Smartphone Killed the Camera Star: A Look at Camera Sales Since the iPhone Came Out

Picture a graph plotting the number of self-proclaimed photographers along the y-axis and the number of years, from 1966-2016, on the x-axis.

Something to note: the first iPhone came out in 2007.

You can probably imagine around which point the trajectory goes from stable to rocketship.

Now completely invert that line and you’ll know what it would look like if you were to replace ‘self-proclaimed photographers’ with ‘camera sales’.

You could have probably guessed that the release of the iPhone made a dent in camera sales, but that the dent is the size of the Grand Canyon is pretty astonishing. Using data from the Camera & Imaging Products shows what has happened to camera sales since 1965:

Camera sales

Most affected are point-and-shoot cameras, which will likely never see a renaissance. And while higher-end cameras held steady through the first couple of iPhone years, they’ve also seen a significant drop in sales since 2013, when most photographers* probably thought to themselves, “I could probably scrap my entire professional studio in favour of this iPhone 5.”

That’s not sarcastic, by the way.

A look at the sales of interchangeable lenses (which can be assumed to represent higher-end cameras shows this phenomenon:

camera sales

Traditional camera manufacturers, of course, are not pleased about the trend.

“Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavouring,” said Canon spokesman Takafumi Hongo in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2013. “Using interchangeable cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.”

Perhaps as the slow food movement continues to grow, we will one day see new life in camera sales, until then, however, the iPhone remains arguably the most used camera in the world.