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November CIPA: The rise of mirrorless
/ Categories: News, CIPA
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November CIPA: The rise of mirrorless

We haven't posted CIPA data for the past few months primarily, because all the analysis was a big "wait and see what happens when things settle down".  It's still that way even in November.

Overall, for interchangeable lens cameras (ILC) we see that the trend of being below 2017 is consistently continuing.  We can hypothesize that part of this is explainable, as with the new systems released by Canon and Nikon, there's a lot of waiting and seeing what happens, and camera purchases are put on hold until the systems become more expansive. 

A little think back to what exactly CIPA reports.  It reports on units shipped by the Japan camera manufacturers.  Shipped units tell us a story, but it's important to realize that it's not a perfect look at the market.  A good example is what has transpired over the past 4-5 months, with the only large camera releases being mirrorless and no new DSLR's released until probably next year, or even, the year after that.  Shipped units tend to peak at the start as manufacturers rush to meet pre-order and initial excitement demand and then things level off.  So while CIPA will tell us some important facts right now, the market still very much in a state of flux. The new releases of the Canon EOS R and the Nikon Z6 and Z7, from Canon and Nikon respectively, the two largest manufacturers of cameras in the market who control around 70% of the entire market managed to do tectonic shifts to their product lines and to the overall market.

Let's be clear, mirrorless was never going to be the main event until Canon and Nikon moved into the market.  That statement may cause anguish with some Sony fans, but it's the reality, the market didn't shift dramatically until Canon and Nikon went all in with their new mirrorless lines.  We see this most easily looking at value over time, where for the first time since mirrorless has been recorded by CIPA the mirrorless value exceeded that of DSLR's.  While this spiked close with the release of the Sony A7 earlier in the year, mirrorless has never been over DLSR value as it has been since September of this year.

One other trend that struck me over the past 2-3 month was that mirrorless is no longer an Asia dominated curiosity. Asia including Japan has consistently slipped under 30% for the past few months, for essentially the first time since CIPA started tracking mirrorless cameras.  If we look at Asia mirrorless market share, we see a slow and steady decline in the importance of Asia in the mirrorless market.

A real surprise has also been Japan overall, as mirrorless now completely dominates shipments in the local Japan market.  Europe and Asia are following the same trending, while the Americas stubbornly remains strong with DSLR’s and expensive mirrorless.  The Americas receive an even greater share of the global market share of DSLR’s reaching nearly 45% of DSLR overall volumes.  Conversely, only 24% of mirrorless are shipped to the Americas.  So, while mirrorless is gaining traction everywhere in the world, the Americas remain the exception as they still prefer their big DSLR’s.

If we look at mirrorless unit value across the various regions, we see some clues to where the new cameras predominantly were shipped.  The big rise in unit value happened in Asia, and as usual, the Americas.  While the rest of the regions, Europe and Japan both rose, they didn’t rise as much as the first two regions.  This gives us a clue to why Asia’s market share has dropped, they are shipping smaller quantities of more valued units to Asia right now, instead of the more mass market, cheaper units.  The Americas has always been like this with the highest unit value shipped of any region, so it’s no great surprise it continues to be up near the highest with respect to unit values.  Asia may be a spike or may show a more long-term trend, for that, we’ll have to wait for around 3-4 months to see if it settles back down to where it more traditionally sits, with the rest of the regions, leaving the Americas along as the high unit value target of mirrorless manufacturers.

So what really happened? Well, nothing really that surprising. Canon and Nikon released new mounts for their perspective systems, which will over time replace the 30 year old EF mount and the bazillion year old F mount (okay, really only 60 years), causing huge shifts in the market.  It also added short-term anxiety into the market, as people wait and see what happens to the R,EF,Z, and F mounts over time.  It’s a brave new world out there, it’s going to be an interesting 2 or 3 years as the market stabilizes.

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