Though overall demand for cameras in the UK shrank 27% in 2014, there was a 2% rise in sales of compact system cameras, according to official figures released by Futuresource Consulting.
Compact system camera (CSC) demand reached 105,000 units in 2014, contrasting with DSLR sales which saw an 18% fall on a year earlier.
Speaking to Amateur Photographer (AP), Futuresource research analyst Arun Gill said that CSCs are the only camera type currently seeing growth.
‘Of the two interchangeable-lens camera types, compact system cameras are driving the vast majority of innovation in the market, including wide-ranging technological developments (for example, controls, focus accuracy, EVF improvements, larger sensor and 4K, aesthetics (retro design, colours) and range of sizes.
‘All of these factors have the potential to appeal to a wider demographic than DSLR currently does.’
Gill predicts that the wider availability of CSC bodies and lenses, combined with increasing support from UK retailers – particularly among photo specialists – will further drive sales in 2015.
Though demand for DSLRs dropped, Futuresource says that 354,000 DSLR units were sold in 2014 – outstripping CSCs by more than three times and maintaining their dominance of the system camera market.
Smartphone threat to system cameras ‘real’
Asked how much a threat smartphones are to the interchangeable-lens camera market, as well as to fixed-lens models, Gill told AP: ‘While interchangeable-lens cameras are also facing a threat from smartphones, the vast majority of [system camera] users are hobbyists who should continue using interchangeable-lens cameras.
‘We also expect this base of hobbyist users to grow, driven by falling prices and wider product availability.’
Richard Gregory, account director for Consumer Electronics at market research firm GfK, said that the smartphone threat to interchangeable-lens cameras is ‘real’.
He pointed out, however, that fixed-lens cameras continue to be under the greatest threat from smartphones, adding that the extent of the threat to system cameras will ‘depend on the consumer’s photographic history, needs and ability’.
Gregory added: ‘Smartphones should be introducing more people to photography but the link to then purchase a dedicated camera is unknown…’
GfK estimates that CSC sales revenue rose by £6m, to £42m in 2014, with DSLR sales dropping 16% to £176m, compared to a year earlier.
‘Premium’ compact demand soars
Overall demand for fixed-lens cameras fell 30% last year to 1.98m units, reports Futuresource.
However, those with large sensors and high zooms saw strong growth.
Demand for ‘premium’ compacts with large sensors (priced £500 and above) saw 20% volume growth from January to October, year on year, while sales of those with a 30x zoom and above soared more than 60%.
‘These two segments should continue to perform well in the coming years, driven by demand from hobbyists,’ added Gill.
He claimed that fixed-lens cameras have become ‘redundant for most casual users’ in the face of competition from smartphones.
GfK is due to publish its official 2014 camera sales figures later this month. These were not available at the time of writing.