Camera sales are continuing to fall 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.
The reason for it, of course, is smartphone cameras, which in turn have changed how photos fit into our lives:
What we are doing is creating selfies, documenting moments with family, and snapping photos of food and latte art. We aren’t even trying to build a scrapbook of those images. It is all a stream — less for remembrance than for real-time sharing. In other words, we have changed our relationship with photography and photographs. It used to be that, photos served as a portal to our past. Now, we are moving so fast as we try to keep up in the age of infinitesimal attention spans. A minute, might as well be a month ago.
It’s interesting to compare this to sales of desktops and laptops because there are so many parallels. In the PC era, those “food and latte art” photos would have to have been edited by hand in Photoshop, now you can just tap an Instagram filter. But, while desktop and laptop sales are steadily declining, large manufacturers like Apple have largely remained stable, and Mac revenue was up last quarter. Which at least appears to indicate that general consumers, in addition to professionals, are still finding a place in their life for desktops and laptops.
It’s going to be interesting to watch how this plays out because all of the apps, and much of the content people consume on mobile, are still made on desktops and laptops. I don’t see how that fact alone doesn’t eventually halt the decline of desktop and laptop sales unless something radical happens.