Slumping camera sales are a sad snapshot of an industry out-selfied by smartphones

Camera sales have fallen to less than 1/6th of what they were a decade ago as smartphone cameras take over.


September 6, 2019

New data from the camera industry shows that camera sales have fallen from 122m units in 2010 to just 20m units last year. 

And that bleak picture is on track to get even uglier this year: There were only 7m cameras sold in the first 6 months of 2019.  

So, are cameras dead?

No, they’re just not standalone cameras anymore — they’re smartphone cameras. Interestingly, people are actually taking more pictures than ever before… but they’re increasingly taking them on iPhones.

Big camera companies are no longer competing against each other for market share — they’re competing against well-funded hardware giants like Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Google.

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And it’s not looking pretty. All of the 4 largest camera companies — Sony, Nikon, Canon, and Fuji — are posting continuing declines. 

But smartphones aren’t the only reason that traditional camera sales numbers have fallen out of focus…

Camera companies zoomed in on the wrong part of the picture

Rather than focusing on adapting cameras to changing customer preferences, they doubled down on features that no one asked for — extra megapixels over easy-to-use filters, fancy lenses over share buttons. 

And, as investor Om Malik points out, focusing on the wrong features not only repelled would-be customers who wanted modern cameras, it also drove up the prices of cameras from 2011 to 2019 — alienating even die-hard camera geeks.

Now, ironically, some of the only standalone cameras that are gaining in popularity are retro, nostalgia-inducing cameras like Leicas — which have hardly any of the bells and whistles that Sony and Nikon bet so big on.

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