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The Fall Of The Digital SLR Camera

It’s been two and a half years since we exited the camera industry. Once a sunrise industry where opulence, technology and arrogance mixed together, the camera industry has evolved beyond the Digital SLR (and the mirrorless as well). In the industry where rapid growth meant dealers that demanded for “entertainment” to fulfil the lust of their flesh, the equally shocking fall of the digital SLR camera meant the demise of some.

But what happened? What caused the digital SLR to fall so rapidly and not on a bang, but a whimper? Find out more after the break.

The Fall Of The Digital SLR Camera : The Background

The Canon 300D Digital SLR was launched back in 2003. Back then, it was my dream to have one. After all, it had all the wheels and buttons plus it took better images than my Olympus point and shoot camera. Also, it had the effect on looking cool with the girls. Oh well, those were my insecure adolescent years.

EOS 300D
The EOS 300D was every school boy’s dream. But really, it was my dream for a few years.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine being a photography accessories distributor. But I did. And the journey was good from 2008 till the end of 2013 before exiting the industry. By then I realised that the digital SLR industry was in free fall and nobody addressed the situation. It was all ignorance and really bad PR by the Japanese camera makers’ representatives in Malaysia. I was even labelled ‘foolish’ for leaving the camera industry by some Malaysian experts.

However in 2012, when sales started getting affected, we were told that camera sales would recover the following quarter. And then the next quarter and so on. But sales never recovered and we were given more excuses, like the Thailand flooding. As a distributor, we had to bring in an increasing amount of stocks. Thankfully, we did not bite, when ThinkTankPhoto asked us to up the previous year’s amount by 2.5 times. Otherwise, I would have been a bankrupt by today.

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, the digital SLR industry in Asia is down by about 80% compared to 2011. There is no need to argue anymore as the facts shows itself.1 If you calculate the amount for Asia and then subtract China and India from the equation, you’ll get shocking figures for the rest of Asia.

How about Malaysia? With the state of the Malaysian economy, we believe that the drop might be more than 80%, but rather 85-90% since 2012.It is not the first time we’ve spoken about this. We have addressed this before in our articles below.

But with more data and a longer time span, we can now assuredly tell you that the Digital SLR market is truly dying. Here is what caused the fall of the digital SLR camera

1) Weight

Back in 2012, if you strolled the malls, you would have seen couples holding DSLRs and taking photos of themselves on dates, or perhaps their babies in the strollers. If you took a stone and threw it towards a crowd, you might have hit a DSLR toting pedestrian. But the DSLR was heavy. And if you add in the various accessories like the flash, flash diffuser, spare batteries and the likes, you’ll end up with a shoulder ache.

Up till today, the Digital SLR still weighs a ton. And that drives away the crowd to convenience and compromise

2) We can compromise

This leads us to the next issue. We aren’t losing camera sales to non-cameras, unlike what some purists would say. Rather, we’re losing sales of dedicated cameras to something we can compromise with. The smart phone. With Moore’s law in action, the camera sensor on the smart phone gets twice the amount of transistors every year. With some powerful image algorithms, you actually get DSLR standard images albeit a couple of years old.

But if we were to argue about sensor sizes, wouldn’t the purist argue that medium format digital backs have even better image quality than the digital SLR? But did that stop brands like Mamiya and Hasselblad from losing out on sales? No. Hasselblad was even sold off in 2011, at the peak of digital SLR as image quality of the full frame cameras became as good as older versions of medium format cameras.

3) Not software savvy

I think we’ve addressed this a couple of times. Unfortunately, our Japanese camera makers aren’t really software savvy. Rather than having Android in their digital SLRs, they use some proprietary software. That makes it impossible for commercial apps to be installed.

Rather, they prefer you sync via Wifi to your computer and then process everything on the computer before you upload them. Their in-built filters pale in comparison to apps like VSCO Cam. But will they do something about it? Looking at their track record, I sadly doubt so.

4) Increasing Prices

It is not surprising that the price for cameras and lenses have increased over the past few years. It isn’t so much on the cost of raw materials. Rather, with a slowdown in sales, brands like Canon and Nikon have to increase their prices to both offset the dropping economies of scale and to appease their shareholders.

The Fall Of The Digital SLR Camera : The Epilogue

DSLR on sale

The fall of the digital SLR camera is a slow but unstoppable one. Like a train sliding down the slope without brakes, many analysts have thought it would even out. But it has only continued with global digital SLR sales down thirty percent compared to the same period last year at the point of writing.

Unless the Japanese camera makers like Canon and Nikon make drastic changes to their product line up and philosophy, I’m afraid we might end up without dedicated camera devices in the future.


  1. http://cipa.jp/index_e.html 
Leo
Avid techie. Excited about Photography, Technology, Ecommerce and Jesus. I write on DigitalDestiny.co and WPStarters.com. When I'm not blogging, I'm code wrangling in Ruby and PHP. Talk to me on LinkedIn
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