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Tuesday, 26 January 2010


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There is a really well-informed discussion about this by Thom Hogan on dpreview right now. (It's been brewing for a few days.) Most recent comment by Thom here:
"It gets a little dicey because we don't have final US numbers yet that I know of. But yes, 2008 interchangeable lens camera sales worldwide were all DSLRs and were 9.7m units. 2009 interchangeable lens camera sales were 9.9m and some number of those were m4/3. I'm betting that that those m4/3 sales was significantly more than .2m (200k). So traditional DSLR sales dipped in 2009. Remember, I tried to map these numbers as far back as 2001 and project on them. So far, my projections from 2004 are within 5% to the reality of what happened. Adoption curves follow predictable patterns. Mirrorless is a disruption, so it's going to generate its own curve, and probably hasten the DSLR curve degeneration."

If they count like Amazon, a Leica digital M is a DSLR as well. "Interchangeable unit cameras" is CIPA's term. And they are not counting iPhones and other cell phone cameras.

While overall sales were down from 2008, they were still up from 2007.

Doesn't it make perfect sense? You'd expect overall sales might go down during an economic catastrophe. Meanwhile, DSLRs were cheaper, more varied and generally had improved, even excluding non-reflex models. On the other hand, point-and-shoots--with a few expensive exceptions--did not get better, or got worse, while cell phone cameras improved.

We've been talking about that around here for a long time--how the PoS is getting squeezed between better cell phones and cheaper DSLRs, and now DCILs.

Of course an EVIL is a DSLR; just like a Leica was given honorary SLR status in lots of discussions back in the film era (sentences like "serious photojournalists use SLRs" were not wrong; they just included Leica's in the SLR category).

The important dividing line back then was interchangeable lenses. It makes sense that it still is.

I am pretty sure that Micro 4/3 will be killing a lot of APS-C in the years to come ... Panasonic leads the way ...

These numbers also make sense in light of what I'm seeing: More and more people are carrying those black DSLRs instead of P&Ss. I took a friend of mine to B&H in NYC a few months ago to buy her a better P&S, and when we got there she said, "No... I want one of those!", pointing to the then new Nikon D3000. And that's what she bought. Don't blame her a bit. You know what she likes so much about it? That for the first time she can see something with the viewfinder on a sunny day.


SLR is an abbreviation for Single Lens Reflex. Is it too pedantic to point that out?!

BD: Everyone know that SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex, but what they don't know is that the "Reflex" part means mirror.

Really, a camera with a rear-panel for viewing is properly called a view camera. And, as anyone who has tried to use one in sunlight knows, you still need that black cloth.


"You'd expect overall sales might go down during an economic catastrophe."

Perhaps. But the Japanese are clever at shifting both production and distribution in such cases. The produce more lower-priced models, and they push distribution into areas that don't have high DSLR penetration (India, Russia, Brazil, China, etc.).

But my prediction curve has been pretty much right on for five years now, as it was for compact cameras for 10. We're at market saturation in the big markets (US, Europe, Japan) for DSLRs. That means that BEST case in the coming years is going to be 10-20% growth, and that would only occur if prices dropped and/or highly desirable new models appeared that generated volume (i.e., not a D3, but a D90 or D300 level camera at the highest). The new "normal" is going to be 0-10% growth in DSLR sales for the next few years.

Thom, it doesn't seem to me that anything I said from my armchair is incompatible with your predictions, or with CIPA's analysis; I do find it interesting that a global financial meltdown is not a bigger factor in these things.

I'd expect that as mirrorless systems and multifunction devices continue eating into sales of traditional DSLRs and compacts, Nikon and Canon will have to move to beat 'em or join 'em, or both. That should be interesting. I hope the result is more quality cameras, and less junk.

How does anyone account for the used market? Considering the relatively long useful life of DSLRs, and that sufficiency for most photographic needs was reached years ago, the used market ought to be well stocked and quite competitive.

BD: I agree entirely on what SLR stands for, and what the "R" means (both the mirror AND the pentaprism or equivalent).

However, etymology doesn't limit the possible meanings of words all that much, particularly in English. I'm not joking that people pretty routinely included Leica cameras in the "SLR" category when the discussion was between "non-SLR" and "SLR" -- because the real distinction being made was "serious camera" vs. "toy camera". The Leica was clearly a serious camera, and one of the key features of that was that you could change lenses on it.

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