The Shaking News from Japan

CIPA just posted the May results for camera shipments out of Japan, and it’s as bad as all the statements about the impact of the quake from various camera makers implied.

bythom cipa may16

Both mirrorless and DSLR shipments took a dive from both the previous month and the previous year. Moreover, it looks like the only place that had any growth at all was Asia, which implies gray market.

Probably a more telling chart is this one:

bythom cipa may16 5mo

That’s what the first five months of shipments look like for each of the last five years. Mirrorless drifting ever so slightly downward, DSLRs falling fast.

Curiously, Sony made a statement last week about their overall ILC market share and also stated that they were #1 in mirrorless market share. Coupled with the CIPA data, we can now actually try to account for how much of the mirrorless marketplace Sony actual owns. In other words, get fairly accurate volume numbers and very close to exact market share.

Sony’s ILC 12% market share statement implies a number of 1.6m ILC units for 2015. Of course, not all of Sony’s ILC sales were mirrorless. I still have them running a near middle single digit percentage in DSLR sales. So backing that out, we end up with 1.1m mirrorless units for Sony. That gives Sony 33% of the mirrorless market, basically. (All these numbers are rounded, as I don’t want to imply specificity when we don’t have an exact DSLR market share; I’m basing my Sony DSLR numbers on data I do have from Japan, the US, and Europe, but I’m missing Asia and Other.)

The numbers I just cited aren’t perfectly aligned on the calendar, either. Sony gave fiscal year numbers, which are off by a quarter with CIPA data. Still, I think it’s close enough to give us a pretty good indicator of the mirrorless market: two-thirds of the market is being fought over by six other vendors, while Sony controls the other third. Just as dislodging Canikon from DSLR dominance proved tough, it will be a dogfight to dislodge Sony in mirrorless, though Sony’s starting from a substantively lower position of leadership in mirrorless than Canon has been in DSLRs. But as Canon and Nikon find they can’t rely on DSLR volumes moving upward again they’re going to use every trick they can think of to try to take down Sony in mirrorless.

From Sony Semiconductor’s statements, we know that the primary sensor fab for everyone except Canon won’t be fully back online until August. That implies that we’re going to see CIPA numbers that are very weak for another three months of data. Fiscal Q1 for most of the camera companies is going to be one they want to forget and put behind them forever.

But that same quarter is fiscal Q2 for Canon and apparently they’ve not been as affected by the quake as the others. Thus, we could see Canon push new mirrorless offerings just prior to Photokina and actually be able to deliver them quickly while others still struggle to get volume production going.

Then again, the Japanese camera companies don’t always do what seems logical, and Canon’s not known for being a fast mover. The Japanese designers get stuck in these long range planning systems that don’t necessarily consider what the customer actually wants and needs. Nikon’s misfire with SnapBridge is a good example: right idea, wrong execution, and wrong initial target customer.

So we’re officially in the doldrums, camera wise.

Yes, Fujifilm will announce another camera Real Soon Now, but Fujifilm is still a relatively low volume producer, so they don’t need a lot of sensors to launch the X-T2. Indeed, I’d bet that they have a small supply they can steal from the X-Pro2, which isn’t exactly flying off the shelves worldwide.

Still, Fujifilm is likely to be more the exception than the rule this month. Enjoy the lack of wind and calm seas. Coming out of August and into September we’re likely to see a lot of jockeying for position with new product as companies try to win shares from each other coming out of the quake-imposed downturn.

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