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Camera sales are falling, but study suggests action cams are gaining ground

Nikon may have taken many by surprise when it ventured into the action camcorder category with the announcement of the KeyMission 360, but the camera maker may just be following consumers’ lead. A report from Tractica, a market intelligence firm, suggests that sales of wearable cameras will more than triple in the next five years.

The study, released this week, estimates that shipments for wearable cameras, which include everything from action cameras to body cameras, will increase from last year’s 7.4 million to 24 million by 2021. Tractica estimates that the market will be worth about $3.4 billion by the end of that period.

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The report is surprising in that industry observers believe the action cam market has reached over-saturation. Market leader GoPro has seen a downturn partly because of this, but the analysis from Tractica suggests that a rise in the quality of competitors’ products, which are often offered at lower prices, is largely to blame, not a decline in the demand for action cameras as a whole.

While the overall wearable cameras business is expected to grow, action cameras as well as police body cameras will carry a majority of that weight. Technology like 360-degree imaging, found in Nikon’s KeyMission (which has yet to hit shelves) and other manufacturers (Ricoh, LG, Samsung, etc.), will also expand the action camera’s use, which should in turn expand consumer interest (i.e., growth). Consumer lifelogging cameras, however, aren’t expected to gain traction.

“Wearable cameras have gained acceptance in places where there is a clear and well-defined use case, like in the case of sports or public safety,” said Aditya Kaul, research director at Tractica. “However, in the case of consumer lifelogging where there is a continuous capture of a person’s day, wearable cameras have found it difficult to gain traction. Along the same lines, wearable camera usage in industrial, enterprise, and healthcare applications remains limited.”

Stepping back from a single category, camera sales overall have largely been seeing a downfall. The Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) is reporting disappointing numbers for overall camera sales again this year (not counting smartphones). While some months in 2016 show an increase in interchangeable lens cameras, fixed lens camera sales as a whole this year have been at between 41 to 72 percent of last year’s numbers, depending on the month. The organization doesn’t have a category for wearable cameras, however, which are largely viewed as camcorders rather than still cameras.