Sales of mirrorless 'compact system cameras' grow in a depressed market

Sales of digital cameras are expected to fall by a quarter this year, but sales of cameras with interchangeable lenses -- CSCs and DSLRs -- are growing, and so are sales of premium fixed-lens cameras such as water/shockproof cameras
Written by Jack Schofield, Contributor

The digital camera market is depressed thanks to the improvement in smartphone cameras, which do what most people need most of the time. Nonetheless, the market for CSCs (Compact System Cameras) -- also called ILCs (Interchangeable Lens Compacts) or "mirrorless cameras" -- is still growing, though not as rapidly as before. In fact, for the first time, CSCs now account for more than a quarter of digital camera sales and more than half the trade value of digital cameras, according a report from Futuresource Consulting.

CSC sales grew by more than 100 percent in 2012 but Futuresource says demand has softened in the first half of this year, and it is predicting year-on-year growth of just 6 percent to 4.2 million units. "This relatively weak growth suggests there is a lack of consumer education regarding CSC, and more favourable consumer preference for DSLR cameras. Demand for DSLR cameras has been driven by entry-level models becoming more affordable."

For cameras with interchangeable lenses, the DSLR "remains by far the most popular format globally, with 80 percent volume share expected for 2013", says Futuresource.

Overall, the report projects that shipments of digital cameras will fall by 24 percent to 86 million units in 2013. However, shipments of interchangeable lens cameras (SCSs and DSLRs) will grow by 5 percent to almost 21 million units.

ZDNet--Nikon 1 J2_2_lens (600 x 274)
CSCs are more versatile and provide better quality than fixed-lens compact cameras but are smaller and lighter than DSLRs. Photo credit: Nikon

Arun Gill, market analyst at Futuresource Consulting, thinks there is hope for the future.

"Although consumer demand for fixed lens cameras is falling across all regions, the rapid uptake of connected mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets means there are more camera devices in use than ever before," says Gill. "And here's the interesting part: as consumers' experience of capturing mobile photos develops, their interest in photography is likely to increase. Now we're seeing a growing base of photo enthusiasts, especially in less developed countries, who desire a high-end digital camera with advanced features such as larger optical zooms and bigger image sensors. This will provide an opportunity for further growth in higher end camera sales, particularly with interchangeable lenses."

While sales of fixed-lens digital cameras are in steep decline in Europe, sales of higher value products such as bridge, premium (large sensor), zoom compact and water/shockproof cameras are increasing, according to the report. Gill also sees opportunities in emerging markets where "the growing middle class population will present an opportunity for interchangeable lens camera growth".

The 34-page report contains projections up to 2017, by type of camera and by region, and can be purchased via arun.gill@futuresource-hq.com

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