A Look at What 2013 Was Like for the Photo Industry (Spoiler: Not Too Good)

Although there was plenty to be happy about for us photographers last year, 2013 was statistically a very bad year when it comes to camera sales. And now, thanks to an infographic and accompanying video put together by LensVid, we get to look back and find out exactly why that is.

After crunching the numbers published by CIPA (the Camera & Imaging Products Association), LensVid decided to make the information a bit more visually accessible. Using all sorts of charts and graphs — and including some interesting tidbits along the way — the infographic below (click here for full-size) gives us an overview comparison of the last four years in the photo industry:


Given the 40% decrease in cameras shipped and 20% decrease in lenses shipped in 2013, it’s safe to say the industry is not in a great place right now. The video gives two main (and somewhat obvious) reasons behind this: the improvement of camera phones and the global economic crisis’ impact on the industry. LensVids also points out the US market’s disinterest in mirrorless cameras, but that one’s an ‘anecdotal point.’

Overall, no matter how much the numbers are crunched or how many analysts give their insight on the status of the photography industry, one thing is clear: there is no one reason the photography industry has taken a downturn. As a caveat, there is also no single solution to reenergizing it.

We firmly believe that photography, as both an art form and a hobby, isn’t going to die anytime soon; as with everything in this world, it’s going through a cycle, albeit one of the worst we’ve seen. So while the doomsday numbers might get you down a bit, we suggest taking a stroll on the silver lining, because there’s a significantly brighter side to this coin.

(via LensVid)

Image credit: Infographic created and provided by LensVid

  • pgb0517

    That chart is porfessional and isnpiring, no doubt.

  • Tomas Ramoska

    So Boring…

  • Brad Trent

    Oh. My. God.

    When will it end?!!

    SHUT UP ALREADY!!!!!!!!!

  • OtterMatt

    Not sure if I’d call it disinterest in mirrorless, I’d suspect it has more to do with a disinterest in starting a gear collection entirely over from scratch.

  • YouDidntDidYou

    The launch and fail of the Nikon 1 and Canon EOS M with them shipping out 0.6-1.0 million units and Pentax Q retreating will have distorted the 2012 mirrorless figures. Sony, Olympus , Panasonic and Fuji are likely to be increasing their mirrorless sales for 2014…

  • Renato Murakami

    Too much analysis and numbers, when it’s not really all that needed (also, that must be the lowest audio video I’ve watched this year, but good job otherwise).

    It’s pretty simple people: We had a pro photography equipment bubble that’s bursting.
    Back 2+ years ago, due to prices dropping to unprecedented points, we had tons and tons of amateur photographers who didn’t even know the basics buying dSLRs and shooting in full Auto because “better quality”. Of those, few continued on to actually learn how to deal with the gear. Smartphone pics were still too crappy and unusable in several scenarios. When brands and manufacturers realized this, everyone who could rushed to ride the wave.

    Then, smartphones with good enough for most leisure/casual/amateur purposes cameras got released (arguably starting with some iPhone models), which made people stop buying dedicated cameras on all levels, which lead to a drop in sales.
    There was also the rise of the movement of smartphone camera related culture, which in part replaced good quality alone with social networking elements, plus filters, selfie and other trends – and several other different stuff.
    In a market that is cluttered with results, some sort of differentiation has to be created on the mainstream side for the sake of uniqueness and discovery, specially when people are expecting recognition rather than payment.

    Furthermore, the stratification of models, sizes and elements introduced barriers for purchasing dedicated cameras. Once, it was true that when you went to buy a “better camera with manual controls and ability to exchange lenses” you had a handful of reasonably distinct options. Nikon or Canon? Prossumer, middle or higher end? etc etc. Nowadays, if you are going to buy a dedicated camera without previous knowledge (and sometimes even with previous knowledge) unbiased, you’d need weeks of research and testing. It’s hard to even select a prominent feature to make the choice easier. Big brands are also at fault on this, churning out cameras after cameras that are almost indistinct one from another, from specs to more visible aspects like the external design. And then, you’d also have to consider lenses, which brings a whole other level of indecision – which btw is a big factor in why mirrorless didn’t just explode as a phenomena.

    As quality on smartphone cameras will continue to rise, dedicated camera manufacturers can expect further drops in sales ’till we reach the point where most clients will be professionals who really needs the gear and knows how to use them – which aren’t as many as we’d probably estimate. Casual and amateur photography, and arguably even hobbists are leaving the professional camera market slowly.

    The point ‘n shoot trend of being replaced by smartphone cameras is proceeding as expected.

    Point ‘n shoots are still going to endure a bit more, but at some point it’ll be hard to justify getting a dedicated point ‘n shoot camera other than for self-organization purposes or for physical higher end specs, which would be a niche inside a niche.

    The division that’s starting now is dSLRs vs mirrorless, and this is probably more of a race than the other trends. Because dSLRs can continue improving side by side with mirrorless, it’ll all depend on which tech advances faster. In the end of 2013 we just got the very first consumer grade (read cheaper, not Leica priced) full frame mirrorless, and while it’s still in it’s infancy, it’ll of course continue to be upgraded.

    At some point in the future, my guesses are that we’ll have all functions and purposes leveled up to the same plateau, at least on the body side (it’ll be hard for mirrorless to reach the dSLR glass lineup in a short period of time), coming from all brands, including Canon and Nikon.

    All in all, it’s nothing surprizing or unpredictable… which is probably why camera companies are not exactly panicking or making harsh drastic decisions. They already knew, or though it would happen at some point.

    But as LensVid already put it: photography will continue as always. And if you think about the essence of it, it’s not all that much different from film days is it? SLRs vs compacts, basic asa100-200 rolls vs specialized stuff. If you go even earlier you’ll see the boom of consumer photography vs a time when people had to have customized labs at home to reveal their work.

  • ST84Photography

    It’s a shame camera sales have taken a downturn, but that hardly speaks to the state of the entire photo industry – it says nothing of e.g. how professional photographers are doing financially, how much more/less creativity there is among either professionals, hobbyists, or just your average joe taking social pics. A more robust examination of these things would be infinitely more interesting, imho.

  • Chillywilson

    For most, cameras are phones, which is the direct opposite chart of cameras. To market camera effectively to those who would use them and save time and money, I would reengineer the new target market.

    Get rid of low end point and shoots.

    Advance the camera technology on the upcoming camera don’t baby step us anymore with this, now with 5 new focus point or 12-14 megapix bull.

    I do mean a real update (4k raw vid, medium format cameras etc…). Everyone will advance on a really great advancement, look at the sales of the A7/7r, I would like to know how the gh4 does in the next quarter. And last but not least, lower the price of older cameras, have the new ones take the price of the old ones.

  • David Vaughn

    That bottom box says “camera market,” and not “photography market.”

  • Beaugrand_RTMC

    That’s why I’m more interested in the Pentax offerings, since I can use every PK lens I have on even the newest stuff. I’m very interested in the K-01 for that reason.

  • randalusa

    Fifty-seven million Americans are big enough airheads to have elected an arrogant neo-communist and racist liar to be President of the United States. Counting them and probably plenty others who want nothing more than dorky snapshots of them with friends laughing their lives away while World War 3 is raging all around, what you get is a bleak picture for the camera industry because cellphone cameras are plenty good enough.

    Then you’ve got the best market possible being cheated, starved, deprived year after year. I am talking about bridge cameras with permanent zoom lenses now extending beyond 50x. But the viewfinders suck on nearly every one. Finding a built-in horizon level is a rarity. Plus simple sharpness is reportedly deficient in almost all of them as they push for processing by engineers that pleases the easy to please rather than discriminating types.

    Okay, so you are saying how could a discriminating type forgo the SLR arena. In a word, because it sucks lugging around a bag full of equipment. And I am saying that as a former newspaper photographer. Fergetaboutit these days. I am not working for a paper and not earning money selling photos, plus rarely blow up an image large enough to mess with what can actually be quite decent images from the bridge (even the compact) format when designed to prioritize image quality.

    Also remember all those shots missed while rushing to change lenses? Sorry, guys, that ain’t real professional. And when it comes down to it, given the size of photos used in news publications, if worker for an organization and permitted, yep, even as a professional photographer again I would be using something in the bridge category, perhaps a Canon SX50 or Panasonic FZ200, maybe a Fuji. The SLR would remain in a box in the rear of my van for important night work the rare times when needing such.

    Bottom line: Compacts are mostly gone forever. SLRs were floating on a wave of enthusiasm about this whole relatively new and rapidly changing digital photography phenomenon. That’s over, so SLR sales will plummet and stay gone – forever.

    I read one report of a prominent newspaper firing its entire photo staff, then ordering reporters to simply get pics with an iPhone. If anyone begins including at least a 3x lens that doesn’t bulge out like the 10x lens on the Samsung phone, more publications and traditional camera photographers will make the jump.

    Where does that leave me? Okay, Canon stabbed the Powershot SX10 line (20x zoom, AA batteries, awesome viewfinder) in the heart with release of the SX30 by halving the viewfinder size, axing audio and shelving AA batteries. They increased the zoom is all.

    Today I am making do with an old SX10 while wishing for superior offerings, wanting to spend money on a superior product. Though already telling AA battery (and decent viewfinder) fans to shove it, if manufacturers would at least get the photo image right and give a wee bit on that viewfinder, I am ready. They can easily do that, but know most consumers are okay with soft in exchange for handheld shooting in the dark plus perhaps more perfect colors. Otherwise, I would have upgraded TO A BETTER BRIDGE CAMERA two years ago.

    Strangely enough, both Canon and Panasonic jumped a year in 2013, skipping their traditionally annual new versions. Weird, because I had become ready to just grab one. I want newer high-capture video speeds and the huge zooms, and kind of figured Panasonic would increase the 26x on their FZ200. But nothing at all. Wonder how it came about that two separate companies on the same year would skip a year. Could have been some back room communicating going on.

    Anyway, my conclusion, this is no blip. SLRs are heading for that box currently storing an old CB radio and a cassette recorder.