Further Proof That The Camera Market Is Declining

The Instapundit linked to a post on the OM Blog that digital camera sales are declining sharply. The reason, of course, is the rise of the smart phone and the improvement of its photo taking ability.

Camera sales are continuing to falling off a cliff. The latest data from the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) shows them in a swoon befitting a Bollywood roadside Romeo. All four big camera brands — Sony, Fuji, Canon, and Nikon — are reposting rapid declines. And it is not just the point and shoot cameras whose sales are collapsing. We also see sales of higher-end DSLR cameras stall. And — wait for it — even mirrorless cameras, which were supposed to be a panacea for all that ails the camera business, are heading south.

My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic 100 that used 126 film and flash bulbs. I eventually moved up to 35mm with a used Canon Canonet QL 17 rangefinder which I picked up for $10 in an antique store. My first single lens reflex didn’t get purchased until I was well into college. It was a Canon AE-1 with your standard 55mm prime lens. I think I paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 at one of the camera stores in New York City.

The really cool kids had Nikons. They were way out of my price range especially since I was just an amateur. Nonetheless, I lusted after them.

Today the Complementary Spouse and I went to a church bazaar in Hendersonville. By the time we arrived, prices had been cut 50%.

The first thing I saw was this Nikomat EL priced for $2 meaning I paid one whole US dollar for it! The Nikomat was the Japanese market version of the Nikkormat. It has one minor dent on the viewfinder housing, some brassing of the body, and a little dust. It came with the Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens.

On the same table I saw another Nikon for sale. It was the Nikon FM which also cost me $1. Given I had picked up my last Nikon for $35 at Goodwill, I think I did damn good getting not one but two classic Nikons for $2.

I think if you need any proof that the film camera market is dead this was it.

I do have a couple of digital DSLRs (Canon and Olympus) but like most people I use my cell phone for the quick shots. I could upgrade them but, like most rifles in terms of accuracy, they can do more than I am capable of doing. Adding insult to injury, I took the pictures of my new Nikons using my iPhone.

I’ll leave the final word to Om Malik from his OM Blog.

But mostly, our pictures — even the best ones — function as glorified postcards on Instagram, Facebook, or some other messaging app. No one on WhatsApp cares if you made a photo in 50 megapixels or 12 megapixels Just as, in the cloud, no one gives two hoots if your server is Sun, Dell or HP.


I have a five-year old camera, and I can’t conceive of a convincing reason to get a new one. The one I own was very good at the start of its life, it cost me a lot of money, and I suspect it has a long life ahead of it. And to be clear, I am extremely fond of my camera. I find absolutely no joy in the demise of the standalone camera.


4 thoughts on “Further Proof That The Camera Market Is Declining”

  1. John, I’m looking for a camera to take action shots in and near the pool, (say down to 20 feet deep). So many electronic cameras have a built in delay after you press the button. What would you recommend?

  2. I still have my Contax 139 Quartz SlR, made by Yashica and equipped with Zeiss lenses. Paid significant amounts of money for it while in high school and thought I might want to be a professional photographer. It still works perfectly except for light leaks around the back. I tried to replace the seals but it is a fiddly pain in the posterior. Since no one works on cameras anymore, it sticks around as decoration and will presumably be sold for $1 at an estate sale by my nieces and nephews when I die.

  3. Oops, pushed Send too early.

    Meanwhile I have gone through at least seven or eight different iterations of digital camera, not including all the different cell phones I’ve had. And that it only in the last twenty years or so while the mechanical has lasted me forty.

  4. I started photography in a similar way to you, with sufficiently different details. I was barely out of high school when I got a 35mm Yashica rangefinder camera. A few years later, I upgraded to a Minolta SLR (SRT-101). That was stolen in an apartment robbery, but I still have the replacement because it’s worth more to me than I could possibly sell it for.

    My problem with the phone cameras and virtually all point & shoot cameras is that I really want sharpness in photos. Sharpness doesn’t come from megapixels, it comes from the lens and mostly from aperture (if they don’t screw up the optical design). Fighting the dependence of resolution on aperture is fighting the laws of physics, which is a fool’s game. Cellphones can’t be as sharp as I want because the lenses are so tiny. Point & shoot cameras aren’t much better.

    I have had several digital cameras and now have a Ricoh point and shoot, but do any photography I think of as important with a Canon DSLR. When I do photographs like the ones I posted to my blog last night to document work in the shop, I take those at a medium resolution (3.5 megs on the PC) and the first step is that I cut them down to about 30% of the original size in width by height, which brings the file size down to about 1/20 of the original.

    The Canon is a model from a few years ago, the T6i, and I’m rather unlikely to replace it short of dropping it and breaking it into pieces. My phone is for snapshots because I can carry it everywhere and I’ll use it to do for casual or mundane things like taking a picture of a serial number so I don’t have to find a pen and paper to write it down.

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