Pixel race ending in saturated digicam market

Japan sales of digital cameras in 2009 shrank by 4.5% compared to 2008. The average camera price also decreased by an average of about 7% compared to 2008 prices. This is according to BCN, a market research company in Japan and reported by NHK TV news today.

The economic recession combined with a saturated digicam market are cited as primary reasons for the shrinkage.

To stimulate demand and stop the slide in camera prices, camera makers are now focusing on providing unique features in their digital cameras rather than continuing the pixel race. For example, FujiFilm has marketed a compact digital camera having face recognition for pets. It can continue to focus on the face of your moving dog or cat whose face has been registered with the camera. Olympus has also marketed a very compact and lightweight D-SLR.

Sales of D-SLRs have also decreased since Sept. 2009. BCN reported that Sept. 2009 unit sales of D-SLRs reached only 96.2% of the total sold in Sept. 2008. D-SLR sales had been increasing for over 4 years until Sept. 2009.

Another interesting trend in Japan is that the D-SLR market is moving toward a higher-priced segment. In Sept. 2008, about half the total of D-SLRs sold were priced below 80,000 yen. But a year later, little over half the D-SLRs sold in Sept. 2009 were priced within 80,000 to 120,000 yen. That’s a 13.6% jump compared to a year before. D-SLR prices have stabilized and/or the market is moving up to higher-end models.

Canon and Nikon account for about 70% of D-SLR sales in Japan. Canon leads Nikon in market share in most months, but it’s a real tug of war between them. The monthly market share also hinges on the introduction of a new model by Canon or Nikon.

The best-selling D-SLR in Japan every month is almost always the Canon Kiss series (X, X2, X3 and soon X4) known as the Rebel or 400D, etc.

The price of the Canon EOS 7D keeps falling almost weekly as of this writing. It has already fallen by 3,000 yen since early Feb. 2010 when I bought mine. The level of refinement and specs of the 7D as a midrange camera are so outstanding that I won’t have to worry about it becoming obsolete in 18-24 months and spend another bundle of money to replace it. The D-SLR market is really coming of age.