dslr sales down

DSLR Sales Down – Nobody Is Buying Stand Alone Cameras Any More!

by planetMitch9 Comments

DSLR sales were down in 2016 – but before you put on your “see mirrorless is taking over the world” hat, mirrorless sales were down too (tho they were less down than DSLR sales)!

Yesterday, I was thinking about the new Light L16 I've been telling you about (and have a new site covering this incredible new technology called lightRumors) and they're about to start shipping the first production cameras this Friday, and I've been thinking a lot about the future of cameras. And so when I found this video by Mark over at The Photo/Video Show, it really hit home.

People are buying fewer interchangeable lens cameras (whether you're talking DSLR or Mirrorless) and I know that's no big surprise… it has been happening since 2010.

Everyone knows there are more photos and videos shot on the smartphones than ‘real' cameras – that's been true for a few years now. It is easy because they're in your pocket (or purse) all the time.

But what's really the future? Will Canon/Nikon/Sony/Panasonic and the others survive?

Light's CTO Dr. Rajiv Laroia has made the claim that in 5 years the DSLR won't exist any more (which I think most people would consider a major stretch) – but if you think about the possibilities of computational imaging and the abilities we have with software these days (and it is growing more crazy what you can do in software every day!), then there's a case to be made for Rajiv's beliefs.

People do NOT like carrying around DSLRs and gobs of lenses. Convenience is winning.

Not only that, but smartphone cameras are improving in image quality yearly.

But does that mean image quality is losing? I think this is the exact spot where the Light L16 is going to fit – convenient and great image quality. The happy middle ground between the DSLR/Mirrorless and smartphone camera.

Now in Mark's video about the decline in DSLR sales, he doesn't consider the future of cameras like the Light L16, but I've been swapping emails and he is aware of the Light L16 but that so far, since it hasn't been in anyone's hands yet so everyone is still skeptical.

I think all of these factors mean that we're going to continue to see a downward slide for DSLR and Mirrorless sales.

And maybe the biggest question is what are the camera manufacturers going to do to compensate? Innovate? Or go the way of the dinosaur?

My guess? I think without innovation (maybe that's why the RED smartphone is so exciting? Someone is innovating!) Canon and Nikon and Sony are in big trouble.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

DSLR Sales Down

In the video, there are some significant notes (mainly from the chart from LensVid)

  • Camera sales down 35% in 2016
  • DSLR sales down
  • Lens sales down 12%
  • Mirrorless sales down 4%

Video description from The Photo/Video Show (note the links below are his affiliate links):

Please watch: “New Nikon Mirrorless Camera & the RED HYDROGEN!”

Traditional camera sales are in massive decline! Is it's Canon's fault? Is it because of smartphones? Or is it just a massive lack of

Buy the Canon 6D Mark IIbit.ly/Canon6D-MarkII

Buy the Canon 5D Mark IIIbit.ly/Canon5D-MarkIII

📷 My Photo/Video gear: kit.com/PhotoVideoShow


Notes on the future:

Note there were some interesting comments in the LensVid article… including some interesting predictions (which you'll have to read in their article)

So what do all these numbers really mean for the photography industry and to us as photographers? Here are a few points to think about:

  • Smartphones killed the compact camera market – from over 100 million compact cameras sold in 2010 we will most likely see under 10 million sold in 2017. Just for reference, in 2016 the global sales of smart phones reached 1.5 billion units, an increase of 5 percent from 2015.
  • Mirrorless are not fulfilling their promise – mirrorless are making lots of noise in the photo industry but looking at the numbers they have been more or less stagnant for the past 3 years at around 3 million cameras per year – far from impressive numbers.
  • The DSLR market is shrinking – this was to be expected but it is not because of the rise of  mirrorless. Why this is happening is probably a combination of reasons – at the entry level some people who might have considered buying a DSLR a few years back just settle for their smartphone camera which is better than ever and will soon improve even further with dual cameras, smart zoom technologies and more advanced features. At the mid to high end segments – there just isn’t enough innovation to justify replacing gear as often as it used to be and on the more positive side – cameras are quite reliable and replacing a working camera for a new one which doesn’t offer significantly more, just doesn’t make sense to many users.
  • Cameras are for older people – you can’t see this in the numbers but we clearly see this all around us – aside from the professional segment – dedicated cameras do not interest the younger generation. The people who are still interested in photography are typically around the ages of 40-60 or more – the same people who maybe shot with analog cameras as youngsters and now have the time and money to invest in photography as a hobby – their children and grandchildren are far less interested in cameras and prefer to use their smartphones.

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. DSLR/Mirror-less cameras are going the way of computers in terms of the upgrade cycle. Whether for video or photography, cameras purchased within the last five years still offer a feature set and quality that holds up much longer than before. Besides, an experienced shooter squeeze more performance out of an older camera that they are intimately familiar without going through the process of figuring out the quirks of newer, higher spec’d camera.

    1. Author

      You have a very good point… many times, the latest and greatest features are not needed to make great photos or films 🙂

  2. Most people who take photos on smartphones are horrible photographers; these types of units are for “snapshots.” Anyone who has had to sit through someone’s “snapshots” knows how bad most of them are. But, nonetheless, these photos suffice for most people who, for instance, want pics of “the people who came to the picnic,” and so on. This is not photography, this is ‘image capture.” Real photographers with multiple lenses will certainly exist for the foreseeable future. The capitalist notion of sales being up or down for a certain period of time has nothing to do with the viability of any technology, unless the companies who build the technology squeeze their own missions into “what Wall Street wants.” But even then there will be professional equipment made for professional application always. After all, nobody buys a Rolex just to tell what time it is.

  3. To really analyze the fate of DSLR/mirror less filmmaking we need to separate what indie film makers are buying from the general sales statistic of cell phones versus DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The general public (the non-indie film maker), and even corporate filmmakers are happy with a cellphone movie. The serious filmmakers (Alexa/Red/Black Magic) will stay with those platforms and would never consider cell phone filmmaking. The market segment I’m interested in is the novice and Indie filmmaker. How big a segment are they? What camera they are opting for to make their movies? And do they buy enough cameras for Sony to continue to pursue them? It seems Canon wants them to buy the cinema series cameras and to ensure they do, Canon continues to roll out DSLR’s with fatal flaws (huge file sizes and crop factors for 4K) though sporting unmatched auto focus prowess. Nikon remains on the bench. I hoped that Nikon would buy Samsung’s NX1 technology and slam-dunk past Canon’s DSLRs and challenge Sony’s mirror less lineup. The NX1’s awesome auto focus, the ability to record 4K on an SD card and an awesome f/2 zoom lens is better than anything else on the market at $2,700. It is the Rebecca DeMornay camera for Indie filmmakers. But though it was the most awesome camera on the market for an indie film maker, Samsung bowed out and left the stage. Sony has left and is exploiting the market segment. Once their auto focus rivals cannons and Samsung’s I will probably return to them. But by then the Apple iPhone will have implemented shallow focus technology for video and it truly will be game over. With dual lenses on an iPhone the ability to separate foreground from background is just a step away.

    1. Author

      “With dual lenses on an iPhone the ability to separate foreground from background is just a step away” — that’s exactly why I love the Light L16! It crushes the capabilities of the iPhone to create amazing depth of field and even re-focus in post.

      not coming to video any time soon, but it is a game changer for the photography market.

  4. “People are buying fewer interchangeable lens cameras (whether you’re talking DSLR or Mirrorless) and I know that’s no big surprise… it has been happening since 2010.”

    Well, you are wrong! The year 2012 registered the most camera sales and the decline started with 2013. 🙂

  5. DSLRs and mirrorless aren’t going anywhere. If sales are declining then the low end cameras will fall off. There will always be flagship camera bodies for professionals. This article is kind of ridiculous

  6. “People are buying fewer interchangeable lens cameras (whether you’re talking DSLR or Mirrorless) and I know that’s no big surprise… it has been happening since 2010.”

Leave a Comment