Japan’s digital camera shipments post first increase in seven years thanks to social media surge

by

Staff Writer

Japan’s digital camera industry, which has been hit hard by the explosive growth of the camera-equipped smartphone market, may have finally found a ray of hope — thanks to Instagram users showing off their private lives online.

According to statistics released Thursday by the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA), domestic digital camera shipments finally stopped shrinking in 2017, posting a slight increase for the first time in seven years.

The number of units shipped domestically was an estimated 3.52 million in 2017, about 1,000 more than the previous year. In terms of value, the shipments totaled ¥102.34 billion, up 8.3 percent, the first increase in four years, according to the CIPA.

Industry sources attributed the increase to the growing popularity of Instagram and other photo-heavy social networking services — in particular among young women.

“Now there is growing demand for digital cameras among smartphone users who want to take and show off beautiful photos. We feel more young women are coming to our shop,” said Takashi Araki, a worker at Yodobashi Camera Co.’s Shinjuku West Main Store in Tokyo.

Araki said so-called mirrorless cameras, which can be used with interchangeable lenses, are particularly popular because they are smaller and lighter than standard digital single-lens reflex cameras.

Mirrorless cameras boast more advanced features than smartphone cameras but can be smaller and lighter than DSLRs because they don’t use complex mirror systems.

When they first hit the market, response times for mirrorless cameras lagged behind DSLRs, but many of the latest models have considerably improved, boasting higher speeds. The camera class has become more popular than ever in recent years.

According to the CIPA, domestic shipments of mirrorless cameras surged 14.3 percent in terms of units and jumped 28.4 percent in terms of value last year. In contrast, that of DSLRs fell 16.4 percent in terms of units and 2.5 percent in terms of value.

“The situation for SLRs is a bit tough … (Customers) say they are heavy, and more high-end users now prefer mirrorless cameras,” Araki said.

Some cameras from Canon Inc. and Panasonic Corp. are particularly popular because their LCD monitors can be turned toward the user to make it easier to take selfies, he said.

Canon’s EOS M100 and Olympus Corp.’s Pen series, both mirrorless cameras, are also popular, Araki added. The former can be easily connected to a smartphone wirelessly and the latter has an LCD monitor that can flip toward the user.

The CIPA remains cautious about prospects for 2018, predicting a 5.7 percent drop in domestic shipments — to 3.3 million units — from last year.

Still, the popularity of advanced cameras with interchangeable lenses will continue to grow, the CIPA said in a statement, because more smartphone users want to take better quality photos.