The website, Newswitch, states that the “camera market is on a recovery trend. Demand in China, which can be said to be the driving force, is solid, and with the tailwind of the weaker yen, sales of high-priced models are strong and shipments are increasing.”

In a dramatic turn of events since 2020, the Japanese yen has experienced a significant depreciation, plummeting by over 30% against the US dollar. The trend persisted into 2023, witnessing an additional 12% slide. While this depreciation has upped the ante on input costs for raw materials, it has concurrently triggered a notable downturn in camera prices on the global stage.

One of the noteworthy outcomes of this currency shift is exemplified by companies like Canon, leveraging the favorable exchange rates to offer their latest innovation, the Canon EOS R6 Mark II, at a price point equivalent to its predecessor, the Mark I, from three years prior. This tactical move not only underscores the impact of currency fluctuations on the industry but also highlights the competitive advantage gained by manufacturers in the wake of these financial dynamics.

According to CIPA, the total number of digital cameras shipped from January to September 2023 was approximately 5.69 million units, down 0.6% from the same period last year. Total shipment value increased by 11.7% year on year to approximately 525.3 billion yen, but approximately 1.18 million units were shipped to China, which is approaching the 1.45 million units shipped from January to December 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak.

Newswitch, Japan

Newswitch contrasted the CIPA shipped units to China against units shipped in Japan.

Meanwhile, shipments to Japan were approximately 2.31 million units in 2019, but decreased to approximately 920,000 units in 2022. Furthermore, sales to Europe in the same period decreased by 50.3% from 2019 to approximately 2.39 million units.

Newswitch, Japan

Recent data analysis underscores the pivotal role the Chinese market plays in the camera industry, revealing that without it, shipped units would dwindle to below 5 million. Of particular concern is China's descent into a deflationary phase, marked by a 0.2 percent decline in consumer spending—figures that might be understated, given the tendency to inflate official results.

The Chinese real estate sector, constituting a substantial 30 percent of the country's economic output, is grappling with a crisis as property values plummet, leaving numerous households submerged in debt. Unlike their counterparts in Western nations, Chinese consumers lack the option of bankruptcy, compelling them to grapple with insurmountable debts.

The looming threat of an expanding recession raises the specter of a further dip in Chinese consumer spending, potentially resulting in a decline in shipped camera units for the year 2024, despite positing 2023 numbers.

Despite these challenges, a glimmer of hope emerges from the anticipation surrounding major camera announcements slated for the first half of 2024. All major Japanese camera brands are expected to unveil significant developments, generating pent-up demand, particularly among Canon enthusiasts. This surge in interest promises to inject vitality into the market, countering the subdued demand emanating from the Chinese economic downturn.

Derek is a writer, video and stills shooter who has been in the video graphics industry since the 1980s. Derek is a founding member of the Camera Insider.

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