A Word About CP+

(commentary)

http://www.cpplus.jp/download/en/cpplus2015_keyvisual_en.jpg

The CP+ trade show in Japan begins almost exactly three weeks from today (February 12th), and it’s generally a time where every camera maker shows off its latest and greatest. Sort of home court advantage, if you will.

In the run up to the show, we’ll be getting a series of camera announcements (such as today’s Panasonic GF7 announcement). Typically, you can count on the announcements closest to the show being the biggest, most important. How the Japanese manage to do that without collusion of some sort, I don’t know, but CP+ and Photokina are notorious for the camera makers somehow managing not to step on each other’s toes with announcements, with the bigger announcements almost always coming closest to the show itself. 

And yes, I’m expecting Nikon to participate in this introduction parade, possibly with two separate announcement days, one for more consumer oriented stuff (think Nikon 1), the second for a DSLR. 

The other interesting thing about CP+ is that the previous year’s CIPA results are announced just prior to the show. I’m expecting compact camera shipments in 2014 to be down >25%, mirrorless to be flat, and DSLRs down by slightly over 20%. In other words, not a good year. 

So the interesting thing to see will be how all the camera companies handle their product announcements and all the interviews just prior to and during the show. Basically, I think we’ll see two camps: (1) business as usual; and (2) we think we have a hit. We’ll probably even see a perverted combination of the two, as well (“business is down, but this product will do better than average” kinds of presentations).  

Meanwhile, we’re in the final quarter of the fiscal year for most of the companies (Canon excepted), and according to dealers I talk to here in the US, it’s started with a flatline. As in dead. With the Euro suddenly dropping in value, any hope by the Japanese for European sales to be a bright spot due to a declining yen just disappeared, too. 

So here’s the thing: in recent years January has been the worst or next to worst shipment month for Japanese camera makers in pretty much every category. CP+ coming in February with all its announcements usually guarantees that February/March shipments will be better and “save the quarter.” I’m not so sure that will happen this year. 

What I’ll be looking for in all the product announcements is one thing: any product that might significantly alter the course of the camera industry in the near future. Note that high-end, limited production products, no matter how interesting, generally don’t have as much financial impact as they do Internet buzz. What you’re looking for is the product in the US$500-1500 range that could re-ignite the buying market. If it doesn’t appear, 2015 is going to start with a whimper, not a bang. (And yes, that’s a T.S.Eliot reference.)

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