Digital SLR Sales are Booming

Digital SLR Sales are Booming

By Ron Leach, Publisher

Like most industries that thrive on innovation, the business of photography tends to be cyclical as new technologies are unveiled, refined, introduced at the high end of the market, and eventually made available to the mass consumer. And right now the photo industry is on an upswing thanks to booming sales of entry-level digital SLRs at prices that were unthinkable just three years ago. This development has also generated considerable interest in the myriad of related accessories like lenses, memory cards, storage devices, photo printers and other digital imaging gear.

The Photo Marketing Association predicts that sales of digital SLRs in 2006 will increase by 24% over last year, which saw a 36% increase as compared to 2004. It is estimated that total D-SLR sales this year will exceed 1.4 million units. The momentum for this robust growth is being supplied by photo enthusiasts who have seen prices drop to the point where digital SLRs are no longer viewed as expensive tools for the professional photographer.

Canon provided the initial impetus for this trend in late 2003 with the introduction of the EOS Digital Rebel--the first D-SLR to achieve mass-market appeal with a price point of $1000. By 2005 Canon held a 53.3% share of the global D-SLR market, followed by Nikon at 28.3%. Competition is increasing as other traditional camera companies like Olympus and Pentax introduced affordable new models, and firms with strong electronics pedigrees like Sony, Panasonic and Samsung have unveiled impressive products in this hot category.

This type of excitement typically results in market consolidation, partnerships and acquisitions, which is exactly what we are witnessing in the vibrant digital SLR market today. In this vein, Sony not long ago acquired the digital SLR assets of the venerable Konica Minolta. More recently Panasonic collaborated with Olympus on the development of their new Lumix DMC-L1 camera, as did Samsung with Pentax on their GX-1S D-SLR.

Of course most of this change is good news for photographers: Prices of digital SLRs continue to fall, while camera manufacturers offer greater resolution, enhanced features, and more choices than ever before.