BCN, a company that tracks actual camera sales in Japan (i.e. covers about 40% of the customer purchases in Japan), has released its preliminary 2012 numbers (through the Christmas selling season). One reason I pay some attention to these numbers is that this is what the camera companies see in their own home market: it's the view they see outside their office windows, and thus has to influence somewhat how they think about the camera market.
Mirrorless cameras continue to be almost half the market for interchangeable lens cameras in Japan, with DSLRs taking the other half. You'll likely be surprised to find that the top ten list of mirrorless cameras sold in Japan doesn't quite match what you might be considering purchasing: it's all entry to mid-level cameras. Indeed, the Nikon J1 managed to retain the top spot in Japan even after Nikon stopped promoting it heavily. Other cameras in that annual top ten list: E-PL2, E-PL3, E-PM1, GF3, GF5, NEX-C3, and NEX-5N. The Pentax Q also sneaks in.
Note that those cameras all have a few commonalities: entry level, often discounted previous models, and small. There are only three 16mp cameras in the top 10 list ;~). That puts a bit of a tarnish on the Japan mirrorless market shares: Olympus 29.8%, Panasonic 23.6%, Sony 20%, Nikon 14.3%, and Canon 2.1%. (Remember, these are numbers for the year, so Canon's late entry reflects that).
Here's the crux: the average selling price of an interchangeable lens camera in Japan was 66000 yen. If we use a rough average for yen/dollar for the year, that's US$800+. Most of the mirrorless sales in Japan were in the US$500 to US$800 range. Note that Japanese prices tend to be higher than US prices and Japan is in a recession. Here in the US, those same top ten mirrorless cameras in Japan didn't even hit 10% of US sales, and the average selling price for them was lower (I think; I don't have full 2012 US sales numbers yet).
Overall interchangeable lens camera sales (mirrorless and DSLR) in Japan put Canon at 28.6%, Nikon at 25%, Olympus at 14.3%, Sony at 13.3%, and Panasonic at 11.3%. One interesting thing to note: take the low-end (Kiss/D3100-D5100) DSLRs out and look only at the mid-to-high level DSLR sales, and the Canon dominance in DSLRs in Japan increases. Remember, the BCN rankings are essentially establishing the bragging rights for the home teams.
The CIPA numbers still only go through October, but I wouldn't expect any wild swings in the November and December numbers. Let's look at how those stack up compared to the Japan BCN numbers:
- DSLR shipments Japan: 814k (6%)
- DSLR shipments outside Japan: 12.9m (94%)
- Mirrorless shipments Japan: 582k (19.1%)
- Mirrorless shipments outside Japan: 2.46m (80.9%)
CIPA numbers say that only 42% of the interchangeable lens cameras shipped to Japan this year were mirrorless, which is lower than the BCN sales number. Why? Because so many of those cameras that sold at retail were last year's models.