Is CIPA Half Full or Half Empty?

The latest CIPA camera shipment numbers pose a dilemma for those trying to analyze them: for the first four months of 2021 both value and volume are up for ILC and lenses from 2020 year-to-date. But they're still down from 2019. 

  • Half Full — the pandemic is still on-going, as is a parts shortage and a shipping crisis. Thus, any recovery is excellent news and indicates strong on-going demand.
  • Half Empty — many of the world economies are doing just fine at the moment, so on-going demand for cameras should be nearer equal to pre-pandemic, but obviously isn't. 

The regression analysis says "half empty": we'll hit somewhere near 6m units in 2021 (+/-300k), but that's still down ~25% from 2019, which itself was down 22% from 2018. Moreover, some of 2021's demand is likely leftover from the 2020 pandemic year slowdown, where the first half of that year was clearly depressed by the virus lockdowns. 

That said, nothing's changed. Canon, Nikon, and Sony are pretty much in the same positions as they were and still a strong Triopoly in ILC. None of those three is going to go out of business given the current news. Indeed, at the current CIPA run rate for cameras in 2021, they all should make a profit in their camera groups. 

My sense is that the on-going market demand is below 6m units a year. I've previously written that I believe that the market bottom can go to 4m with the camera companies surviving, but anything below that is where things start to get problematic. So, at least for the time being, I don't think we have anything to worry about in terms of company survivability. 

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