A lot of people already celebrated, that in 2022 quantity of sold camera raised compared to 2021 (graph below). They already predicted a turnaround from a shrinking to a growing camera market. But we have to consider two factors when we are comparing year on year. First, 2021 was a pandemic year, second, therefore, the supply chain was interrupted. The industry was not able to manufacture or deliver more cameras. Whether 2023 will be for the camera industry a good year or not depends on several factors. Some can be influenced by the industry some not.
After the covid pandemic in 2021 and 2022 struggled due to supply chain constraints, it seems that 2023 will be much better. For example, some of the semiconductor manufacturers are reporting growing stock and therefore prices are getting lower. This leads to better availability of cameras and lenses. If this leads to better sales numbers or even more important better profit, some additional factors must be considered.
One negative factor is the world economic situation. Triggered by the Ukraine war we are facing an energy shortage and inflation is growing. This means also that the living cost is getting higher. Less money is available for additional investments. It is more important to pay rent and food than to buy a camera or lens. In addition, all experts expect that we are getting a worldwide recession, which means a lot of jobs are in danger. People rather save their money than spend it. The economic precondition is not good. Therefore it is important that the camera industry have to be creative to be successful.
Product introductions of the camera industry in 2023
It will be interesting to see what kind of products will be introduced by the camera industry in 2023. In the past, most of the product introductions have been an enhancement of the predecessor and lag real innovations. I’m curious whether the camera industry can launch real innovations in 2023.
How about a new business model to earn money? Instead of launching new camera models every year, with only a few improvements, it would be possible to update cameras in the market and get money for it. By the way, this would be also more environmentally friendly than the current strategy. Or some of the features could be provided based on a monthly payment. Similar like the software industry is doing. But looking at the first announcement this year, the Panasonic S5 Mark II, I’m not very optimistic. The camera manufacturers seem to stay with the old strategy and will not take any risks.
Even for lenses, we could not expect much. The technology is already matured and innovation steps are pretty small. OM Digitalsolutions has already announced the development of a 90mm F3.5 Macro, which will be for sure qualitative very good. But will it have also some innovations? Will it show the strength of the Micro Four Thirds? It would be great if it could be compatible with the two teleconverters. Nikon and Canon will for sure concentrate on the most popular focal length. They entered the mirrorless market quite late and must catch up.
I would be surprised in case we see changes in marketing from the big players. They will still play the influencer game to get as much coverage on the web as possible. People trust someone they are following for a while more than the manufacturers even though the influencers are just telling the same with different words. I don’t see that the camera industry already can catch up with the newest trend in marketing and bring information in an analogue way to their customers. They are lacking human and financial resources.
It is even worse, as most of the manufacturers are concentrating on digital platforms rather than on real events. This is in my opinion a big mistake. Cameras are highly emotional products and it is important to touch them. You have to discover them with all senses. This is not possible with digital events. Olympus once had a “Photography Playground” to address also people who are not so in photography. The feedback for those events was excellent and even at the last Photokina a part of the show. Unfortunately, the industry is not running such kind of events at the moment.
In Germany, we do have photo festivals (Umweltfestival Zingst / Oberstdorfer Fotogipfel) and the Photopia, which offer you the option to touch cameras without buying them. The advantage is that at those events all manufacturers are present. However, the camera industry has to save money as much as possible. The golden age in the camera industry is gone.
Prospects for the camera industry in 2023 and beyond.
Honestly, I’m very sceptical that the quantity of sold cameras will grow in future. On the one hand side, the market is shrinking. On the other hand, the mobile phone industry needs differentiation for the new generations of the phone. The processor performance is not relevant anymore. It is enough for all daily tasks. Mobile phone cameras are the feature which is selling. Sony already announced the end of digital SLR cameras and I think for the majority of the users this is already true. The more subtle among you might say that the DSLR died more than 10 years ago with the introduction of mirrorless systems. However, you forget that Sony’s head of the semiconductor business does not distinguish between DLSR and mirrorless cameras. He was referring to system cameras with interchangeable lenses in general.
What is your opinion?
What do you think about this topic? My thoughts are very personal and I’m happy if you share your thought in the comment. I’m curious and looking forward to having a friendly discussion.