Digital SLR Sales Increase

I recently posted some thoughts about the growth in Digital SLR sales on the PhotoComment Forum which I would like to raise here with some thoughts shared by others I’ve been talking to in the industry and the sales figures recorded in 2006, which show a fascinating trend.

I have been stating for a while now that there seems to me to be more Single Lens Reflex cameras selling in their digital variation, than there ever were in the stronger days of film. This interests me a little because despite the falling prices of Digital SLRs, they are still double the price of their film counterparts.

In the past a consumer was willing to part with R3000.00 – R4000.00 for a slow aperture, super zoom compact camera before they parted with the same amount for an entry level 35mm SLR. Today, they are willing to part with R5000.00 – R10, 000.00 for an entry level Digital SLR. Does it make sense?

Let’s look at the sales figures of 2005-2006 as reported by the IDC

* Overall camera market grew 15% with 92.3 million cameras shipped in 2005 to 105.7 million in 2006

* The compact digital camera market grew 14% from 88.5 million to 100.4 million units sold making up almost 95% of the digital camera market

The nearly 5.3 million remaining digital cameras sold were Digital SLRs, which when compared to compact sales may seem small, but put against 2005 sales of 3.8 million shipments, that is a whopping 39% growth for the SLR in the fast paced digital camera market place. That’s a lot of really keen amateur photographers out there!

Let’s look briefly at the sales of the major players in the SLR arena.

* In first place as you may have predicted is Canon, with Digital SLR sales reaching 2.46 million for 2006, a growth of 31% or 578,000 cameras when compared to 2005.

* Second place went to Nikon who seem to have started rocking Canon’s high chair just a little. They grew their sales by 36% to 1.74 million units.

* Now in third place came the surprise for me, Sony who had not previously featured in the Digital SLR arena but had been one of the pioneers of digital imaging back in the 1970/80s. There total sales of the Alpha 100 – the only Digital SLR they had until the A700 was launched a month or two ago – totaled 326,000 units. Not bad for what was until recently a ‘single model manufacturer’.

* Two noticeable new comers to the Digital SLR arena also did rather well. They are Samsung and Panasonic each selling 43,000 and 36,000 units respectively.

It was in chatting to a long time, local industry player the other day that the topic of the future of photographic brands came into question. He made an interesting statement which I think the above sales figures may begin to reflect – and which may likely continue in sales trends of the next year – which is that brands of the past will need to begin a fight for survival.

We are passed the age where manufactures stick only to their past specialties. Sony, Samsung & Panasonic are not solely going to produce home entertainment products, and the growing numbers of young consumers are not going to be limited to sole photographic brands when it comes to purchasing their next Digital camera. An example to illustrate the point could be found in recent advertising campaigns by a long standing photographic player that their cameras are compatible with millions of lenses dating back more than 50 years. One must ask how many first time SLR buyers will know or really care about this fact. Perhaps having compatibility with their HDTV, gaming console or other multimedia system quickly and easily is of more concern to the new generation of digital camera consumers.

One must also ask how sustainable are the massive sales on compact digital cameras with the growing number of cell phones sporting high resolution cameras? Surely it’s a matter of time before they get an optical zoom, built in flash and face detection in a single compact unit. I doubt they will completely replace compacts, but with newer, younger market consumers there will be a great place for a single, do it all in one device.

I do not wish to be so bold as to say that the key camera producers of the last century will all disappear, but consider that some of the Japanese big 5 have already been taken over by previously non photographic players, or are so closely related by sharing lens mounts and technology that perhaps its only a matter of time before they go that same way.