CIPA’s April 2021 data: Shipments are down, but the average price of camera units is steadily increasing

The Camera and Imaging Products Association, better known as CIPA, has released its data for April 2021, detailing the current state of worldwide camera production and shipments.

Usually, we compare CIPA’s statistics to the previous year as a year-over-year (YoY) percentage, but considering 2020 was anything but average (at least from April 2020 onwards) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve decided to look back at CIPA’s data from 2019 to get a better baseline for how the camera market is doing as the world begins the early stages of recovery—financially and otherwise—from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, let’s dig into CIPA’s data for the month of April 2021.

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.

If we look at worldwide digital still camera shipments for April 2021, there were 756,155 units shipped at a value of 44.6 billion yen (~$406M). Those numbers are down 50% by volume and 26.8% by value compared to April 2019. If we look at only cameras with interchangeable lenses (includes both DSLR and mirrorless cameras), we see 496,224 units shipped in April 2021 at a value of 37.7B yen (~$343.8M). Compared to April 2019, these numbers are down 40% and 19.9% by volume and value, respectively.

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

If we look exclusively at DSLR cameras, 225,584 units were shipped in April 2021 at a value of 9.86B yen (), down 48.8% by volume and 45.1% by value compared to April 2019. Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, saw 270,640 units shipped in April 2021 at a value of 27,8B yen (), down 29.7% by volume and 3.8% by value compared to 2019.

Having all this data is great, but what do these numbers mean? Truth is, it’s difficult to tell. While the first few months of 2021 showed some stabilization compared to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic started to dramatically effect shipments and purchases of cameras around April 2020, which has skewed the baseline for comparison.

Still, there are a few trends we can pick out from the CIPA data. First, despite fewer interchangeable lens camera units being sold, the value of those units (and therefore revenue for the camera manufacturers) isn’t dropping at an equal pace. This shows the average camera nowadays is selling for much more than the average camera even two years ago.

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

This trend is particularly evident in the maturing mirrorless camera market where the value of cameras shipped dropped only around 1/8th the volume. In fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that in the near future we could see mirrorless camera volume drop even more while still showing gains in value—particularly as Canon, Nikon and Sony all release their flagship mirrorless cameras, which are likely to retail for >$6,000.

Additionally, we’re continuing to see mirrorless camera shipments outpacing DSLR units. In April 2019, we saw 56,961 more DSLR camera units shipped than mirrorless camera units, whereas in April 2021, there were 45,056 more mirrorless cameras shipped than DSLR camera units. It’s likely this disparity will continue to rise as Canon, Nikon and Sony continue to shift their efforts towards their respective mirrorless lines and away from their respective DSLR lines.

As is always the case with CIPA numbers, they only show camera unit shipments by volume and value. There’s no way to tell whether or not all of those units have sold. That said, CIPA’s data has been historically accurate and proven to be a solid indicator of where the market is at. You can view CIPA’s March 2021 and historical data on the CIPA website.