What Happened to the Photography Industry in 2013?

2013 was the worst year for the photography industry in a long long time (maybe even decades). After the official numbers have been published by CIPA (the Camera & Imaging Products Association) a few weeks ago, we decided to sit down and create a comprehensive infographic showing some of the more interesting numbers in a more accessible manner so that you can really understand what has been going on.

As you can see – some of the numbers are really devastating – each industry that will loose 40% of its sales in 1 year is going to be in a very (very) difficult place. If you were thinking that this is just the compact camera market – think again – 2013 saw a 25% drop in mirrorless camera shipments and 19% drop in DSLR shipments (and an even higher 20% drop in lens shipments) in 2013 compared to the previous year.

The 2009-2013 Camera Industry Fact infographic (click to enlarge)


So what can be the reason behind all of this? Well, in the video we mentioned 2 main reasons (plus another somewhat more anecdotal point):

  1. The improvement of camera phones – this played a role but it simply can’t be the entire story (good camera phones were also around in 2012 and for the most part increase in sales for camera phones will only effect compact cameras and to a much lesser degree mirrorless and DSLR cameras – which as we saw were also effected significantly).
  2. The global economic crisis – its clear that people are spending less globally – especially on things like electronics and cameras. However, just like with the previous point – this can’t be the entire story, since the crisis has been around since 2008 and 2013 was not that much worst globally than 2012.
  3. Americans don’t like mirrorless cameras – well, this may be true (the numbers don’t lie) but again – there isn’t anything new here –  mirrorless cameras have always been a real success story mostly in Japan (and to a much lesser degree in other parts of Asia) and far less so in the U.S. and Europe – this is not a 2013 phenomena.

So what is going on here? if there is nothing special about 2013 how come we see this huge drop compared to 2012? To be honest – we simply don’t know – there might be other things in play here (The Chinese market has been mentioned in several recent camera industry interviews recently as having a negative effect in 2013 – but the phenomenon seem to be global with sales going down almost everywhere).

So what do you think – let us know on the comments below!

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.


  1. Very, VERY informative; never imagined that the situation is so… bleak.
    A little footnote: the whole graph seems to be perfectly fine, but right in the last box (the call to action/follow) has two pretty obvious… distractions. Not very porfessional (sic!) or isnpiring 😉

        1. Sadly we can’t really change that – its a video – unless we shoot the entire thing (which is not a bad idea since the sound had so many problems – live and learn…).

          Thanks again.

  2. Two main factors,the first has already been mentioned: cell phone cameras replacing point and shoots. Secondly, digital cameras have reached the point where they’re good enough and don’t have to be replaced every couple of years. And third (or reinforcing second point) is that digital cameras created a resurgence (fad) in taking photos which may be waning. In other words people got back into or into photography and now are moving on.

    Question: how is video camera business doing?

      1. It’s a still camera that takes lots of pictures and then they mash them together into a slide show that goes really fast. People tell me you can do it now with a digital still camera except the sound sucks.

        1. The audio in a video taken with a still camera can be excellent IF the camera accespts and external stereo mic … and you actually use this accessory.

  3. Devastating results for the camera industry. Very very few companies survive long with such enormous drops in sales/revenue. Mirrorless has turned from being the industry savior to the leader in horrific losses. One or two more years like this and you will see companies dropping cameras all together. Bank on it.

  4. Yes, this is scary and there is even more info at https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2014/03/06/more-doom-and-gloom-camera-sales-dropped-badly-in-2013-2014-off-to-bad-star My take is that there are always cool gadgets that sell like hotcakes and others that do not. For a while, digital cameras were THE cool gadgets. They no longer are. Consumers are spending their money on other stuff, smart tablets and phones, games, and who knows… whatever is the cool gadget now.

  5. Hi there, thank you for this infographic. I’ve been teaching amateurs how to use dSLR’s since 2010 (along with an online creative camera course) and in my view the issue is this: the people out there bought into the marketing spin that said ‘buy this camera and shoot like a pro’, so they did, they went out and bought the camera full of high and unrealistic expectations. Then, they got home with it, started pressing buttons, became quickly overwhelmed, tried a few auto settings, then gave up. Their cameras gather dust or get sold on ebay. A key point that was overlooked when we made the transition to digital is that just because you have fancy knives does not make you a Michelin star chef – it makes you the owner of a fancy knife set. The game has changed and become more sophisticated with the technological change, but the rules fundamentally remain the same – you have to do the learning, do the work, do the practice and eventually, with enough patience, trial and error, you will eventually start to take pictures to be proud of. I believe this process takes about a year but they want/expect the instant results. Hence, dLSR camera sales are dropping. It’s really fascinating because it’s separting the men from the boys – the people that really, really want to use their SLR’s are prepared to put in the work but this is by their own instinct not because the photography industry is telling them it’s necessary.

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