Smartphones Have Wiped Out 97% of the Compact Camera Market
While certain types and brands of compact cameras are going through something of a resurgence, the overall picture for the compact digital camera market is quite grim.
2022 findings by Nikkei Asia have shown that from 2008 to 2021, global shipments of compact digital cameras across all major brands have suffered an absolutely catastrophic collapse of 97% from their 2008 levels.
To give some numbers to this, the total quantity of such cameras shipped globally in 2008 stood at a robust 110 million units according to research by the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA). By 2021, this number had dropped down to just 3.01 million units sold.
The reason why is pretty straightforward and obvious: smartphones. These first took hold of the market through the original iPhone but later became ever more numerous and diverse as other brands started selling their own devices.
The key thing however was that these phones included cameras whose photographic quality steadily kept improving.
This, combined with the ability to instantly share those photos digitally in messages (and later social media or other precursor online platforms) absolutely hammered the small digital camera market among casual users.
The damage caused by smartphones has been great and is now finally causing a whole market segment to be killed off by the key manufacturers of these once extremely-popular small point-and-shoot cameras.
Brands like Panasonic, Nikon and probably soon others are or have suspended their development of new models under their flagship brands.
What these major camera makers have instead been focusing on (and will likely focus on even more) are more expensive, higher-quality mirrorless cameras with better specs, larger sensors and superior photographic performance for serious work.
To name one formerly popular example: Lumix-brand cameras were first unveiled by Panasonic in 2001 and sold extremely well for many years under many iterations.
As of 2019 however, Panasonic hasn’t released any new models for this brand that cost less than $370, and aren’t planning on developing any more low-price editions of this camera type that was popular for over a decade.
According to a spokesperson for the company, “We’ve halted developing any new models that can be replaced by a smartphone,”
Panasonic is however going to continue focusing on developments in high-end mirrorless camera models for professionals and amateur enthusiasts. These represent a market that’s willing to pay extra for a standalone camera whose specs beat what modern phones can offer.
Nikon has done something similar by cutting off production of its Coolpix camera line and shifting over to premium mirrorless camera models, while it also abandoned DSLR technology.
The same has been the case with Fujifilm, even though this company continues to produce still-popular compact cameras such as the X100V at moderate prices.
New models of Sony’s Cybershot cameras have also stopped being made since 2019 though the company continues to develop new products that might again include affordable point-and-shoot models.
Without a doubt, modern smartphones have become exceptionally good at taking quality photos. This applies especially to pricier premium phones with larger sensors and megapixel counts.
The immense growth of social media apps for phones in the second decade of the 2000s has also helped their popularity as primary photographic devices skyrocket. The combination of both is just too good to resist in favor of anything less convenient for casual photographers.
One important aspect of photographic quality in smartphones vs. camera sensors does however still apply in a certain segment of the market.
This is in the difference in pixel quality and responsiveness between even the best phone cameras and premium standalone cameras. In these specs, higher-end standalone cameras offer measurably superior performance and thus still have a market that camera-maker brands can profitably cater to.
As we’ve covered before, the size of individual pixels in a photographic sensor makes a major difference in deep image quality and low-light performance.
And despite smartphone cameras with 40, 50, 60, 100, or even 200MP sensors coming out, the quality and size of the pixels in these physically tiny sensors are very different from those of premium mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
Serious and professional photographers will pay attention to these differences and stay loyal to their cameras because of them.
Casual users however don’t really care. As long as their phone cameras can capture images that look good for social media posting, this is more than reason enough to not bother with a standalone camera.
This trend is what keeps crushing the compact digital camera market.