Sure, production of point-and-shoot cameras has suffered terribly with the advent of smart phones, all equipped with more or less decent cameras. But does that severe production downturn apply to mirrorless units? Let's examine 27 months of camera production to find out...
Last week we saw what appears to be a dismal manufacturing downturn, when we discussed basic camera production trends. However, some of the trends are better than superficial analysis indicates.
The 3-category breakout by camera types, shows that production of Interchangeable Lens (ICL) cameras has decreased only a small amount compared to the dramatic decrease of built-ins (point-and-shoots). In fact, splitting ICL SLRs and ICL non-SLRs, shows even SLR production is decreasing faster than ICL non-SLRs.
As a matter of definition; CIPA, the trade org which reports these numbers, identifies 'ICL non-SLRs' as mirrorless cameras, compact system cameras, rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lens and interchangeable unit system cameras, and similar cameras.
How can we say mirrorless production isn't so bad?
Let's first look at the point-and-shoot category, namely those cameras with a built-in lens. Sharply reduced production is seen in the every smaller grey bars of the comparison graph and again in grey area graph detailing this category. The trend line shows a dramatic production decrease over 27 months!
The type called ICL non-SLR, which includes the mirrorless category I watch, shows some decreased production, but the yellow trend line is fairly flat. These raw numbers are very, very small when compared to point-and-shoot production, however they're not decreasing anywhere near the same rate at which point-and-shoots are decreasing.
WHY ARE THESE NUMBERS SO FASCINATING?
Everyone in the camera industry is decrying the advent of smart phone cameras and the related decrease in dedicated (non-phone) camera production. They're likely crying about the point-and-shoots, where we've seen production being decimated.
However, the ICL non-SLR category is not appreciably decreasing! Overall camera production, including SLRs, is sharply decreasing, while production of ICL non-SLRs remains somewhat flat. Of course mirrorless production numbers are so much smaller than the overall scale, it might be difficult to see a trend, but the green and yellow trend lines confirm both patterns.
What else does this mean? Smart phone cameras have not had a major impact on the production of mirrorless cameras, part of the ICL non-SLR category in these graphs.
What if we look at production in terms of percentages? This really gets to the heart of the numbers. Taking ICL non-SLR production as a percentage of all camera production (green lines), we see mirrorless production is actually increasing! Again, these are percentages, not raw numbers, which have indeed fallen a little bit. Even if we compare ICL non-SLR to production of all ICLs, which includes the ever popular SLRs, we see mirrorless is increasing (blue lines).
What else does this explain? Has anyone wondered why camera manufacturers are jumping into the mirrorless genre, releasing all sorts of new cameras and lens systems? Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji, Sony, Leica, Samsung and Nikon are all making mirrorless models and have been busy releasing new products for years now. They obviously crunched these numbers well before I did and must have all but written off the point-and-shoot market. Then why scrambled to make up revenue & market share elsewhere. It seems the only category not being completely decimated by the smart phone market is ICL non-SLR.
The Message First - to the mirrorless naysayers, I suggest looking at these numbers. They may change, but they don't lie. Second and more important - we're witnessing a market shift toward units with interchangeable lenses, which means the vendors are now producing cameras more for enthusiasts.
As a photographer, I see this as a benefit. While manufacturers may have previously concentrated on the point-and-shoot market, they're now making more & more of the cameras which interest me! This explains why companies such as Fuji and Olympus have come out with such interesting and innovative camera systems and lenses over the last couple of years.
As with any shift in a competitive market, there will be some types & technology which falls by the wayside. Instead of focusing on old tech, I'm looking forward to what else the camera industry has up it's competitive sleeve.
The complete info graphic report: