One Reason Camera Sales are Down


It's been too long since I published a blog post. We've been busy improving Gear Offer. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, I keep seeing articles, blog posts and YouTube videos about the demise of camera sales and I want to put my 2 cents in. Actually, it's really just 1 cent because I think there's an important and overlooked reason that camera sales are down among people who are already established photographers. It's not the primary reason for the sales slump, but it's a factor no less.

In the early days of digital photography, each new generation of camera body came with significant improvements to image quality. Namely, low-light performance and dynamic range. Eventually we reached "peak sensor". That is, image quality leveled off. I think this happened around 2012. It's at this time that we got the Canon 5D Mk III, the Nikon D800, the Sony RX100 and many other important cameras. One could argue that peak sensor occurred even earlier.

Sensor technology and image quality became so good around this time that they were no longer a selling point, image quality was a given. Most cameras from 2012 on have enough resolution, dynamic range and low-light ability to satisfy the majority of photographers, pro and enthusiast alike. Sure, some cameras have better image quality than others and unique characteristics but these are usually minor differences. We have come to expect good image quality.

If your Canon 5D Mk II still makes great images, does well enough in low light and has enough resolution to keep you happy, why bother upgrading? This is where we see features become the primary differentiator among older and newer cameras. You might upgrade that 5D Mk II to the Mk III or Mk IV because the newer variants have better autofocus, and improved build, etc. You might even go mirrorless for reasons like the advantages of an EVF, smaller body size or whatever reason. The point is, all of our reasons for upgrading our camera bodies are for features, not image quality.

If you're not so interested in features and you're happy with the image quality of your current (older) camera, you'll be far more hesitant to get off your wallet and buy something new. If features and minor refinements don't turn you on, you're likely to hold out longer before you decide it's time to buy the latest camera body. I think a lot of photographers find themselves in this position, myself included. Sure, I'd love to have the latest Fuji autofocus found in the X-T3 but I can't say that I'm motivated to spend the money on that camera when my X-E2s is working just fine, albeit with slower autofocus.

The point is, camera manufacturers have given us sensors that produce amazing image quality and that's what matters most. The motivation to buy the latest camera is now based on features and not everyone cares about features. Because many photographers aren't interested in upgrading, new camera sales take a hit. Of course, this is only one reason for the overall down turn in camera sales and it only applies to those of us already deep into photography. There are other reasons (smart phones) effecting camera sales when it comes to new photographers who are holding out on buying a dedicated camera, but that's another topic.

Author: Don Fitzsimmons
Co-Founder of Gear Offer, software developer and photographer.

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