if they did, I honestly don’t think it will matter.
    The buyer demographic are older people, baby boomers and gen Xers. People that are 35 or younger I don’t see buying a DLSR or DSLM when they have an iPhone. Meaning as time goes on, the camera market will shrink even further. That coupled with smart phone cameras getting better and better makes the future look extremely bleak for camera manufacturers. Some of them may go under or consolidate with another company.
    What does this mean to photographers who own and buy cameras? Not sure. I wouldn’t want to shoot with a camera brand from a company that closed up shop. Not sure how this will impact pricing. Anyone else on how this impacts us camera buying photographers?

    • Wade Marks

      Yep…this is a permanent shift in the nature and use of photography, from dedicated cameras to smartphones. Along with that, as you mention, is the change in the way most pictures are shared: online, through social networking, text messaging, etc…mostly on glowing electronic screens, not print.

      Not necessarily a bad thing as a whole: more people taking more photos than ever before, a world of options opened up.

      There’s a whole lot of advice being given to the camera companies as to how to overcome this shift but the reality is that they cannot. It’s like when horses and carriages were replaced by cars and trucks. The advice given to the camera companies amounts to telling the horse and carriage sellers to compete with cars by making their horses run faster, or their carriages more like the inside of a car. Completely misses the point.

      I do think the dedicated camera companies do have a future, at the higher end, among purists, and pro’s with very targeted needs, etc. Just like there are Rolex watches, there will be very nice dedicated cameras. But they will not be the mainstream.