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d-SLR Cameras Continue To See Growth

NEW YORK – As the still-worrisome
economy continues to keep discretionary
purchases of digital cameras
down while the U.S. household penetration
rate approaches the 80 percent
mark, camera manufacturers are leaning
more and more on interchangeablelens
models to drive growth and profitability.

This year a combination of enthusiasm
for the features of d-SLR cameras
and new mirrorless interchangeablelens
hybrids continues to entice average
point-and-shoot users bitten by the
photo bug.

According to estimates from IDC
Research, the imaging industry should
move about 2.6 million digital SLRs
in the U.S. this year. Th at’s up 8.3 percent
from 2.4 million in 2009, at a time
when point-and-shoot camera sales are
running down.

Elliot Peck, Canon U.S.A. consumer imaging senior VP, whose company
ranks No. 1 in d-SLR market share,
said unit sales have been “outstanding”
yet dollar growth has been even more
impressive, “with higher-end cameras,
and cameras with HD video capabilities,
attracting attention in the marketplace.”

“From January 2009 to April 2010,
we’ve seen the value in terms of dollars
grow almost 30 percent,” Peck observed.
“It’s a healthy market in all of its

A significant factor in the category’s
growth this year are mirrorless models,
which have started to register meaningful
sales in Micro Four Thirds models
from Panasonic and Olympus, and
should become even more popular as
models with larger APS-sized sensors
roll out from Sony and Samsung.

In fact, IDC imaging analyst Chris
Chute estimated the mirrorless interchangeable-
lens segment will account
for 9 percent of overall interchangeablelens
camera sales by the end of the year.

Liz Cutting, imaging analyst at The
NPD Group, said retail sell-through
of mirrorless models accounted for a
more conservative 3.4 percent of sales
through April of this year, but that was
prior to Sony and Samsung shipping
their introductions, and at a seasonally
weaker portion of the year.

Mirrorless models, analysts and vendors
said, should have stronger appeal
with women and some men looking for
a functional product that is easier to use
and carry than a full-sized d-SLR.

Darin Pepple, Panasonic imaging senior
product manager, said that since
Panasonic introduced the first mirrorless
interchangeable-lens camera in
its G series, new competitive challengers
including Olympus, Samsung and
Sony have “heightened awareness” to
the overall category, raising demand for
all of the boats in the harbor.

The compact mirrorless versions appeal
to “a wide range of customers looking
for traditional d-SLR functionality,
but who want to shed the weight and
seek automated point-and-shoot-like
features,” Pepple said.

Mark Weir, Sony digital imaging
technology manager, said that the company’s
NEX series of mirrorless interchangeable-
lens cameras just started
rolling out in the U.S., after seeing
strong early sales among photo enthusiasts
in the Japanese market.

“The form factor and the new technology
seem to have made for big interest
in Japan,” Weir said. “We’ve also
had strong demand here, on the basis
of preorders.”

An unusual feature in the new line is
the ability to record 3D still images
through the panorama sweep
mode. The feature is receiving a lot
of attention
through the
buzz generated
over new
3D TVs, including
Bravia 3D
LED TV line
that , a long
with other 3D
TVs, will playback
the images for
viewing through
special active-shutter
glasses designed
for the new sets.

Weir said he thinks purchases of the
NEX cameras for the 3D capability
“will to a degree track the popularity of
3D TVs,” a trend the company is anxious
to have work in its favor.

As in the past, the interchangeablelens
segment as a whole is seeing new
growth among repeat camera purchasers
who enjoyed their first digital pointand-
shoot experience so much they
wanted to make the step up to the harder
stuff .

A large portion of this new business
is being generated by more aggressively
priced models at the entry range, offering
fully automatic features, higher resolution
sensors, and manual as well as
fully automatic capabilities.

“Today’s typical d-SLR customers
are those that have used a film SLR and
understand the enhanced performance
and capabilities of SLR photography, as
well as point-and-shoot camera phone
users who want to take their photography
to the next level,” said
David Lee, Nikon’s senior
VP. “Now that
d-SLR’s record
HD video, an
Nikon was
first to introduce
with our
D90, there is
a lso greater
interest from
amateur videographers,
as well as those
participating in
sharing content
through social

Indeed, many consumer interchangeable-
lens models now offer HD video
recording (60 percent by NPD research),
evenly split between 720p and
1080p in addition to advanced still-image

This combination of high-quality
photo taking with digital video capability
is playing well with families, NPD
has found.

“We have seen a shift from basically
older early adopter males (55 and up)
to more people with children present in
the home. Certainly, the HD video inclusion
has a good deal to do with that,”
Cutting said.

But while she still sees the demographics
skewing toward younger males
(or dads) with moms shying away from
big-ticket purchases in the down economy,
Canon’s Peck said his company is
zeroing in on the ladies.

“The female demographic is one of
the fastest-growing segments for entrylevel
d-SLRs,” said Peck. “The woman
is the memory keeper in the home, and
now that cameras have become easier to
use, more compact and have added HD
video, women make up a big part of the

In traditional d-SLRs, Canon and
Nikon continue to rule the roost, with
sales of both brands combined representing
90 percent of detachable-lens
camera unit share at the end of April
2010 vs. 85 percent for the same time
last year, Cutting said. The two brands
also command 91 percent of the dollar
volume, up 1 percent from last year.

As for the average selling price of a
detachable lens camera, Cutting said
pricing has defied gravity, overall, this
year going from $839 to $911 year to
date (YTD) in April 2010.

This has been influenced by newer
and better features being introduced
and unusually strong price cutting in
2009 to counter the impact of the economic

“We should remember that last year
Circuit [City] was pushing prices down
as it was liquidating — if we go back
to year-to-date April 2008, we were at
$955,” Cutting observed.

The average price of a detachable lens
camera priced at $1,200 and higher
moved from $1,972 to $2,222 YTD
from April 2009 to April 2010.

The average price for models $1,000
and lower moved from $581 to $638
from April 2009 to April 2010, year to
date, Cutting said, “but even if we go
back to April 2008, which was $619, we
are higher this year.”