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Nikon Ranked 5th in 2019 MILC Sales

Nikon Ranked 5th in 2019 MILC Sales

Nikon has had a torrid few years as it rapidly tried to pivot to mirrorless on the back of declining financial results. It ended 2019 with falling market share, losing second spot to Sony. The reason for this is now apparent: low mirrorless sales that place it 5th in the market. What is happening at Nikon?

It's no secret that Nikon is struggling financially. Its Imaging Division has been the core of its business, falling from 68% of total revenue in 2015 to just 38% last year. Precision Equipment are now the larger unit, but that is on the back of declining income across the whole group. Earnings from camera sales in the Imaging Division were split across compacts and ILCs, however the volume compact market is essentially dead and their new medium term strategy is about cutting away that manufacturing capacity and reducing costs. Income is therefore being driven by ILCs with Nikon itself projecting a continuation of the declining market share to 16.6%, selling 800,000 units on the back of a market of 4.8M.

The puzzle is where the poor sales are originating from as Nikon does not report on the split between DSLR and mirrorless sales. NikonRumors summarizes a recent Nikkei report that breaks down the 2019 ILC sales by DSLR and MILC. Total ILC sales are topped by Canon, Sony, and Nikon:

  1. Canon: 4.16 million
  2. Nikon: 1.73 million
  3. Sony: 1.66 million
  4. Fujifilm: 500,000
  5. Olympus: 330,000
  6. Others: 280,000

The breakdown for MILC is a critical indicator of future market share given declining DSLR sales and the likelihood that MILCs will outsell DSLRs in 2020:

  1. Sony: 1.65 million
  2. Canon: 940,000
  3. Fujifilm: 500,000
  4. Olympus: 330,000
  5. Nikon: 280,000
  6. Others: 240,000

There are five key takeaways from this breakdown. Firstly, Sony is head and shoulders above the competition for mirrorless sales which gives it a significant advantage. Secondly, even with it's slow entry in to the full frame mirrorless market, Canon has been very successful (although this will also include M-series sales) in selling cameras. The impact of COVID-19 on market share and how that translates in to a trajectory in to 2021 will be critical. Can Canon overtake Sony? Thirdly, Fuji is selling a good number of cameras! Sure it's not in the same ballpark as Sony or Canon, but that's still a lot of cameras for a healthy business. Clearly it's strategy of APS-C/medium format is paying off. Fourthly, Olympus is also still selling plenty of cameras. How this will fare through 2020 and 2021 remains to be seen, although the take home point is that they don't believe the business is sustainable on these numbers. Fifthly, Nikon sits fifth in this table. Only 16% of its camera sales were generated from MILCs which is worryingly low and explains why income has flat lined. In short, DSLR sales are declining but not being replaced by mirrorless sales. They have engineered a good product, produced fiercely competitive camera bodies, and have a good lens roadmap.

Whilst 2020 was shaping up to be a formative year for the camera market as the whole sector shifted its focus to mirrorless, the impact of COVID-19 on business has made this more acute. Income will be severely constrained at a time when development costs are high and the market contracting. Sony is riding high on its mirrorless market advantage, with Canon seemingly bouncing back rapidly. How will the fortunes of the different manufacturers shape up over the next 18 months?

Lead image courtesy of Pexels via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.

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29 Comments

Nick Bentley's picture

Why is the headline not that Nikon was second in over all sales.

Why is Fstoppers so anti Nikon ??

Robert Nuttmann's picture

Maybe. After switching to MILC's (Sony and Nikon) two years ago I would say that in my opinion there is room for both systems.

Usman Dawood's picture

Nikon make some of the best cameras on the market. They've got a tough road ahead and I hope they can pull through. I don't think people are anti Nikon, it's just disappointing to see how they've been slipping.

Shannon Sands's picture

No joke, there is so much negativity towards Nikon on here. Does it surprise anyone that they are 5th with only 3 mirrorless cameras in their line, 1st generation mirrorless as well. With the lenses they are producing and updates to the Z6/7 on the way it won't take long to catch up.

Les Sucettes's picture

How many did Canon have ... oh just the same but way more sales. Oh but Canon is second generation. Nope not really ...

There is your answer

Rob Pul's picture

Canon have the APSC M line which makes the bulk of their mirrorless volume, Nikon's only APSC mirrorless product arrived in late 2019.

Les Sucettes's picture

Don’t ignore the (failed) Nikon 1. That’s a MILC too.

Just because it failed, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of the whole story.

Nikon failed so many times, from hanging on to APSH for too ling, to keeping the F-Mount which made their lenses inferior to Canon, to botching up the first wave of MILC... and now they are feeling the pain.

Rob Pul's picture

If a company that has been #1 or #2 in ILCs for decades "failed so many times" not sure what it should be said about the others...

This article is about shipments in 2019 so the fate of the 1 series, discontinued in mid 2018, is absolutely irrelevant in this context.

Les Sucettes's picture

You do understand that if a whole product line or segment fails you pay the consequences of it for a long time.

It obviously drained resources they couldn’t invest elsewhere. A whole customer segment is gone to the competition.

Les Sucettes's picture

Bad news isn’t anti anything. It’s just bad news. Nikon’s Cash Cows are becoming Poor Dogs, while their Questionmarks aren’t evolving fast enough into Star territory.

Lawrence Huber's picture

MILC is the future .
Nikon has a lot of senior clients stuck with DSLRs and most of their old AF lenses don't work on the Z mount where Canon's EF mount is 100%compatible with the RF mount. And Canon and Sony have a younger demographic willing to embrace the new as Nikons poor MILC sales show and still clinging to DSLRs.

Richard Richard's picture

Not sure about Fstoppers but this Smith bloke has written 3 vehemently anti Nikon posts in the last month. Sad someone in the photography industry wants to actively harm the photographic business with his bile.

Rob Pul's picture

Yeah, he's the same guy who wrote "The Best Thing for the Camera Industry Is for Nikon to Exit", naff said...

Barry Wilson's picture

Since many millions more people own Nikon and Canon ILCs than any other brand you can gain more clicks by trashing the top dogs. For the majority of content producers their output's purpose is to keep you riveted to your phone and all the ads, not to inform you. If you are seeking a more objective view of camera market trends then read Tom Hogan.

Thomas H's picture

What upsets me, is how unprofessional and factually wrong some writers at Fstoppers tend to be in many cases. Nikkei speaks about:
SHIPMENTS
not about
SALES.
Huge difference. Sony was selling to this day A7 Mk II with a severe discount (my own granddaughter got one to my dismay...) They have shipped these cameras many years ago. I would expect from writers more precision. Please read Thom Hogan's commentaries about Nikkei's revelations, which he did not published for a long time to avoid just such misinterpretations.

Timothy Roper's picture

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nikon's main disadvantage has been its lack of a history of producing video cameras. Everyone else on that list has been involved in video (and hence mirrorless) for decades now (okay, Fuji only made lenses for the video market, so maybe they don't fully count). But the point is, video features are driving MILC's--in technology, marketing, consumer demand, etc. Just look at how everyone jumped on the R5's alleged overheating issues. I know the Z6 got some great reviews for its video capabilities, but the market didn't seem to care all that much. No WOW factor. You gotta have the sizzle to sell the steak. That's just the way humans are. That said, I mostly shoot stills and I'm seriously thinking of a Z7 for my first FF mirorrless (I've been waiting for all the major 40+ MP bodies to come out before choosing).

Les Sucettes's picture

Don’t bet on the wrong horse I’d suggest. Nikon does not look healthy.

And if you are stills only shooter you should consider the GFX as the top of the pinnacle (at similar price point) in terms of image quality.

Alan Myers's picture

The Nikon Z series are not their "first generation" mirrorless cameras. Their first effort was the Nikon 1 system around eight years ago, which were more like point n shoot cameras with a small selection of interchangeable lens and a ridiculously small 1"/CX sensor. The Nikon Z series are their 2nd and 3rd or 3rd amd 4th gen mirrorless.

Canon treated their M-series with similar disrespect and disdain initially too, but at least built them around the same APS-C sensors they were using in their DSLRs and were busy developing a higher performance phase detection AF system embedded in the image sensor (and implemented in the 70D's Libe View/video mode). Putting that in the more recent M-series is a big part of why the Canon system survived, while the Nikon 1 system with slow contrast detection AF (and an oddball sensor format) was discontinued.

Nikon is still struggling to make a competitive AF system in a mirrorless camera. The latest mirrorless AF systems in Sony and Canon R-series are simply in a different league than Nikon.

Maybe Sony's and Canon's extensive cinema camera experience, as referenced above, played some role in their AF systme development too.

Another thing that's hurt Nikon is the precipitous drop in point n shoot sales. A couple years ago Nikon was the #1 seller of those, but camera phones have now taken over much of that market.

Not hatin' on Nikon. Hope they survive and thrive because tjey make some great lenses and cameras, and because competition is good for consumers.

A positive for Nikon is that they are now building their mirrorless in different formats around a single lens mount. Canon has a problem with two distinct mirrorless systems that have no lens cross-compatibility: The APS-C M-series with EF-M lens mount and the full frame R-series with the RF-mount. I wonder how long they will continue to build unique lenses for both.

Lawrence Huber's picture

I agree with this pretty much.
Canon was working on mirrorless technology with the 70D as a start with the amazing DPAF that no one else has.
It was surly developed with MILC in mind but refined in DSLRs. That way they started with the RF with a fully developed and superior AF system right out of the gate.

Richard Richard's picture

Saying the AF is in a different league tells me you have never actually used the Z range with the latest firmware

Rich Bind's picture

Sony with full lineup of FF cameras and lenses as market leader; stronger than ever. Canon challenging Sony in the mirrorless market. But Nikon made mistakes with Nikon 1 range. A lot will depend on the quality and price of the lenses available for these cameras. The reason Fujifilm got a following despite not offering FF camera. For me Sony is hard to avoid. Nikon has sown the seeds of its own demise in the long term in an unforgiving market. Pity.

Julio Benitez's picture

We open a note with the title: Is Fstoppers campaigning against Nikon?

Richard Richard's picture

A Nikon rep must have slept with Mike Smith's wife. There can be no other explanation for his negative obsession with them.

A M's picture

Often, when you read about former giants caving in to competitive threats, the first question should be directed at the quality of management. Are they really doing their job? Do they have vision and passion. Maybe.

I have owned Canon and Nikon equipment. And that great travel gem, the Olympus OM-1. And now who knows where Olympus will be next year? Nikon makes great equipment of course, but it can stumble just like any other company - some professionals have switched brands because of equipment failure - it's a brave new world in this fast-advancing technological age. A much different environment than when the F2 offered manual shutter and aperture.

Canon has the advantage of serving so many market segments. It's point-and-shoot products provide simple pathways to surprisingly high end results; it realized APS market entry would likely build customer loyalty for higher end products, and; those lower end but highly profitable products provided the necessary funds to support the required innovation across the entire product family.

And now, like a tiger sitting in the bushes, Sony has discovered how to innovate quickly. That is the difference...watch the big names, identify their weaknesses (ie: falling alseep like Canon did) and pounce on them. We must remember, that today's technologies can cut across so many different product groups. Not just cameras.

Oh, and did I mention that so many people are quite happy with the results from their iPhones?

Rob Pul's picture

Superficial and biased analysis (but then, it's from the guy who wrote the article "The Best Thing for the Camera Industry Is for Nikon to Exit"...)

By far what makes volume is smaller sensors and in 2019 both Sony and Canon had multiple APSC mirrorless products while Nikon basically didn't have any (the Z50 arrived in November). Nikon only had two relatively expensive and lower volume FF products, Z6 and Z7, so they actually did pretty well with mirrorless shipments. Where they did not so well was on DSLRs where they lost in % more than Canon did.

Mike Robinson's picture

YouTube bloggers prefer Canon’s overheating cameras. What’s to be done?

Robert Nuttmann's picture

This is another anti Nikon click bait article bashing Nikon. The author started with a conclusion and then interpreted the facts to fit them. I got as far as the chart that said Nikon was number two in total ILC cameras and then rolled my eyes. And then when I saw Sony's third place showing right after Nikon I was impressed they have done so well.

I think there is room in the camera market for mirrored and mirrorless ILC cameras plus rangefinders. Leica seems to be doing pretty well making a variety of style bodies and I suspect Nikon will do the same.