CIPA’s February data shows 2021 is shaping up to be a year of stabilization for the camera industry: Digital Photography Review

The Camera and Imaging Products Association, more commonly referred to as CIPA, has revealed its February data for global camera production and shipments, showing the camera industry might finally be seeing some semblance of stability after a rough few years.

Both Canon and Sigma have suggested recently that both companies expect the camera industry to stabilize in 2021. Canon’s statement came in the form of its full-year 2020 financial results presentation, while Sigma’s statement came directly from Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki, who said in a recent interview that he expects the camera market ‘will reach its minimal size [in 2020]’ and be ‘pretty stable’ going forward.

While this might’ve been difficult to imagine, especially after the impact COVID-19 had on the global economy throughout 2020, it seems the predictions are holding true, so far. Based on CIPA data, which tracks the global production and shipment of camera models from these camera manufacturers, production and shipment numbers are tracking the best it’s been since 2017.

This chart from CIPA shows total digital stills camera shipments in 2019 (purple, circles), 2020 (black, triangles) and 2021 (orange, squares). These numbers include compact cameras with built-in lenses, DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras. Click to enlarge.

Specifically, CIPA’s data shows total digital still camera shipments were down 12.7% by volume and up 9% by value compared to the same timeframe last year (January and February)—and that’s averaged out with the shipment numbers of compact cameras with built-in lenses. If you look at the data for interchangeable lens cameras, shipments are down just 6.2% by volume and up 17.3% by value, year-over-year (YoY) for January and February.

This chart from CIPA shows total interchangeable lens shipments in 2019 (purple, circles), 2020 (black, triangles) and 2021 (orange, squares).

Break that number down even further and you’ll see that, much like compact cameras shipments are affecting the total digital camera market, DSLR cameras are dragging down the average for interchangeable lens cameras. If you isolate mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, shipments YoY for January and February are up 3.2% by volume and up an impressive 44.5% by value.

CIPA’s complete breakdown, which shows production and shipment data from January and February 2021 by camera type and region. Click to enlarge.

These numbers don’t paint the entire picture, as this is only taking into account production and shipments—not sales. Still though, the YoY numbers are some of the best we’ve seen in a while from CIPA and the data backs up what some of the major camera companies have emphasized over the past years in their interviews and financial result presentations for investors; the camera market is beginning to stabilize as the drop-off at the lower end of the market has more or less reached a plateau and hobbyist and professional photographers—who are less likely to trade out their dedicated cameras for smartphones—are starting to once again make up the majority of the market.

Considering March 2020 is when the COVID-19 pandemic really started to impact the global economy, contextualizing the rest of CIPA’s 2021 data will prove to be more difficult. Specifically, we’re going to see high YoY numbers for both production and shipments, due to both being limited in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in future reports we’ll do our best to contextualize CIPA’s data to ensure we have a solid macro-level view of the photography market.

You can view CIPA’s February data (and all historical data) on its website.

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