Fiscal challenges: has the recession impacted the photo industry?

Matt Bennett

We consider the effects of the economic downturn on the camera market.

Has the recent financial strife affected photography?
Has the recent financial strife affected photography?

In 1888, the first Kodak camera arrived on the scene. In February 2012, the company announced that it would cease producing cameras and focus instead on printers and photobooths in the hope of seeing an upturn in their fortunes, having filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States.

It’s hard to watch, listen to or read any news bulletin without being bombarded with doom and gloom forecasts about economic prosperity, or rather the lack of. It’s understandably tempting to assume, when we hear of problems for iconic camera manufacturers like Kodak, that the global economic downturn is to blame.

Respected photographer, writer and industry expert Thom Hogan believes that it’s more nuanced and complex than we might first think. “If the camera industry believes that sales were flat or down in the last year or two because of the recession, they aren’t looking at the right data”, he explains.

“Technically, we exited the recession before camera sales went flat. For the right products, demand remained high even during the recession. The thing I’ve been trying to point out for some time that the current doldrums were predictable, recession or no recession.”

Thom believes that market saturation plays a big factor in the sluggish growth of the industry, especially when looking at DSLRs. Like SLRs before them, DSLRs offered consumers brand-new technology, and as anyone with an interest in technology markets will know, something new and innovative will soon lead consumers to part with cash. However, once everyone has that technology, less and less of it will be sold.

Based on the sales figures of SLRs, it’s possible to predict the trajectory of their digital counterparts. Interestingly, when you do this, it becomes clear that the decline in DSLR sales arrived precisely on time. The global economic downturn, it would seem, is purely coincidental.

Have you got a view on this? Do you work in the photographic industry and have a story to tell or a different perspective? Why not join in the debate at

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