Who Won? Everybody or Nobody?

As I noted earlier, it's that time of year when previous year statistics get bandied about. And has happened at least twice prior, this year we have two companies claiming victory from the same set of statistics.

The data in question is the US register receipts that is captured by Circana/NPD (formerly just NPD). This data is typically only available for sale at high cost, though sometimes portions of it are provided to journalists or are summarized by Circana/NPD themselves. 

First up was Canon claiming three straight years of selling the most mirrorless cameras. This was followed by Sony's PR team claiming that they were the leading seller of full frame mirrorless cameras (both in dollars, and in units). 

Both can be true. Indeed, I believe both to be true. 

But it's time for me to go ballistic on both Canon and Sony. WTF, guys? Do you have interns running the engineering and marketing operations now?

Let's start with Canon. (He comes a big buzzing sound ;~)

The reason that Canon can make the claim of being the leading seller is...wait for it...wait for it...yep, crop-sensor cameras (APS-C). And in 2023 that included the last of the M series and four RF cameras. For which Canon offers all of, you guessed it, four kit-type zoom lenses. And only four lenses. 

You would think that you'd want to play to your strength. If you're leading mirrorless by producing crop-sensor cameras in mass, you'd think that you'd want to support them with at least a solid, basic lens set. Yes, I know Canon has a small number of full frame RF lenses that are reasonable on the small RF-S crop sensor bodies, but even they are too embarrassed to market that. You don't find Canon saying to RF-S purchasers "here are four RF-S and four RF lenses you'll want to own." Darned marketing interns. Maybe you should mentor them more ;~).

Here's the flawed strategy logic reasoning excuse Canon has for crippling the RF-S lens set: by not building a fuller RF-S lens set, if you want more capability you'll have to buy one of our full frame cameras and buy new lenses. Or buy Fujifilm gear ;~). Oops. 

Two of Canon's RF-S cameras are actually quite good (R10 and R7), and two are cameras I'd quickly Kiss goodbye (see what I did there?). Canon's in deep with this "hook 'em low" idea, but Nikon's and Sony's recent success in full frame probably has them wondering what they did wrong (I'm available for consulting, CanonUSA ;~). 

Meanwhile, Sony apparently told Petapixel that they made the decision to "refrain from publicly broadcasting any of these claims" this time. Uh, what? Sony is now all in on humble? That doesn't sound right.

Which makes me wonder about the full Circana/NPD data. Sony, for example, says that their A7 Mark IV was the best selling full frame camera in 2023 according to those register tallies, but the A7 Mark IV sold for 12 months while the Nikon Z8 sold for 8 months and was in short supply for half of those. I'm now wondering just how close Nikon came to being able to dislodge Sony's claim (mostly on dollars). 

When I track data, I try to track it over broad periods of time. The best selling camera in any given month tends to be most recently announced one. After that, one of three things tends to happen: (1) there's a rapid drop-off in sales back down to where the previous model was end-of-life selling; (2) there's a brief period of heightened sales followed by a long taper back down to base; or (3) there's a long period of heightened sales that continues until some other product matches or bests it. I'd place the Sony A7 Mark IV as a #2, the Nikon Z8 as a #3. I'd guess that at some point in 2023, the Z8 at least once took the dollars number from Sony, which may be one reason why Sony is disinclined to make a PR claim (if they did, Nikon, who also subscribes to that data, could make a counter-claim). 

A really good marketing team backed by a strong engineering team would make mincemeat of the Japanese camera companies. Oh, wait, one did: Apple and the iPhone (plus Samsung and the Galaxy) basically killed over two-thirds of camera sales and are still eroding them. 

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