CIPA’s March 2021 data shows positive signs, especially for a maturing mirrorless market


The Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) has released its latest data, detailing the volume and value of digital camera units produced and shipped around the world through March 2021.

Before diving into the numbers, it needs to be noted that starting with the data from March 2021, the year-over-year (YoY) numbers should be contextualized with the understanding that March 2020 was the first month where the global economy started feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on historical data, production and shipment numbers started stabilizing around September 2020, but from March 2020 through roughly August 2020, the market was down even more than would be expected due to market instability, quarantine orders and other restrictions in place due to the global pandemic. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what March 2021 had to offer.

This chart from CIPA shows total digital stills camera shipments in 2019 (purple, circles), 2020 (black, triangles) and 2021 (orange, squares). These numbers include compact cameras with built-in lenses, DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras. Click to enlarge.

According to CIPA’s data, worldwide digital camera shipments were up 2.8% by volume and 25.6% by value for the same time period YoY (January through March). If you split up compact cameras compared to DSLR and mirrorless cameras, shipments of cameras with built-in lenses were down 16.8% by volume and 10.3% by value while cameras with interchangeable lenses were up 18% by volume and 48.1% by value for the same time period YoY.

This chart from CIPA shows total shipments for cameras with interchangeable lenses in 2019 (purple, circles), 2020 (black, triangles) and 2021 (orange, squares).

Looking specifically at the numbers for cameras with interchangeable lenses, DSLR shipments were up 5.8% by volume and down 6.7% by value while mirrorless camera shipments were up 29.9% by volume and 82.1% by value for the same time period YoY.

These numbers reflect the trend we’ve seen with the maturing mirrorless camera market; as mirrorless manufacturers continue to put out more expensive, professional-oriented models, the value of shipments continues to increase at an exponential rate to volume due to the higher price of the mirrorless cameras being sold. Considering both Canon and Nikon have flagship mirrorless cameras on the way, it’s likely this trends will only continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

CIPA’s complete March 2021 breakdown, which shows production and shipment data from January and February 2021 by camera type and region. Click to enlarge.

CIPA data shows only the number of units produced and shipped by the participating manufacturers, not the number of units sold. But it has historically been a solid indicator of the market health as a whole considering it’s getting data directly from essentially all of the major manufacturers.

Camera companies and their respective executives have been bullish on a stabilizing market in 2021. So far, that appears to be the case, but it remains to be seen what the rest of the year holds. You can view CIPA’s March 2021 and historical data on the CIPA website.

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