DSLR Sales Impacted By Ease and Quality of Phone Cameras

High-end camera sales have taken a dive this year, as the popularity of smartphones with powerful built-in cameras and related apps rises. Research firm IDC predicts shipments of digital single-lens reflex, or DSLR, cameras will decrease by more than 9 percent from last year. The two biggest camera manufacturers, Canon and Nikon, have even lowered their expected sales numbers, raising questions about whether consumers’ tastes are changing in an era of mobile devices.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Tamron Co., one of the largest lens manufacturers, sold 22 percent fewer interchangeable lenses so far this year. Though the point-and-shoot market has largely been decimated by smartphones, this is the first serious indication that professional-quality cameras are being affected as well.

However, many industry professionals have argued that there will always be a market for standalone cameras, especially among serious photographers, “since they offer a level of control and picture quality that a smartphone’s tiny lens and sensor can’t replicate,” notes WSJ.

UBS Securities analyst Ryosuke Katsura told WSJ he doesn’t believe smartphones will be the end of the standalone camera era, but adds, “The industry is at a turning point right now, so no scenario is impossible.”

Hong Kong artist and graphic designer Lie Fhung tells WSJ she rarely uses the Canon DSLR she bought years ago. Instead, she “takes most of her photos with her iPhone, and satisfies her urge to manipulate the images with a bevy of photo-editing apps.”

“I like using different apps to play with the texture of photos,” Fhung tells WSJ.

The numbers suggest this seems to be the growing trend among photography enthusiasts. However, some analysts point out that the impact of smartphones and apps may be exaggerated.

“Whenever the market declines, people tend to try to come up with structural reasons,” says Hisashi Moriyama, an analyst at J.P. Morgan.