April 3, 2007 5:42 PM PDT

SLRs lead digital camera sales surge

Digital camera shipments increased 15 percent from 2005 to 2006, but the high-end SLR category grew at a much faster 39 percent clip, according to new statistics from IDC.

SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras offer snappy response, higher image quality and a range of lenses, but they also cost more and are much bulkier than compact models. They offer better profit margins than compact models, but consumer electronics companies are injecting new competition into the market.

Sony wasn't in the market in 2005, but its 326,000 SLR shipments in 2006 were enough to vault the consumer electronics company over established camera makers Olympus and Pentax into third place overall, according to IDC data released Monday. Samsung and Panasonic also debuted to the tune of 43,000 and 36,000 SLRs, respectively, giving the newcomers 405,000, or 8 percent, of the 5.3 million total SLRs shipped.

However, Canon remains king of the SLR heap by a wide margin. Its 31 percent growth--a 578,000 camera increase to 2.46 million in 2006--added more new cameras than all three newcomers combined.

No. 2 Nikon cut into Canon's SLR lead, with 36 percent growth to 1.74 million shipments in 2006.

The overall SLR market grew 39 percent from 3.8 million shipments to 5.27 million in 2006, IDC said.

The overall camera market grew 15 percent from 92.3 million shipments in 2005 to 105.7 million in 2006, IDC said. The compact market grew 14 percent from 88.5 million to 100.4 million.

For compact cameras, Canon remained No. 1 with 22 percent growth to 17.3 million units shipped in 2006.

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15 comments

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Leica
SLR???

What about Leica and the M8?? It may not be the best seller but it
is by fat the camera that the true pro is going to look at. Not all
the best cameras carry the Canon or Nikon name. This is coming
from a professional Nikon shooter that lusts after Leica.

Good Luck
Posted by aforslund (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It has serious problems...
The M8 has been plagued by various issues since day one, including a serious flaw which can't be corrected without a significant re-design.

The brand has been relegated to mostly rich amateurs with too much money. In that sense a Leica today is more of a status symbol than a camera.

I shoot professionally as well and the M8 is not on my agency's approved camera list.

It has been suggested that Leica might abandon its money-losing camera business altogether, focusing on the optics side of the business. We already see this on the consumer side, where the Leica D-LUX is really made by Matsushita (Panasonic.)
Posted by mbenedict (1001 comments )
Link Flag
Seriously?
While many love Leica's, most people find them to be a very poor value. Their lens system is very restrictive, no zooms or long telephotos. If you're going to talk about a "true pro" who wouldn't look at Canon or Nikon (not sure what your definition of a true pro is. The huge majority of 6 figure photographers shoot Nikon or Canon I'm sure..) you should be talking about medium format manufacturers like Hasselblad and Mamiya. For some, 35mm and 16 megapixels isn't enough.
Posted by skrubol (181 comments )
Link Flag
You serious about being a professional?
If so, you can´t say that A is more professional than B, as far as you are forgetting that a machine is not going to make you a better shooter or not.

Believe it or not, each camera has a specific market. Street shooting will be quite embarrasing with a big dSLR, and that´s the field where the Leica, Ricoh and Epson shine. Not intrusive [key word for the streets].

For studio, however, medium format and digital backs sort of rule.

Nevertheless, it is about which gear you feel most comfortable with. At some point, each stuff has its own advantages over the rest. It just depends on you needs and your comfort.
Posted by bleech (90 comments )
Link Flag
I just bought one myself!
Canon rocks, I just bought Canon Rebel xTI a month ago and love it! Now, its time for some fancy lenses to go with it!

Thanks for the great article. I also enjoy your news alerts...

Best, - Marek
Posted by jazyfko (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sony *bought* it's market share!
This article makes Sony out to be some major gengius challenger in the DSLR market, but Sony didn't have a DSLR to offer until it bought the DSLR business of the merged Konica/Minolta camera companies.

Combined, Konica/Minolta would have had on their own something approaching what Sony sold in DLSRs last year.

Sony normally designs its own products, some successful, some not (remember Betamax?). It couldn't design it's own in a reasonable period of time much less introduce an entirely new lens mount, so it bought an also-ran in the DSLR market.

I guess Sony advertises too much with Cnet for us to get insightful reporting.
Posted by dnheller (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not really...
Truth is Sony has been making digital still cameras (and video cameras) for over two decades, starting with the Mavica back in the early 80s.

On the other hand, he combined Konica Minolta was never in a position to offer a successful DSLR. Its most profitable business unit is making photocopiers and printers. They could not produce suitable digital sensors themselves and could not transition from film cameras to digital cameras.

So about 10 years ago, Konica Minolta approached Sony to design digital sensors for the Maxxum line. But this project went nowhere.

A digital camera needs more than just sensors. It needs a complex firmware, device drivers, storage interfaces, new auto-focus technology, even the metering system has to be revamped (the old system bounced lights on the film surface, which no longer exists.) Not to mention things like vibration reduction and sensor cleaning technologies.

Konica Minolta was never in a position to seriously develop any of that. Sony, on the other hand, already had most of these ingredients from their consumer digital still and professional video camera lines.

All Sony needed was a suitable camera mount, and at the end of the day, that's all Konica Minolta had left to offer.
Posted by mbenedict (1001 comments )
Link Flag
And the M8 is not an DSLR
The point of the story is the dominance of DSLRs, not digital rangerfinders or point-and-shoot cameras.
Posted by dnheller (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fixed LCD
It would be good to know why the manufacturers of SLR cameras have elected to have a fixed LCD monitor. This, so it seems to me, limits shooting positions severely. Thank you, Hans HM
Posted by Hans131 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The reason is...
On most (but not all) SLR cameras, the digital sensor is covered by the shutter until the shutter is released.

That means it is not possible to view what you are going to shoot by looking at the LCD (unlike "point and shoot" cameras.)

In fact the LCD is blank until after you've taken the picture. So there is no point in having a moveable LCD.

Anyway on most SLRs (and certainly all professional grade SLRs), you must look through the viewfinder to compose your image, not at the (blank) LCD.

Some new consumer-oriented SLRs can indeed show the pre-shot image on the LCD. However this comes at a cost (the biggest one is speed, i.e., shutter lag) so more serious users consider it to be a gimmick.
Posted by mbenedict (1001 comments )
Link Flag
Sony Did *NOTHING* Other Than Buy Minolta
Your story talked about Sony not being on the market and in one year jumping into 3rd position, which could give the impression that Sony went from nowhere to having completely new line on the market, all by themselves.

The reality is that they bought Minolta (which was the #3 player in the marketplace) and so it makes sense that Sony would now be in third place, true the Alpha camera was a Sony product but it was largely leveraged from all the Minolta products/resources. I think it's great that Sony, Samsung, etc. are in the DigitalSLR marketplace, as it drives innovation at Canon/Nikon and results in lower prices for everyone.

So while nothing you say is untrue, it's not as complete a story as it should be...
Posted by fensterbme (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sony Did NOTHING Other Than Buy Minolta
Your story talked about Sony not being on the market and in one year jumping into 3rd position, which could give the impression that Sony went from nowhere to having completely new line on the market, all by themselves.

The reality is that they bought Minolta (which was the #3 player in the marketplace) and so it makes sense that Sony would now be in third place, true the Alpha camera was a Sony product but it was largely leveraged from all the Minolta products/resources. I think it's great that Sony, Samsung, etc. are in the DigitalSLR marketplace, as it drives innovation at Canon/Nikon and results in lower prices for everyone.

So while nothing you say is untrue, it's not as complete a story as it should be...
Posted by fensterbme (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, 1D's live preview is NOT what you think it is...
You can't use the 1D's mk3 "live preview" like on a point and shoot.

For one, the 1D's live preview only works in Manual Focus mode. Plus the meter mode is fixed. Thus you can't change the distance between the camera and the subject without refocusing, so basically it can only used in still/studio type settings with the camera fixed on a tripod and shooting a static object.

Also when shooting at night (or whenever you need a flash), there is considerable extra lag since TTL metering doesn't work with the mirror up. So when you press the shutter release, the mirror has to come down, the shutter closes, TTL happens, mirror goes back up, and only then the shutter releases.

When not using flash there is a small additional lag (the shutter has to close, then open again) but probably not significant.

What live preview is really intended for is still-life macro shooting on a tripod, when you have very narrow depth-of-field. The live preview lets you (manually) achieve critical focusing before taking the picture.

Even then, the 1D's LCD is probably too small for critical focusing... so live preview is probably best used while the camera is tethered to a computer (so the image can be viewed on the computer's larger monitor.)
Posted by mbenedict (1001 comments )
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