This time last year countries all over the world were shutting down retail and hospitality sectors as the spread of Covid-19 swept across the globe. Since then there has been huge economic turmoil with numerous businesses going bust or struggling to stay afloat. As citizens were implored to stay safe indoors and work from home, only venturing out when essential, it is not surprising that the photographic retail industry took a knock. According to data compiled by the Japanese camera retailer BCN+R, the sale of cameras plummeted in the first half of the year, with sales shrinking by more than 40%. At the first peak of the pandemic, sales plummeted as far as 70%. A reassuring caveat, however, shows the plummet in sales directly corresponds with government restrictions and the spread of infection.
In October, the Camera and Imaging Products Association released a report showing that international camera sales began to stabilise as restrictions were lifted, with an upward trend noticed in September and continuing to rise in October. The CIPA released further data in November, showing that sales had returned to a pre-pandemic pattern, but the overall trend towards camera purchases was down for another year on the run. Unsurprisingly, 2020 was a big year for webcams with BCN+R reporting an increase in sales by more than 359%.
You would be forgiven, however, for thinking that the effect of the pandemic would mean an acceleration in the demise of SLR camera sales, particularly as consumers opt more and more for digital technology. Instead, according to American camera resale company KEH, 2020 was a ‘banner year’ for the sale of second-hand cameras such as the Sony Alpha a6000, which topped their list of the top 10 best-selling digital cameras in 2020.
But it wasn’t just used DSLRs that performed well, KEH noted a strong sales period for analogue cameras. The company compiled a list of the best-selling analogue cameras in 2020 and topping the list for another year was the Canon AE-1. The classic 35mm camera was manufactured through the late 1970s and early 1980s, but continues to be the chosen film camera for photographers, old and new, with West Yorkshire Cameras titling the model a “cult classic in the crowded SLR market”. According to a CNBC report in 2018, Apple Sound Engineer Jim Reeks claimed it was the sound of the Canon AE-1’s shutter that was recorded and used as the camera click sound on Apple’s computers and iPhones.
Despite Canon’s top spot, it is actually the Leica film Rangefinders that are the company’s ‘fastest-selling’ items, claiming “if we could get enough of them in, they’d certainly make a run for our top ten.” KEH also compiled data on the best selling large format camera and M-mounts, all of which you can read about here.