photo of sony A7RV camera

Have Camera Prices Really Tripled in a Decade? No. Here’s Why

News | By Stephan Jukic | Last Updated: December 4, 2022

While camera quality has definitely improved enormously in the last several years, the average prices of them have also seemingly gone up.

According to findings for the Japanese consumer market from SankeiBiz industry analysis by Sankei Digital Inc, the average price of interchangeable lens cameras has tripled, or increased by 200% since 2012.

The findings, which calculate prices in Japanese Yen specify that they’re referring to average pricing for cameras ranging from affordable digital point-and-shoot (POS) models to semi pro and professional devices over the last decade.

This means that these averages may not tell a story of the complete picture of the market for consumers. One obvious example of why lies in camera quality and performance, which have increased enormously between 2012 and 2022.

These increases in sensor size, image quality, video recording resolution and overall performance have to be balanced against price changes over the same time frame.

Then of course there are also market forces such as supply and demand. These too can affect prices and it’s absolutely worth noting that worldwide camera sales have dropped dramatically since 2012 to just a tenth of their rate in that year.

The latter trend above applies especially to compact and low-cost POS cameras, whose annual sales have been decreasing each year and have cratered by a whopping 97% since 2008. Much of this decrease in these models is being (almost certainly correctly) blamed on the proliferation of smartphones with increasingly good internal cameras.

 For pricier camera models, the sale drop-offs haven’t been nearly as bad but it has still been noticeable. The demand for these devices has centered more on people serious about photography instead of casual users and this means a considerable loss of sales.

These changes in demand have caused changes in supply and camera manufacturing focus that cause standalone cameras made and sold today to be much more oriented toward premium semi-pro features.

This means a higher average price that’s probably spiking price trends upwards from 2012 when sales of many more low-cost cameras kept average prices lower.

Camera makers in 2022 still produce compact affordable devices, but much less frequently and with more of a focus on specific markets.

One example of this would be Fujifilm’s X100V compact mirrorless camera, designed specifically for street photographers who want more than what a smartphone can offer but in a compact body.

Another notable example would be Sony’s ZV-10 camera, which was built with a focus on vloggers and streaming content creators.

photo of Sony's ZV-10

compact cameras like the Sony ZV-10 still have a market

In other words, if we look at overall camera market dynamics that take into account things like changes in the number of cameras made, changes in the types of cameras made and changes in the type of buyer that those cameras are aimed at, a general 200% price increase looks much more ambiguous.

What we’re really seeing is a removal of cheap cameras from the market (mainly because of smartphones) and a concentration on superior cameras that are much better than their 2012 counterparts, even if they cost more than an average (cheaper) camera sold 10 years ago did. This obviously shifts overall average prices upwards.

If instead, we compare prices among cameras in similar categories of quality and market for their respective years, things look a lot different.

For example, as Digital Camera World noted, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, released in 2012 as a pro DSLR, retailed for $3,499. On the other end, the 2022 Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless model successor to the EOS 5D was released at a retail price of $3,899. This obviously isn’t a 200% increase.

photo of Canon R5 camera

Canon’s R5 camera

This comparison however doesn’t even take inflation into account. If that’s factored in, the EOS R5 is actually a much cheaper new release today, because the 5D Mark III would cost $4,600 if its 2012 release price were translated to 2022 dollars.

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1 Comment

  1. Bryan on May 20, 2023 at 6:20 am

    One huge flaw in your premise. You suggest that increased performance must be factored in when considering if prices have increased. That is NOT the case in tech fields. You would be laughed out of the room if you suggested that to computer manufacturers for example. They don’t say “the entry level computer of today has twice the performance of an entry level computer from 3 years ago, so with double the price point, the price hasn’t really gone up”, nor should they.

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