BCN Awards: Canon and Sony Enjoy Gains as Nikon Still Lags Behind

The BCN Awards are among the most powerful awards in the annual calendar because they recognize the sales achievements of camera manufacturers (among other products). While they only represent the Japanese market, they provide a sign of how well the manufacturers are doing. So what are the big takeaways this year?

BCN Rankings: The Camera Industry Leader

Before we turn to the winners and losers of this year’s award – and ultimately as a leader in the industry as a whole – it is worth reconsidering what BCN is already doing. They are interested in a number of different high-tech industries – not just cameras – and monitor online and in-store sales data from participating retailers.

Raw data is protected by a paywall, which means you need a subscription to take full advantage of the detailed set of information, but every January, the BCN Awards celebrate sales achievements across a full range of technology sectors. For camera manufacturers, there is a special interest in the integrated, reversing and DSLR segments, although there are video cameras and action cameras.

It is worth noting that BCN only represents sales in the Japanese market and then only to the retailers who provide the data to them. We don’t know who they are, but they are believed to account for about 40-60% of Japanese sales; This means that we don’t know what is happening across Asia, Europe or North America, although Japan is a good measure of how well companies are doing even if the sales mix may differ between regions.

So how was the year 2021 for manufacturers shaped at the BCN Awards?

Integrated camera sales

Starting with compact cameras (arguably the least important), Canon ranked first (34.1%), followed by Sony (23.1%) and Fujifilm (11.6%).

BCN Integrated Camera Sales
BCN sales data for integrated cameras. Chart based on data by BCN.

Compared to last year, there is a dip for Canon as Fuji holds its own while Sony continues to climb, but this is likely to change with the closure of Canon’s Zhuhai factory, which primarily produces its all-in-one cameras.

Importantly, compact cameras now make up only 36% of total camera shipments (as recorded by CIPA) and only 15% by value. It’s a hollow win for Canon and will likely be ceded in the next year or two.

DSLR Camera Sales

For DSLRs, we see Canon increase its dominance (59.8%), Ricoh (Pentax) nearly double its market share (5.8%), and Nikon decreases to 33.9%. Once again, DSLRs are a declining market (26% in terms of shipments and 18% in terms of value) but still significant.

BCN DSLR Camera Sales
BCN data on DSLR camera sales. Chart based on data by BCN.

It’s bad news for Nikon, as this is still a small but vital source of income for the imaging division. Does Nikon ship fewer DSLRs, or are consumers buying fewer? It’s hard to tell, but either way, it’s likely down around 230,000 units; Not a trivial number.

On the contrary – and perhaps unexpectedly – it was already possible to sell Canon more DSLR cameras last year compared to 2020! The other good news is Ricoh (Pentax); I recently wondered about their strategy of switching away from mass-market production in Japan, but these results suggest it was likely upwards of 120,000 units last year.

Maybe, just maybe, Ricoh thinks it can appeal to a small segment of consumers who have no intention of moving away from DSLRs in the same way we see Leica making rangefinders or the growing popularity of film cameras. Either way, it’s good news for Rico.

mirrorless camera sales

Of course, the prize in the digital camera market is mirrorless sales. Petapixel has already reported on annual CIPA shipments for 2021 and how mirrorless cameras now make up the single largest number of units shipped (38%), accounting for 67% by value.

The mirror is where the money is made. BCN ranked first at Sony (32%), Canon ranked second (28.2%) and OM Digital (Olympus; 12.7%) ranked third.

BCN Mirrorless Camera Sales
BCN Mirrorless Camera Sales Figures. Chart based on data by BCN.

That’s pretty much a repeat of last year, except that Sony and Canon have raised their stakes. Sony stock is up 4.5% and Canon is 4.6% while OM is down 10.7%, which means OM is losing sales (primarily) to Fuji and Nikon.

Of course, Nikon is the elephant in the room: where are they? While Sony and Canon are increasing their market share, Nikon is not yet in the top three, and has less than 12.7% of the market share. This is very bad news for Nikon which seems unable to change its market share (at least in Japan), but it is a solid result for Canon and Sony.

How are camera manufacturers going in 2022

What do these latest sales numbers say about the unparalleled emerging market and how it might shape in 2022? It seems to be working as usual for Canon and Sony.

Canon, in particular, has been able to quickly develop its sales towards mirrors. Another way to look at this, however, is that Canon’s absolute dominance in global sales (shown by its DSLR sales numbers) is simply reflected in the way it has been able to steer a percentage of consumers into mirrorless.

Canon probably isn’t moving faster than Nikon, it just has more customers. In this sense, Sony may experience the calm before the storm; Will its sales numbers simply be swallowed up as Canon ramps up production and moves more users to mirrorless products? It remains to be seen, and in the meantime, there is everything to play for in terms of attracting new customers.

Of course, that doesn’t help Nikon, which is seeing DSLR sales decline while its mirrorless sales remain flat. Is this a case of not enough cameras on the shelves (a combination of COVID and lack of chips) or are consumers giving up on them? The latter may seem difficult to fathom given the quality of the Z system and the number of Nikon users, but the longer its numbers stagnate, the lower the market confidence.

It’s hard to say much about Fuji, other than clearly selling compact cameras (!). Similarly, Panasonic does not fall into the three main categories even though it won camcorder awards with 43.6% of sales, followed by Sony (26.3%), and DJI (11.2%). It remains to be seen which cameras fall into this category and how many global shipments they represent, but it’s clear that Panasonic plays its part in its strengths.

This leaves OM Digital (formerly Olympus cameras) with a real drop in sales in an expanding segment. This is a huge blow to the new owners as they try to balance the books and generate a steady stream of income; However, it’s still likely to represent well over 250,000 units which, if it can keep developing and has a happy user base, could lead to a fair business.

All eyes will be focused on ensuring production returns to normal levels. Sony and Canon are seeking to share, and Nikon is trying to create a solid base. Ricoh is trying to make the most of what’s left of their camera business, but don’t expect it to stay in its current form for much longer than necessary. What will OM Digital’s move be? I hope we’ll see some new products start rolling in, but that will very much depend on the investment in research and development.

If nothing else, 2022 promises to bring even more change to the already troubled camera industry.


Image credits: Illustration licensed by Depositphotos

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