CIPA data for March 2019 - Dispelling some myths.
We haven't done our deep dive into CIPA for 2019 yet, and part of that is that CIPA reorganized its data, and I'm still trying to decide on how best to handle future and historical data in our reporting.
DSLR's continue their deep slide, with only 60% of units sold from year on year values when compared to March 2018.
The real problem is not that DSLR's are sliding it's the fact that alarmingly mirrorless is not picking up the slack and that mirrorless isn't even treading water.
I think the natural assumption was that once Canon and Nikon went "mirrorless all in" that mirrorless would pick up the sales that were lost by DSLR's. That doesn't seem to be the case, or if it is, the older players in mirrorless have taken quite a tumble. Even though we see reporting on shipments, there's usually around a 2 month lag to corresponding sales, as the companies manage their inventory. Consider that if DSLR's dropped by 40%, the natural assumption would be that some portion of those lost shipments of DSLR's went to mirrorless. In a perfect world, 40% drop in DSLR shipments would have resulted in a 40% gain in mirrorless shipments, as the two largest manufacturers would have shipped the same number of units of mirrorless as they did DSLR's in the year past.
Obviously 1:1 shipments between the loss of DSLR's and the gain in Mirrorless shipments isn't accurate. Because that's just not happening. At least we hope not.
Let's dig into this a little deeper and do a scenario. Let's assume 3:1. For every 3 DSLRs that weren't shipped, 1 mirrorless was shipped instead from the two big players Canon and Nikon. This is in my opinion pretty conservative. This would mean a 40% loss in DSLR's and a 13% gain in Mirrorless. However mirrorless is only sitting at 90% of last year's numbers. So with a 3:1 conservative estimate is that without Canon and Nikon launching new mirrorless systems in the last year, even mirrorless would have shown significant loss of shipments over last year (the unit numbers in this scenario would be around 77% or a 23% loss).
Did, for instance, Canon and Nikon moving to mirrorless take Olympus and Panasonic and basically m43 out of the game? It's hard to say really. Someone is feeling the pain.
Yes, we made up the 3:1 ratio, but it's just for the sake of argument that even mirrorless is shockingly bad right now. Canon especially is shipping mass numbers of EOS RF mount units around the world because that's what Canon does, and even with that, and with Canon even stating in their latest financials that their mirrorless sales exceed the market growth (in mirrorless), mirrorless is still less than last year.
Realistically it feels like the older players in the mirrorless market suffered around a 40% loss of shipments year on year as well. One possiblity is that Canon's own EOS-M line also took a serious hit, however, from data we have access to, that doesn't seem to be the case. We know roughly that Sony went from 4.4 million units down to 3.6 million units (18% decline in units), but unfortunately, Sony never breaks out the data so that is a mix between compacts and mirrorless cameras. We do know that both Canon and Sony posted huge losses in terms of profit for the first three months of the year. We'll get a clearer picture when Olympus releases their financials to the real state of the mirrorless companies. We know in February, Olympus is now forecasting a 12% decline in unit sales for mirrorless cameras for fiscal 2019.
Essentially what happened is that as Canon and Nikon are making large turns towards mirrorless, most of the purchasing enthusiasts at the same time, decided to hold off purchasing cameras. They appear to be even holding off purchasing camera from other brands. Companies don't ship if their inventory isn't selling, while there's a lag of 2 to 3 months, there is a correlation. If other (mirrorless) brands were selling more, then mirrorless wouldn't be sitting at 90% of year on year. If things all went to plan, and this was an easy transition, mirrorless should be sitting at 140% of last year's unit numbers and DSLR's around 60% of last year's numbers.
This is what a complete market disruption looks like.
Since it seems like the value dropped out of the bottom of DSLR shipments (52.6% of the value last year, versus 60.6% of the unit volume), it seems like low end DSLR"s are still moving through the channels and high end DSLR's have literally stopped selling. This is a guess, and I could be wrong, but if the reverse were true, we'd see a higher value per unit of shipped DSLR's right now. This makes sense to me, the consumer that would be affected the most by the RF and Z mounts are the enthusiasts that spend more per unit than the average consumer. The average consumer doesn't care as much as the enthusiast about gear, and probably is looking for cost-effective units to purchase. The enthusiast is now torn to what mount they migrate into, or if they continue to "invest" in the EF and F mount cameras.
Looking at the numbers, I sort of see why Canon feels there is an urgent need for them to "round the corner" of the RF mount and have a viable ecosystem. Right now the entire market is literally hesitating and that is going to hurt everyone in the long run.
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