June 16, 2021

Analysis: A Snapshot of Demand for Photography Gear

By Pattern Data Science / Amazon, Consumer Tech, Insights & Reporting

It’s hard to think of too many inventions that have had a greater impact on history than the camera. Between people snapping and posting shots from their phones, to professionals painstakingly setting up the perfect shot, countless photographs are snapped every year.

June 29th marks National Camera Day, a day when Americans are encouraged to celebrate by taking pictures and sharing them with the world, but we thought we’d celebrate by doing what we do best: diving into some data to learn more about online demand for cameras.

When is demand for cameras highest? Which types of cameras are the biggest sellers? Did COVID-19 impact online demand for cameras? Keep reading as we look to answer these questions and more.

When is online demand for cameras typically highest?

To understand online demand for cameras, we started by analyzing when people were searching for the term “camera” on Amazon every day in 2019 and 2020. We then combined total demand for each month of both of those years to see if a seasonal pattern emerged.

Demand for cameras across the past two years was definitely highest during the summer months, when people are more likely to be traveling, heading outdoors, and looking for a nice camera to capture their summer adventures.

November was the second biggest single month, even edging out December, which suggests people are slightly more likely to buy a camera to take pictures during the holidays instead of buying a camera as a last-minute holiday gift.

The sluggish demand during the spring months was surprising, and we immediately wondered if this was the result of COVID-19’s impact in 2020. So of course we had to dig deeper.

How did COVID-19 impact online demand for cameras?

Next we took a much closer look at 2020, examining when people were searching for the term “camera” for each week of the year.

Here we see clear evidence that COVID-19 had a significant impact on online demand for cameras.

Demand began to dip as early as late February, bottoming out during the week of March 15th as Americans began sheltering in place and practicing social distancing.

Demand began to recover in the springtime, but remained low even throughout the summer, only exceeding January’s levels during the height of the holiday shopping season. This suggests that COVID-19 depressed online demand for cameras throughout the year, as people were far less likely to be out traveling, adventuring, or getting together for big events and gatherings.

We can see an even clearer picture of this long-term impact when we compare monthly demand from January 2019 through April 2021:

In 2019, demand climbed steadily from March through June, then skyrocketing in July. This chart shows just how devastating last year’s slow summer was on online demand for cameras.

The good news is that it appears this year we may be on track for a return to more normal trends. Demand in 2021 has been at or above 2019’s levels for every month so far. It will be interesting to see if we see any evidence of pent-up demand as we proceed into summer and Americans start to head back out on summer adventures this year.

Which types and brands of cameras are the most popular?

The most popular camera in the world right now is easily the smartphone, but that doesn’t mean that all other cameras have become obsolete. Quite the contrary. From photo sharing apps to video and streaming platforms, quality photography equipment is still extremely popular.

So we next wanted to dive even deeper into our data by examining online demand for different types of cameras and some of the most popular camera brands.

First, let’s take a quick look at three of the major types of cameras: digital, film, and instant, starting with total combined demand from January 2019 through April this year.

As you might expect, digital cameras reign supreme, but film and instant cameras still maintain relatively strong niche demand.

Now let’s take a look at the major camera brands.

Canon was easily the most popular brand in our analysis, but at a surprisingly strong second place was Polaroid, which saw only 20% less demand than Canon.

From there we have a somewhat steeper drop to third place Sony and fourth place Nikon, who are the other two major players along with Canon in the higher-end digital camera space.

COVID-19 impacted some types and brands of cameras differently than others

Lastly, we wanted to take a closer look at these different brands and types of cameras to see if seasonal trends differed, and how COVID-19 may have impacted those individual trends.

To do this, we examined some of the major brands individually, comparing demand for each month from January 2019 through April of this year.

Let’s start with Canon, the most popular of the brands in our analysis:

In 2019, a “typical” year, demand for Canon cameras was highest during the summer and the holiday shopping seasons. As you can see, COVID-19 had a clear impact on demand in March of last year, although it appears demand for Canon cameras recovered to above-normal figures in May.

That recovery appears to have been short-lived, with Canon experiencing diminished demand through the summer. There was an unusual spike in October, but it appears to have been isolated, as demand fell again over the holidays and has been below 2019’s figures for each month so far this year.

Next up, Polaroid:

Polaroid cameras rely heavily on holiday sales, as demand in November and December doubles the monthly average during the rest of the year.

Demand was down throughout the year in 2020, starting with a modest dip in March that continued with demand staying below 2019’s figures through the rest of the year.

Things appear to be back to normal for Polaroid, though, as monthly demand in 2021 has been nearly identical to 2019.

Let’s now take a quick look at our third most popular camera brand.

Sony’s compact mirrorless cameras make them a popular mid-range travel camera, which is evidenced by its peaking demand in the summertime during a “normal” year. As you might expect, then, COVID appears to have had a major impact on demand for Sony cameras last year.

Once again, demand dipped in March and stayed below 2019’s figures for the rest of the year. 2021 has seen demand rebound slightly above last year’s, but fail to recover to 2019 so far. We’ll have to wait and see if this summer brings better news for Sony cameras.

Lastly, we wanted to highlight one type of camera that has bucked all the trends so far. Film cameras, once thought to be going the way of the dinosaur, appear to be only growing in popularity.

Not only did demand for film cameras appear to be unaffected by COVID-19, it actually increased from 2019 to 2020 in every single month of the year.

That trend only seems to be getting stronger in 2021. Demand for film cameras in April 2021 was 61% higher than in April 2020 and 90% higher than in April 2019. If 2021 follows typical seasonal trends, we should expect to see demand for film cameras only continue to climb.

While certainly still a niche product, there’s clear evidence that it’s a growing one.

A lesson for brands

Our data shows that COVID-19 had a definite impact on online demand for all types of cameras. It also showed us that the biggest time for online demand for cameras this year is still ahead of us, and we could very well see a significant rebound this summer and holiday season.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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