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Author Topic: The camera industry in difficulty?  (Read 17960 times)

ErikKaffehr

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The camera industry in difficulty?
« on: December 18, 2016, 04:13:07 am »

Hi,

Some reflections on camera sales… There is a thread called Nikon in difficulty? But I don't think it is a problem for Nikon only, rather a market contracting.

Let's look at the this graph from this article: http://petapixel.com/2015/04/09/this-is-what-the-history-of-camera-sales-looks-like-with-smartphones-included/



So, what can we see?
  • The analogue camera market increased linearly from 1947 to 1998. Why was that? I guess it had to do development of income around the world. Somewhat also depending on innovation, like Minolta introducing AF in 1985.
  • We can see a slow down from say 1991 to 1999
  • But, starting 2000 analogue cameras sales crash and are essentially nil after 2005.
  • The first digital SLRs show up first in 2004, so the crash of the analogue market is due to digital replacing analogue compacts.
  • At 2005 the digital camera market explodes. There is a digital gold rush. Prices on digital equipment are high and camera sales tripple. Great business for camera makers.
  • Somewhere around 2008 the market enters saturation. Most buyers have a digital camera. Now growth of market and prices may start consolidate. Innovation probably drives sales.
  • Around 2012 the compact camera market starts crashing. This is of course due to smartphones booming
  • Around 2012 we see mirrorless camera entering the market.

This is what happened:


So, what does that mean for the camera industry? Camera sales are like back in 1998 and digital gold rush is over. Clearly, those times will not come back.

So what we see now is a near saturated market with relative few new buyers entering the market and cell phone cameras are the new digital photography boom.

The camera industry needs replacement sales. So they need to develop new stuff to make customers buy new cameras to replace existing ones.

Let's look at my buys.


  • I started with digital compacts in 2003, Minolta Dimage 7i and A2
  • 2004 I got my first DSLR Minolta Dimage 7D
  • 2006 I bought the Sony Alpha 100, as I needed a backup for Dimage 7D
  • 2008 I bought the Sony Alpha 700, that camera was the first one with a CMOS sensor from Sony and a major upgrade in image qualiy.
  • 2009 was the year of the Sony Alpha 900, Sony's first DSLR. Unfortunately it missed live view, which I regarded essential for accurate focusing
  • 2010 I bought the Sony Alpha 55 SLT the first Sony with real live view
  • 2012 I got myself a Sony Alpha 77 SLT. This was a very nice camera with live view and 24 MP and good usability. It did still not replace my Sony Alpha 900 from 2008.
  • 2013 Sony finally released the Alpha 99. So now I had a camera that could and did replace the Alpha 900.
  • 2013 also marked my trip into medium format digital with a Hasselblad 555/ELD and a P45+ back. I was MFD skeptic than and I am MFD skeptic still. But I guess I had more money than sense…
  • 2014 was they year I did not buy any camera. The Sony A7/A7r was tempting as it would be able to do things I wanted to do. But I felt the sensor technology was old. The 24 MP sensor was probably the same as the one in Alpha 99. The A7r sensor lacked electronic first shutter curtain and Phase Detection AF.
  • 2015 Sony released the A7rII. It had a new sensor with electronic first shutter curtain and PDAF. I switched from Sony A-mount to Sony E-mount
  • 2016 I bought an open box A7II as a backup, also bought some Canon EF mount lenses , a HCam Master TSII for tilt and shift work and some Zeiss lenses from the Yashica/Contax era
  • 2017: I was spending a bit to much on gear in the last few years. 2017 will be a year of consolidation. Will try to sell of some stuff. The Sony A900 from 2008 is the only A-mount body I plan to keep. The Hasselblad stuff I will also keep, unless I find a really good buyer :-)

So, for me Sony delivered new cameras with features I wanted/needed almost each year. Would Sony have a functional live view on the A900 I would not have bought the A55, A77 and perhaps not even the A99.

The main driver for me buying the A7rII was that it could use Canon T&S lenses.

Will I buy a Sony A9 when/if it arrives? No, I don't think so. I rather spend my savings on travel than new gear. I seldom print larger than A2 (16" x 23") and I really felt that 12 MP was quiet enough for that size. Many of my best prints are from the 12MP APS-C era and those just work fine in A2-size. So going up in MP count is not important for me. I may still replace some lenses…

Best regards
Erik
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 04:16:41 am by ErikKaffehr »
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shadowblade

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2016, 05:04:46 am »

The difference is that Canon, and especially Sony, make a lot more than just cameras. And most of the camera-related developments made by Sony are also useful in their other products.

Sony isn't after the camera market. It's after the sensor market. Which, unlike the still camera market, has never been bigger and continues to grow exponentially. Making cameras is just a good way to showcase their product, and developing mirrorless cameras, rather than SLRs, not only allows them to tap into a less-developed market, but also to develop technologies (sensor-based AF and eye-detection AF being the most important ones) that are equally useful outside of a camera.

So, yes, the camera industry is in trouble. But Nikon is really the only camera company out there - all the other big players are diversified companies which happen to make cameras as part of their lineup, rather than as their core business.
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davidgp

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2016, 05:29:00 am »


Sony isn't after the camera market. It's after the sensor market. Which, unlike the still camera market, has never been bigger and continues to grow exponentially. Making cameras is just a good way to showcase their product, and developing mirrorless cameras, rather than SLRs, not only allows them to tap into a less-developed market, but also to develop technologies (sensor-based AF and eye-detection AF being the most important ones) that are equally useful outside of a camera.

That does not make sense with what Sony is doing lately and their representatives are saying... Sony made the camera business an independent company and the sensor business also an independent company... They both need to show the parent company they are profitable independently... The camera business is not to show off how good Sony sensors are... If they start to lose money I'm quite sure they will close the division or sell it like the PC Vaio division...



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Tony Jay

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2016, 05:36:18 am »

Interesting post Erik.

Looking ahead I would say that the compact camera will almost entirely disappear - those users will by-and-large be absorbed into the Smartphone market.
A small percentage may yet graduate to DSLR's (I count mirrorless cameras as DSLR's for this purpose.).

If I am correct then that leaves a very small overall market for Canon, Nikon et al.

This is very worrying considering that interest in digital imaging has never been higher - it is just that the Smartphone seems to have captured the domain well and truly.
My main concern is the fact that the industry in general and camera manufacturers in particular appear clueless how to counter this situation.
The Smartphone revolution (as an image maker) is not an early emerging trend - it is practically over! Done and dusted!

Camera manufacturers now face a massive uphill battle. All they can offer is interchangeable lens cameras (DSLR's and mirrorless). Smartphones currently encompass the rest of the market.
The only way that Canon, Nikon, and the rest can maintain their sales (or even increase sales) is to produce cameras that can convince a Smartphone user that it is worthwhile to graduate.
Better sensors or world-beating autofocus is not going convince the vast majority.
So what will help a Smartphone photographer to switch to a DSLR for image-making?
Better images, more control over the process - yes, that will help but is nowhere near enough by itself.
What will be needed is a DSLR that mirrors the overall functionality and convenience of a Smartphone particularly with respect to a seamless and quick path to social media.
Decent menus and intuitive touchscreen functionality would not go amiss either!
None of this functionality is intrinsically an issue of technology but it would require a paradigm shift of seismic proportions from the manufacturers.

Can they do it?
Can Nikon and Canon wake up in time?
AFAIK Sony (only latterly) in their mirrorless offerings allow one to view a histogram before pressing the shutter - this histogram approximates the raw data not a JPEG-derived data set. Canon and Nikon have never got around to doing this (or even allowing a histogram based on the raw data from an already captured image).
Yet this functionality is fundamental to digital imaging, but the biggest camera manufacturers in the world have forced their consumers (those who shoot raw anyway) to guess as to what an appropriate exposure might be for an ETTR image or one with a very large dynamic range.

So, how are they going to go dealing with the needs and wants of 14 year old pimply-faced teenagers (these individuals are their future market right now) who would want a camera to give them the experience they get from a Smartphone when they struggle to give dedicated DSLR photographers functionality that is fundamental to serious image making?
BTW one can easily substitute the raw histogram for any number of unimplemented but very useful technologies for image-making so just implementing a raw histogram in isolation certainly would not give any manufacturer the right to a self-congratulatory pat on the back.

I want Canon, Nikon, et al to succeed.
I want high quality DSLR and mirrorless cameras along with very high quality lenses to make good images with, so predicting the potential demise of one or more camera manufacturers gives me no cause for pleasure - only foreboding.
But until these companies realise that nearly all their future market are current Smartphone users and acts decisively on this knowledge I do fear the worst.

It would be nice to just stick my head in the sand and just look forward to the next mega-megapixel uber-autofocusing wonder but the reality is the world has changed and it will continue to change in ways that are not comfortable or pleasant at a very uncomfortable pace.
And I haven't even begun to discuss politics and the state of our planet - only the digital-imaging industry!

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 05:39:54 am by Tony Jay »
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davidgp

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2016, 05:45:54 am »

Hi Erik, Tony,

I think we are already seeing what is happening... All manufacturers are going to try to seduce the pro/pro-amateur market... They are making less emphasis in releasing entry level cameras and more focusing in high quality lenses and cameras, where they can make more money selling less units... Clear examples of this trends are Sigma, focusing in high quality lenses and forgetting the entry level so-so ones... Or Fuji... Moving to medium format market.

Will it be enough for all manufacturers to live in this kind of market? Not sure, probably some companies will close... But I think we will still have a big collection of player from were to choose from...


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BrownBear

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2016, 08:56:09 am »

Wow....  Dropping from around 100,000 compact digitals in 2011 to around 30,000 in 2014 would get anyone's attention. That's on the order of a 70% drop in sales in just three years.

Old eyes are having trouble distinguishing green from blue in the graphs, but it appears that dSLR's have fluctuated around 10,000 per year since 2008. I'd have guessed they were dropping as well.  Still a tiny fraction of the total market, made smaller and smaller simply by the increase in smart phone sales rather than any real change in dSLR purchases.

But I'm doing my part to fight the trend!  I've put 2 dSLR's under the Christmas tree this year, and no smart phones.  ;D
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Rob C

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2016, 08:58:26 am »

The more I read these posts, the more convinced I become that the world is upside down, or at least headed that way.

Fantastic and complex user-controlled technology is not, IMO, any worthwhile Holy Grail of itself. After too many years working cameras for a living, the less I have to mess about these day, the happier it makes me. I have absolutely no desire to interact with a screen and put my little fingers onto the place where I want to focus; I have even less desire to carry around a tripod and make 'considered' decisions about my pictures because the camera is anchored to a three-legged rock; that decision is already pretty much defined when the damned thing hits my face.

I have no yearning to cart around anymore two Westons and Invercones, plus a Minolta Flashmeter lll; far better a built-in device like Nikon's Matrix which beats me on pretty much any day, only needing me to stick my two-cents worth into the deal when I shoot in the gloom of a room towards a window.

I can fully appreciate the sense of pride some slightly less-old photographers still have playing with manual devices/inputs only to come up with what automation could have done for them in the blink of an eye, if not far faster. For a long time after I bought my first of only two dslr cameras I didn't want af lenses, either, and then when glaucoma came to roost and focussing became difficult, I grudgingly used it out of desperation, and now I wouldn't do without it at all, by choice, not only because I can't very efficiently.

If there's one thing I would certainly change about both my digital Nikons it's this: I would do what I think they did with the Df, and remove controls such as aperture and shutter from those hellish little wheels that I invariably manage to turn to unwanted positions as I walk around holding the camera in my hand. It's only Auto ISO, another thing I stupidly used to resent until I went there and tried it out for a while, that saves my ass when those bloody little wheels get shifted!

Except for very special pro situations, I think the less input a photographer has to make physically (I am not including aesthetics such as DOF decisons, nor choice of shutter to suit intent, of course) the better. Isn't that very much part of why cellphone cameras are such big news? Idiot-proof, much of the time.

So, the future for dslr cameras? I suspect that making them too complex will eventually turn people away, because it's not old guys with historical baggage that those companies will have to attract, but fresh young blood not 'tainted' by memory of how it was. Old dogs, new tricks, not often good medicine!

Rob C

hogloff

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2016, 09:54:30 am »

Rob, I think you are wrong. Young people are attracted to technology, new wizbang things including stuff like touch screens, voice input and even lately virtual reality. Have you ever witnessed these young kids make their way around the Internet world with their thumbs blazing and their voices dictating.

The more tech a gadget has, the more these young flock to it and the more they adapt to it. It's people like you that dig in their heels and long for the way things were 25 years ago...the young want new tech every year.
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E.J. Peiker

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2016, 10:30:48 am »

Look at what the ipod/smart phone did to HiFi stereo sales...  A $500 stereo bought in 1975 has better audio capability than in iPhone 7+ but people don't care because the phone is more convenient, smaller, holds all the music in one pocketable device, sounds good enough, etc, etc, etc.  There's an industry that will never recover no matter how much they innovate - the units that are sold aren't even used to play music for the most part, they are used to play movies in a home theater type setting.  Then there's the horse drawn carriage...  Phones will continue to get better and better and camera sales will continue to get smaller and smaller and dedicated cameras will end up being a very niche or ultra high end product.  Of course there will be the need for real cameras for advertising, movie making, and enthusiasts like those that frequent sites like this but for the average consumer, the phone is good enough...
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Rob C

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2016, 11:49:32 am »

Rob, I think you are wrong. Young people are attracted to technology, new wizbang things including stuff like touch screens, voice input and even lately virtual reality. Have you ever witnessed these young kids make their way around the Internet world with their thumbs blazing and their voices dictating.

The more tech a gadget has, the more these young flock to it and the more they adapt to it. It's people like you that dig in their heels and long for the way things were 25 years ago...the young want new tech every year.


You may very well be right!

;-)

Rob

Martin Kristiansen

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2016, 11:55:11 am »

There is a need for real cameras but there is a bigger need for real photographers. Digital killed off the light meter jockeys and now the easy accessibility to high quality imaging devices will kill off those people who consider themselves photographers but are only actually experts at controlling esoteric technology that newer technology is now making redundant.

A fresh vision, a point of view, a coherent narrative. That is photography. A camera that facilitates that is all we need.

I have my first  shoot with my 80mp back in 6 months booked for tomorrow. A car shoot. I told the Art Director he doesn't need 80MP. He said it makes him comfortable. So out comes the Cambo and the Schneider glass. It will be fun. I will take along the A6300 as well in case. That's what we should be using anyway. 80MP for a A3 image and most of the usage being online. What a joke.
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Peter McLennan

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2016, 12:31:31 pm »

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Peter McLennan

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2016, 12:42:55 pm »

Look at this guy.  He's having just as much fun as I was with my D800.  The issue is, will he be disappointed with his images?  Will he want to move up to a more capable camera? Or are these images "good enough" ?

Those are the questions the manufacturers have to answer.

« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 03:06:33 pm by Peter McLennan »
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hogloff

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2016, 02:23:01 pm »

Look at this guy.  He's having just as much fun as I was with my D800.  The issue is, will he be disappointed with his images?  Will he want to move up to a more capable camera? Or are these images "good enough" ?

That's the question the manufacturers have to answer.



Actually, that's the question the consumer needs to answer..."are they good enough", and I believe we all know that answer.

In the film days most photos were taken with P&S cameras and the resulting photos showed that. Today, instead of P&S cameras, people are using cell phones and from what I've seen, many photos are surpassing what was created using P&S film cameras.

So are the phone cameras of today good enough for the masses...I'd say yes and the phone cameras just keep getting better with each release.
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shadowblade

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2016, 08:38:15 pm »

That does not make sense with what Sony is doing lately and their representatives are saying... Sony made the camera business an independent company and the sensor business also an independent company... They both need to show the parent company they are profitable independently... The camera business is not to show off how good Sony sensors are... If they start to lose money I'm quite sure they will close the division or sell it like the PC Vaio division...



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No, that makes perfect sense.

Keeping them separate makes them much easier to untangle and divest if necessary. It also lets the camera division essentially function like a Leica-style, small-volume producer if need be, producing little profit (but not losing much money either) while providing a valuable showcase for Sony sensors. Above all, it lets Sony sell off different parts of its business in different proportions - say, selling off 49% of the minimally-profitable camera business (not that it's minimally-profitable now, but camera businesses in general are heading that way) while retaining as much of the highly-profitable parts as possible.
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davidgp

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2016, 02:30:23 am »

Look at what the ipod/smart phone did to HiFi stereo sales...  A $500 stereo bought in 1975 has better audio capability than in iPhone 7+ but people don't care because the phone is more convenient, smaller, holds all the music in one pocketable device, sounds good enough, etc, etc, etc.  There's an industry that will never recover no matter how much they innovate - the units that are sold aren't even used to play music for the most part, they are used to play movies in a home theater type setting.  Then there's the horse drawn carriage...  Phones will continue to get better and better and camera sales will continue to get smaller and smaller and dedicated cameras will end up being a very niche or ultra high end product.  Of course there will be the need for real cameras for advertising, movie making, and enthusiasts like those that frequent sites like this but for the average consumer, the phone is good enough...

The HIFI industry started to go downhill in the end of the 80s and 90s... But it was not because of the phones... It was because they started to do recordings to sound good in the radio... In your car... In your small radio devices, so people will buy the cassette or CD latter on... Those recordings were bad quality... With all the audio levels pushed high so it sounded strong... In those recordings, the difference between a bad HIFI system and a good one was minimal...

Now we are seeing a come back of good audio systems, vinyl discs are selling more than ever, with better record levels than the CD equivalent... And those come with HIFI audio systems.

P.D.: The iPod classic is a very good audio device, if you buy a good headphone amplifier for it, a good over the ear head phones (we are talking here more than 500 dollars investment), and you put on it good MP3 or lose less audio files... You get a real good HIFI system



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davidgp

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2016, 02:31:43 am »

No, that makes perfect sense.

Keeping them separate makes them much easier to untangle and divest if necessary. It also lets the camera division essentially function like a Leica-style, small-volume producer if need be, producing little profit (but not losing much money either) while providing a valuable showcase for Sony sensors. Above all, it lets Sony sell off different parts of its business in different proportions - say, selling off 49% of the minimally-profitable camera business (not that it's minimally-profitable now, but camera businesses in general are heading that way) while retaining as much of the highly-profitable parts as possible.

Ok, I'm still not seeing that Somy camera division is just to show off the sensors... But we can agree on disagree on that


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Paulo Bizarro

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2016, 08:00:40 am »

I don't think the camera industry is in difficulty; after all, there are more cameras been sold now than ever. They just happen to be in our phones.

Other than that, and from this plot, at this scale, it seems to me that the green and red bars (DSLR, Mirrorless) have more or less kept the same size.

hogloff

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2016, 08:30:48 am »

I don't think the camera industry is in difficulty; after all, there are more cameras been sold now than ever. They just happen to be in our phones.

Other than that, and from this plot, at this scale, it seems to me that the green and red bars (DSLR, Mirrorless) have more or less kept the same size.

Sure the DSLR's might have stayed roughly the same...but the money making lower end camera market is diving...it's this lower camera market that drove revenues for the camera makers...not DSLR's.
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E.J. Peiker

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Re: The camera industry in difficulty?
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2016, 09:09:25 am »

I don't think the camera industry is in difficulty; after all, there are more cameras been sold now than ever. They just happen to be in our phones.

Other than that, and from this plot, at this scale, it seems to me that the green and red bars (DSLR, Mirrorless) have more or less kept the same size.
Look at the green bar more closely or go download the actual data.  The scale of the graph is throwing you off.   DSLR sales are roughly half today what they were just a few short years ago and mirrorless did not make up for that drop.  Here is the real data right at the top of this link:
http://www.dslrbodies.com/newsviews/how-bad-is-it.html
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