Mirrorless Had a Good First Quarter

The CIPA shipment numbers are out for the full first quarter of 2017. That allows us to look at the data in a little better light. I don't put much faith on individual month data, but when we look closely at how larger periods have fared year-to-year, we get more reliable patterns to discuss.

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The first quarter of each year is an interesting one. Two trends tend to drive the quarter's numbers: (1) how much the camera companies are trying to clear excess Christmas quarter inventory; and (2) new camera introductions.

In terms of inventory, I was surprised that Nikon basically restrained from much in the way instant rebates and sales during the first quarter. Traditionally, they've been active in doing so in the past, but this year they seemed to have completely backed off, and I'm pretty sure it impacted their numbers and the CIPA DSLR shipments.

In terms of new cameras introduced during the quarter:

  • Canon — 2 DSLRs, 1 mirrorless
  • Fujifilm — 1 mirrorless
  • Nikon — 1 DSLR announcement, but not shipped in the quarter
  • Panasonic — 2 mirrorless
  • Pentax — 1 DSLR
  • Sony — nothing

But more to the point, there were at least four mirrorless cameras that didn't really start shipping in volume until the first quarter of 2017. Thus, there wasn't a lot new of high interest or value shipping on the DSLR side during the quarter, but quite a bit of fairly new and high interest mirrorless (EOS M6, Fujifilm A10, X-T20, GFX, Hasselblad X1D, Olympus E-M1 II, Panasonic GX-850, and GH5). Thus, don't get too excited by that unit volume rise you see in this year's mirrorless shipments just yet.

I mention value for a reason. While the shipment numbers for the first quarter showed strength in compacts, lenses, and in mirrorless, across the board the more interesting thing was the increase in value of those shipments: compacts up 6.9%, DSLRs up 4.3%, mirrorless up 38.6% (how much of that was the E-M1, GH5, and GFX?), but lenses down 0.5%. Think cameras are going more upscale and getting more expensive? You're probably right, they are.

Sony's reported camera sales also tell you the same story: 8.5m, 6.1m, 4.2m units sold in the last three fiscal years, with the current year being predicted at 3.8m units. Yet the current year's sales are predicted to be 10.4% higher. Fewer cameras being sold for more money. That's the mantra the Japanese companies are all embracing now.

That doesn't mean there won't be under US$1000 cameras. But I suspect far fewer of them, and you're going to definitely get pass-me-down technology from previous cameras in that market at best case.


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