Is Canon heralding a bid for dominance of the mirrorless system camera market?
If there is one thing that emerged from the recent CP+ photography trade show in Japan it was confirmation that mirrorless cameras will finally take over from DSLRs. Canon bosses are reportedly targeting domination of the mirrorless system camera sector after years of fairly innocuous involvement at the fringes. An interview by the DPReview mega site with Sony’s camera division General Manager, Kenji Tanaka, appeared to confirm Canon’s intentions and more.
Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic Lumix, currently own the mirrorless system camera market. Nikon and Canon have, instead, tinkered with mirrorless cameras, carefully avoiding unnecessary competition with their established domination of the DSLR sphere.
Tough times for all system cameras
However, system camera sales across the board, including mirrorless, but especially DSLRs, are facing tough competition from the ubiquity and improving quality and usability of cameras in smartphones. But it seems mirrorless is now recognised as the more profitable and sustainable avenue for the future of system cameras.
Sony’s Tanaka not only expects Canon to invest heavily in mirrorless, especially full frame, but Nikon, too. While they can technically claim to have been a reasonably early participant in the mirrorless revolution, Nikon went for a small 1 inch sensor format for its Nikon 1 system. Sales never really took off and there hasn’t been much in the way of new Nikon 1 releases for some time. Canon has been very conservative with its EOS-M mirrorless system, though its more recent models like the EOS-M5 and M50 show a rapid expansion in Canon’s ambitions, albeit still only in the consumer sector.
Professionals will be key
Despite the arrival of some increasingly impressive professional specification mirrorless cameras, DSLRs are still the mainstay of most high visibility press, sports and wildlife photographers. Nikon and Canon DSLR shooters value not only the excellence of their gear but also the extensive and vital professional support provided by the two big marques.
But there is no getting away from the facts. DSLRs and their lenses are relatively big, heavy, and now no longer as dominant in image quality and performance in other technical areas like autofocus and shooting speed. DSLRs are also mechanically more delicate and complicated to manufacture. A lot of specialist professionals have switched away from Nikon in order to lighten their camera bags.
Meanwhile, features like video, image stabilisation and new trick functionalities are giving mirrorless cameras key advantages and genuine appeal for professionals. Nikon and Canon are going to be duty-bound to provide professional grade mirrorless cameras for their legions of professional photographers. This will finally endow the mirrorless sector with the professional legitimacy it has sought to achieve for so long.
Panasonic Lumix invented the modern mirrorless phenomenon ten years ago when it launched the Micro Four Thirds system via the Lumix G1. It’s taken a long time, much longer than mirrorless fans predicted, but there are now clear signs that the dominance of the SLR era really is about to end.