Soomal Annual Report 2016: Cameras

Falling Camera Industry

Let's start with CIPA's statics. These 3 charts are reflecting the miserable camera industry. In 2015, the camera industry shrank by 18%, narrow that the previous year, then CIPA expected that in 2016 it would be narrower. However, CIPA was too optimistic, in 2016 the camera industry accelerated the decline again, except December, the smallest decline was greater than 12%. The built-in lens DSC market was even worse, biggest monthly decline was over 60% and monthly shipment was less than 700,000. Low sales and profits makes this market no appealing. The interchangeable lens DSC market was better, sales more than 2015 in some months, but the total shipments in 2016 is still less than that of 2015.

In such an industry circumstance, it is no surprising that we can hardly see an extraordinary camera, no matter built-lens DSCs, DSLRs or mirror-less DSCs. Years ago, those manufacturers had their best technology reserved, but the best they can do now cannot raise the shipments. The downturn of the camera market declines the average price, manufacturers were starting cut the cost of R&D, however, consumers are wanting better imaging quality with cheaper price. This is the infinite loop of camera market. In 2017, the camera industry can be hardly better than 2016, we may be able to see the death of small-sized image sensor digital camera, which can be totally replaced by smartphones. In 2016, we compared Sony RX100 with Samsung Galaxy S7 and Microsoft Lumia 950XL, and the result is that RX100 is still better, but the gap between RX100 and the best smartphones is narrow. The competition came from the smartphones, CIPA noted last year.

Still, we want to note Xiaoyi M1, an interchangeable mirrorless camera. Xiaoyi belongs to Xiaomi ecosystem, although Xiaomi is becoming a department store, a mirrorless camera surprised us. Those Japanese camera business is in the rapid decline, while compared to Chinese enterprises, the technological superiority is still huge and cannot go beyond. Xiaoyi, a Chinese brand, released an interchangeable camera, is brave enough. This M1 adopts Sony Exmor R IMX269, belongs to Micro 4/3 system, it still relies on Japanese standard and core components. Techincally, this camera is not a brand new one. We do not have high expectations of its image quality, so we do not review it, but we hope that Xiaoyi keep trying.

Action camera, as a special application, is also facing a downturn. After GoPro's rapid rising, Sony and Ricoh soon provided similar products, then Xiaomi and other Chinese manufacturers joined, the action cameras now are just a hundred dollar digital gadgets. GoPro itself does not provide something brand new recent years, and start layoff 15% of staff before Christmas.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, DJI calls it as flying camera. At first, DJI planned to cooperate with GoPro, while GoPro's short-sightedness ruined this relationship. Then DJI quickly started their own R&D, then developed interchangeable lens models in order to provide better image quality. Recently, DJI was even reported to acquire majority stake of Hasselblad, an iconic historic camera Swedish company. UAVs had been attracting attention for professional ways, such as commercials, from the very beginning. Now, the DJI UAVs are able to provide image quality for commercial applications, it is already a productivity tool. You can see that aerial view videos and photos are becoming more and more popular, reporters use it for news photos, photographers use is for landscape, and even soldiers use it for investigation. Various type users, including model plane and photography enthusiasts, choose DJI for its balance and software. Now, DJI is the only best player in this area.

Although most of the core components of DJI's UAVs are made in Japan, DJI was born in China. Japanese camera industry once leading the world, but now lack innovation, technology reserves will be wear-out one day.

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