Bye-Bye Pentax. The death of the camera industry and cameras are like self-driving cars…

Peta Pixel just announced that Ricoh (makers of Pentax cameras) is considering getting out of the personal camera business completely… which is interesting, but what’s more interesting to me is this chart they shared in the article. We’re talking about a 50-year old growth industry that disappeared in 6 years, and it’s replacement shot well above it, peaking 12 years later and then collapsing in another 6 years!

What a roller coaster! What an opportunity! What other industries can, and will be affected so dramatically?

Other interesting observations:

  • 1/3rd as many cameras were sold in 2015 as 2011! What field do you work in? Imagine 1/3rd of your market going away.
  • Mirrorless cameras are pretty amazing. Smaller than regular digital D-SLR cameras. Similar or higher quality. More features. Lighter and less expensive. I really thought they were the way of the future, and in some ways they are. Their market share spiked in their release year, then plateaued … which is bad. But at the same time Compact Digital and D-SLR cameras market share fell so much mirrorless is at an all time high in terms of “market share” (percent of market they command).
  • Compact digital (stand-alone cameras with fixed lenses as opposed to professional cameras) are dead. Their price points are so low, and their margins are so low, everyone is going to abandon this market soon, leaving at most 1-2 companies who won’t bother updating and will just offer a couple of bare-bones models, probably at the <$100 price point.
  • Professional D-SLR cameras continue to go strong. I’m not convinced this will last. Specs are getting high enough that a camera from 3-4 years ago is still competitive. They’ve been strategically withholding some key features (GPS, built-in Wifi) which will lead to another round of replacements, but I think there’s going to be a contraction in that market too.

Again, think about how this could affect YOUR product. All of these changes happened because of the iPhone and other smartphones. I’m sure the sales of calculators are even more dismal. Flashlights have probably taken a hit. Computers obviously took a pretty big hit.

Cars are due for this type of disruption. The combination of Electric and self-driving has the potential to greatly increase the number of new cars sold and greatly decrease the number of new cars sold a few years later, once everyone moved over to the newer cars.

Imagine this (not too unbelievable) scenerio:

  • Self Driving cars are released to the mass market (maybe in 2 years, maybe in 10, who knows).
  • They’re electric and like all electric cars have a lot less moving parts. Need less fluids. Have less things that can break. Require an estimated 65% less maintenance, so they basically last 2-3 times as long.
  • In the meanwhile more and more people have solar at home and no longer have to pay for fuel.
  • Now data starts to come out about self-driving cars. No DUIs. Less accidents overall. Less speeding tickets. Pretty soon Geico offers 50% off their already-low insurance cost if you have a self-driving car without a steering wheel. So now you’re saving $1,000 a year in fuel, $500 a year in insurance. You no longer have to drive your kids to soccer practice AND you’re getting work done on the way to your meetings. Your car maintains value longer, while that old gas-guzzler your husband still drives is losing value by the second as more and more people switch to electric. In fact, your husband isn’t driving the gas guzzler any more because so many gas stations have gone out of business and the few that remain are charging an arm and a leg. He just calls the local taxi company (self-driving of course).

Sure BMW might still make a manual model or two. As will Porshe. And collectors will still have their 65 mustang conferable. But these will be status symbols and hobbies, not a real mode of transportation that people use every day.

Because of regulation this change will play out a little slower than cameras. It will take time for factories to ramp up to demand, but it’s coming. And it’s an exciting time to be in car manufacturing!