Lensvid: What Happened in the Photography Industry in 2018

Lensvid: What Happened in the Photography Industry in 2018


Lensvid recently released the results of its sixth year monitoring the photo-imaging industry. “After a year of big changes in 2018, where two of the major players introduced new full-frame mirrorless models, it will be extremely interesting to see how much this actually affected the market as a whole,” the company stated.

As Lensvid has done annually, it updated its camera industry infographic to include the most recent information from Japan-based CIPA, the Camera & Imaging Products Association.

The company began its analysis with the number of cameras of all types produced worldwide. It cited 2010 as the top year ever for the camera industry. In that year, 121 million cameras were produced.

The industry has since seen a steady decline with a “huge drop in 2013 to only 61 million cameras—basically half; and in 2015 we saw another cut of (almost) half to only 35 million cameras; followed by another huge drop to only 23 million (35% drop year-to-year). Furthermore, 2017 was the first year since 2010 where we saw an increase in the number of cameras produced to 25 million units; just over an 8% increase. However, this might have been just a temporary thing; the numbers for 2018 show another big drop to only 19 million—the lowest number since 2001!” the company asserted. Lensvid-Logo

Interchangeable-Lens Cameras vs. Noninterchangeable

Comparing the number of noninterchangeable-lens or compact P&S cameras with interchangeable-lens cameras or DSLR and mirrorless cameras, Lensvid noted 2018 “was the first time ever that more interchangeable-lens cameras were sold worldwide than noninterchangeable cameras. This signifies a true shift in the industry; one which is clearly the result of the smartphone camera market being as strong as it is.”

Moreover, when looking at the interchangeable-lens camera market, Lenvid noted the continuation of a trend: DSLR sales are shrinking—in 2018 by about 12%—while mirrorless sales are growing, albeit slowly at about 2% more than 2017.

“Looking at the bigger picture, we can see that compact cameras went down to under 50% of the total digital camera market for the first time ever.” In addition, reflex cameras gained about 4% and the mirrorless share of the market increased by 6%.

As for lenses, Lensvid asserts “the market almost sharked in 2018 by about 7% to just over 18 million units sold.”

Imaging by Region

Lensvid also considered imaging trends by region. “It seems that the camera market in Asia shrank the most in 2018 by 27% compared to 2017; while the market in the Americas ‘only’ suffered a 16% drop in that time. Interestingly, the lens market in the Americas actually grew by about 1%; while almost anywhere else in the world sales dropped by anywhere from 6–11%,” the company stated.

Lensvid Conclusions

Lensvid had predicted that in 2017 the global camera market would go below 20 million units. “Well, we were wrong, but only by a year. Despite what the major manufacturers were hoping, the release of new full-frame mirrorless models by Canon and Nikon did not affect sales in a meaningful enough way.”

However, the company cautions that these new mirrorless camera systems were released late in the year. Moreover, mirrorless camera sales in the last three months of 2018 did increase slightly compared to 2017 (by about 2–3%). “And as more advanced models will be released during 2019, we might see an even bigger increase in the sales of mirrorless cameras.”

In addition, Lensvid believes that just the number of cameras and lenses sold does not tell us the full story. “We also need to talk about how much money we spent on cameras and lenses in 2018. This is actually the first time we are looking at this piece of information [part of the data CIPA collects], and what we have found is pretty interesting.

In 2018, although the number of cameras sold went down by about 24% compared to 2017, the amount of money spent worldwide on fewer cameras only went down by 4.5%, compared to 2017. “And even more interesting, while in 2018 we purchased almost 7% fewer lenses than the year before, we spent 5% more money on buying them,” Lensvid noted.

The Bottom Line

“The bottom line here is simple if this trend continues; the photography market will become increasingly smaller and ever more expensive. Think about this as a vicious circle. Manufacturers need more money to develop more advanced technologies. But since sales continue to shrink they are forced to raise prices. This in turn makes it harder for people to buy new gear, making the market even smaller and so on and so forth.

“When will this cycle end? Well, possibly only when the market stabilizes in terms of yearly sales. But at under 20 million cameras sold per year, this just might not be economical for some of the manufacturers to sustain with ever-increasing R&D costs.”