Why Canikon Needs To Respond To The Mirrorless Evolution, ASAP

(Images from CameraSize.com)

As we like to say in a creative visual industry, “a picture says a thousand words”.

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The Hasselblad X1D is not only visibly smaller than Nikon’s current resolution and dynamic-range champion D810, it is also a considerable 255g lighter. That’s a lot of heft and weight! Bear in mind the Hasselblad has a physically larger sensor, more resolution at 50MB+, obviously superior dynamic range and better ISO performance!

Let’s make a comparison to the Nikon D750, which is arguably the most well-rounded and well-balanced FF Nikon body available now.

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A 115g difference. Still not an encouraging comparison for Nikon.

Yes, the two market leaders – Canon and Nikon – are late reacting to the rise of the MILC. No more words are necessary – just looking at the two images above is sufficient.

Canon has already made their public response, which should be obvious to Canon observers. They just announced the EOS M5, their first “serious APS-C MILC”. The lineup of available EOS M lenses, though limited, is actually shaping up to be quite competent for the travel, street and landscape photographer. Canon’s strategy is to let sales results of the M5 and future EOS M products dictate the amount of resources they direct to their MILC line. Simply let market results decide when they should make and sell more MILC bodies and lenses. The world is shifting to MILCs, and this strategy just lets them shift toward that future at a speed determined by natural sales behaviour. As time goes by, more people start buying into the EOS M line instead of their traditional DSLR line. So more resources just naturally gets diverted to EOS M as sales numbers shift over. Eventually, the MILC becomes Canon’s “new mainstream” and a FF MILC gets released. A relatively painless strategy that finance people will happily applaud. Canon’s huge and envious market share of the photography industry is directly dependent on the popularity of the EF lens system. So it is no wonder they are reluctant to press for any change. After all, a user changing a lens system means that the user might opt to switch to a system by another camera company. Can’t let that happen!

It is still a passive strategy that is vulnerable to any major disruptive move by a competitor. However the most disruptive event in recent memory was the release of the Sony A7x series of FF MILCs. Ignoring the deceptive noise prevalent on the internet, in real life this hardly made any dent in Canon’s market share. Hence I do not believe Canon is eager to make any changes too quickly, unless something drastic enough happens to threaten their market position.

Nikon’s situation is more interesting. This is because we still have no clue of what the D750 and D810 successors will be. Their announcements have also been late. There is some hope that one of these could be an MILC. Despite Sony’s apparent domination of the FF MILC segment, there is still a great demand among photographers that Sony has not yet fulfilled. This is the demand for an FF MILC with a better grip and bigger battery. Basically something like a mini-D750. Creating such a system could be challenging though. The A7R II is just more than 200g lighter than the D750. Giving an FF MILC a bigger grip and bigger battery could well push the weight difference to only about 100g. In which case one might ask: why bother? Nevertheless, it will be interesting if either Sony or Nikon steps up to this challenge.

Note that I do not believe that Canikon will stop making DSLRs anytime soon. These are still in high demand by sports and wildlife photographers for the near-zero latency performance of an OVF, and many wedding and event photographers still insist on a DSLR because of superior battery life. Indeed, Canikon may eventually be selling both kinds of cameras simultaneously. DSLRs for those who demand near-zero latency, MILCs for everyone else. Perhaps one day the technology will improve to a point where an EVF’s latency becomes acceptable to sports photographers and a battery can last a full day. However I will not trust that to happen soon. Maybe ten years later…?

Canon has already made their strategy public without spelling it out explicitly. Now it is Nikon’s turn. Will they be late? Will Nikon’s Ushida live up to his recent promises (here and here) that the company will transform in a way that will satisfy their users? We’ll just have to wait and see. I know there are some serious enthusiasts who are just preparing to upgrade their D90 and D700 soon. If there is nothing compelling in the Nikon camp, maybe another company has something that satisfies their needs. Even if Nikon has no new product ready to ship this December, they can at least do themselves a favour by doing a pre-announcement or doing a pre-announcement tease campaign. – WY

One comment

  1. Canon may be missing the factor that drives people to use mirrorless cameras – that they are tremendous fun, incredibly responsive, and small and unobtrusive. The M5 just looks like a shrunken DSLR, and it doesn’t even have a silent electronic shutter mode. Nikon, on the other hand, seems to have learned important lessons from the Series 1 mirrorless cameras, which had unexcelled focus speed, tracking, and exposure. For this reason, I’m looking forward to seeing what the DL 24-500 can do. My V1, humble and disreputable as it supposedly is, can run rings around a D750 for holding focus on moving subjects – I know, I’ve shot stage events with both cameras simultaneously. The DL 24-500 could be a killer all-in-one for event shooters and those who are not too afraid and insecure to use these small cameras for professional assignments (like Kirk Tuck does with the Sony mirrorless FF and APS-C models). And then there is Olympus – oh my, the quality of images and the wonderful handling, from a 4/3 sensor! I think the mirrorless pioneers are redefining what small sensors can do, relative to FF and APS-C. The images I can get from my little 10 mpx V1 in good light border on sensational. The old “sensor too small” argument is rapidly dying, if it isn’t dead already. We’re living in a wonderful time when the camera industry is turning toward small, competent, and highly usable – i.e., fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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