Sales of digital cameras in Japan have steadily decreased since last year. Digital camera sales experience seasonal fluctuations, but sales forecasts have been correct since 1990. The reason for this predictability is very simple – consumers buy cameras during holidays and special events, and no one buys cameras any other time during the year.

This trend has repeated itself since the early 1990s; however, monthly sales declined between 30% and 50% compared to the same quarter of last year, and average selling prices have increased.

Japanese camera manufacturers became the worldwide leaders in sales and technology in the 1970s. Once the digital camera made its debut in the early 1990s, global markets changed overnight, and Japanese manufacturers shipped more than 20 million units each year. The digital camera changed this market segment instantly, and each year it grew exponentially – the IT bubble burst in 2001 had no effect on sales. Some analysts voiced their concerns with the addition of digital cameras in cell phones, but the market continued to grow. Total shipments in 2007 reached 100 million units. Digital camera production generated a large demand for electronic components and flexible circuits – more than double the demand from cell phones in Japan.

All good things must come to an end. The global recession that began in 2008 had a negative impact for the digital camera market. From that point on, annual shipments declined 10% to 20% every year, and shipments in the latter part of 2012 fell even more. The most recent data suggests a decline in shipments from 30% to 50% compared to the same month last year. The market is shrinking quickly, and the reason is very clear. Digital cameras are available in almost every cell phone and tablet. The cameras in these mobile devices have a better display quality and internet capability. The end of the stand alone camera may be near.

Japanese camera manufacturers predicted a short shelf life for their digital cameras over the last decade, and began seeking alternative business plans. The short-term solution focuses their product lines on high end models aimed at the professional photographer. This product line has higher margins compared to the low cost compact digital cameras.This is the reason for the upswing in average retail prices.

Japanese camera manufacturers expanded their core business over the last 20 years and the digital camera is no longer the strategic product. They have no plans to eliminate digital cameras from their product portfolio since it no longer represents the main source of revenue.

Good for them, bad for flex circuit manufacturers. Since 1970, the camera industry has been the main source of business for Japanese flex circuit manufacturers.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to find an alternative source of income for the flexible circuit manufacturers.

Every product experiences an evolution. This is not the last generation of digital cameras. A new improved smaller, faster, lighter, all-in-one, less expensive, easier to use, voice-activated, foldable, waterproof, edible(?), digital camera will be available in stores soon.    

Dominique K. Numakura, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
DKN Research,

DKN Research Newsletter #1324, September 15, 2013

For back issues of the newsletter, visit here.

Headlines of the week (Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further news.)

1. Elner (Major device manufacturer in Japan): Has invested 300 million yen to expand the manufacturing capacity of aluminum capacitors in Thailand.

2. Samsung Electronics (Major electronics company in Korea): Has released a new watch type device “GALAXY Gear” with 1.9 million pixel display and camera.  It communicates with smart phone and tablet PC.

3. Taiyo Yuden (Major device manufacturer in Japan): Has commercialized new metallic power inductor series “MCOIL Series” with high reliability for automobile and telecommunication applications.

4. Tohoku University (Japan): Has developed a new magnetic stainless steel as the material of electromagnetic valve for fuel cell modules.

5. Toshiba Medical (Major medical equipment supplier in Japan): Has commercialized a new 3D display as an optional display device of X-ray CT scanner.

6. Ricoh (Major electronics company in Japan): Has unveiled a new digital camera “Ricoh Theta” during IFA 2013. The new camera is capable for 360 degree full panorama view.

7. Panasonic (Major electronics company in Japan): Has rolled out a new 20” tablet PC “UT-MB5” with 4k IPSa LCD panel for business use.

8. ASE and SPIL (Major semiconductor packaging firms in Taiwan): Have increased shipments in 2Q from 1Q. (+10%, +2%) Both of them have optimistic forecasts for 3Q.

9. Hamamatsu Photonics (Major optical device supplier in Japan): Has commercialized a new portable (1.9 kg) Compton Camera for gamma ray detection with high 2D resolution and high sensitivity.

10.  E Ink (Major e-paper supplier in Taiwan): Has started the volume production of the next generation e-paper display “E Ink Carta” with a higher contrast and smooth paging.

Please find the full articles at

TAGS: DKN Research, Dominique Numakura,  digital cameras, flex circuits, printed circuits,

Have you registered for PCB West, the Silicon Valley's largest printed circuit board trade show? Sept. 24-26, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedInPrint Article