The Malaise Continues

(news & commentary)

The CIPA numbers for May are out, and all the same trends as before are visible. 

I thought that this time we’d look at the CIPA shipment data a slightly different way: what happens if you map the first five months of the last four years against each other. Here’s what you’d see:

bythom cipamay2015

Simply put, mirrorless (left) not growing, DSLR (right) declining, but the DSLR duopoly is still outshipping all the mirrorless players (including the duopoly’s mirrorless products). Compact camera unit volume is still in free fall, too. The average sales price of compact cameras that were shipped is up significantly, though (DSLRs only a little bit, mirrorless flat). 

If the numbers for the first five months of the year held for the full year (seasonally adjusted), the shipment volumes would be:

  • mirrorless = 3.1m units (last year 3.3m)
  • DSLR = 9.7m units (last year 10.5m)
  • total = 12.8m units (CIPA’s forecast was 13m, my forecast is 12.4m)


That said, pretty much everything seems to be on sale these days. Demand has to be weak and it’s price maneuvering that’s keeping volume up as much as it is. At list price, the total ILC sales volume this year wouldn’t come close to hitting 12.8m units. 

A number of you wonder why I write about the industry trends. Simple. Price and availability prediction for would-be purchasers. Not much is selling out these days. Despite lower shipment volumes in DSLRs and flat shipment volumes in mirrorless, prices are still soft. We just passed another of the “instant rebates will expire at the end of the month” periods where, voila, most of the rebates were reinstated. 

So, to prospective purchasers: if you’re worried about prices of an item you’re thinking about going up, don’t. Nothing indicates that the Japanese camera makers can sustain price increases at this point. A few things might come and go off the rebate or price reduction lists as the companies micromanage inventories, but long term, there’s absolutely nothing that indicates that price increases would hold for any item. 

On the other hand, the camera companies want you to buy a more expensive camera in the first place. Nikon wants you to buy FX instead of DX. Canon wants you to buy full frame over crop sensor, too, or at least a 7DII over a Rebel. And look, Sony would really like you to buy an A7 of some sort. We even have some interesting takes on this “move the customer up artificially”: the D810A, for example. Extra money for a near infrared filter that does less (plus some long exposure tweaks that should have been in the D810). 

I predicted this “move the customer upscale” approach quite some time ago, and it’s been going on for several years now with no end in sight. But overall, if a camera company can’t get you to buy a more expensive product when you update, you’ll be paying less by being even just a little patient. 

Update: no sooner did I post this article than did we see that a number of Nikkor lenses did the opposite, and rose in price. However, I think you need to look carefully at which lenses those were. The first 10 in the list of 25 are, as far as I can tell, no longer in production. One was just replaced. Three are now due for an E-type replacement. Several others are either going to go away or be replaced. The only lenses in the list that raised my eyebrow were the f/1.4 primes (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm). But I suspect that those, too, are destined for E-type replacement soon. Indeed, they’re lenses crying out for E because of video. 

So here’s what I think happened: NikonUSA just did their quarterly inventory last week. They counted up what they had on hand and looked at how long they needed that to last so that they have over 90+ available lenses in the current database. Then they raised the price of those so that the expectation is inventory will last until replacements or new lenses come. 

The list of lenses with increased prices:

  • 24-85mm f/2.8-4
  • 80-200mm f/2.8
  • 16mm f/2.8
  • 20mm f/2.8
  • 24mm f/2.8
  • 28mm f/2.8
  • 50mm f/1.8
  • 105mm f/2
  • 135mm f/2
  • 180mm f/2.8
  • 17-35mm f/2.8
  • 200-400mm f/4
  • 24mm f/1.4
  • 35mm f/1.4
  • 50mm f/1.4
  • 85mm f/1.4
  • 200mm f/2
  • 300mm f/2.8
  • 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5
  • 12-24mm f/4
  • 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 17-55mm f/2.8
  • 10.5mm f/2.8
  • 24mm f/3.5
  • 45mm f/2.8


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