Mirrorless cameras trends in 2015 and forecasting the future

Sony A7r

Several years ago, when mirrorless cameras made their appearance, en masse, it was unclear who would buy them. Would low-end, point and shoot users move up to a better camera or would it be DSLR owners opting for a lighter system? In the beginning, most manufactures tended to play the middle but skewed towards entry-level. Turned out, they guessed wrong.

Now the successful mirrorless companies have steadily moved to the higher end. All cater to either DSLR owners scaling down or getting a second, lighter system. Let’s look at the mirrorless companies garnering the most attention, Olympus, Fujifilm and Sony.

Olympus started with the lower cost and smaller Pen cameras but they found greater success with the premium OM-D line. Starting with the E-M5 but breaking through with the E-M1, Olympus has steadily brought higher-end mirrorless cameras to market. The same goes for lenses. With the low to mid-level lenses covered, Olympus is busy filling out their Pro line, weather-sealed, constant f2.8 zooms.

Fujifilm has built a noteworthy lineup of X cameras, starting with the unexpected success of the X100. They quickly moved into interchangeable mirrorless cameras with matching premium lenses. And while they have some entry-level X-M1 and X-A1 cameras, they don’t seem to garner much press. The top end X-T1 gets all the love.

Sony started with the low to mid-level NEX 3 and 5 and moved up the ladder, over the years. While they make the highly regarded Alpha a6000 (and lower end models) it’s the full frame Alpha 7 line that attracts the attention. Along with their partnership with Zeiss, I expect Sony to fill the gaps in their lens lineup with nicer glass.

I almost consider Panasonic more of a video player these days, rather than for still photography. They too get the most attention with their top of the line GH3 and GH4 cameras. Their solid, smaller cameras never seem to gain any notable traction.

Pentax is the odd duck. Their Q system is the least expensive but has a surprisingly satisfying line of lenses. While I’m sure they will always remain a niche player, their small camera is designed for serious photographers. It’s odd. It has a compact sensor but features that are clearly aimed for the experienced. There is a passionate following that have discovered this jewel of a system, including myself.

The two big guys, Canon and Nikon appear to be lost. Clearly their mirrorless offerings where created deliberately to not compete with their DSLR line. They were hoping to cater to the point and shoot move up crowed. As we saw, this was a mistake. Canon’s EOS M was dead on arrival. The Nikon 1 system is better and has potential, but unfortunately doesn’t have the lens selection to attract the serious move down DSLR crowd. Both companies have stated that they are now taking mirrorless seriously with new models on the way. But are they truly willing to release premium cameras and risk cannibalizing their DSLR sales?

So how about the future? I expect more of the same. Olympus, Fuji and Sony will continue to build on their strengths and plug their weaknesses to take on Canon and Nikon via mirrorless. They don’t have a choice since their DSLRs never broke through the Canon and Nikon hegemony. Most of the point and shoot crowd will, if they haven’t already, move to smartphones. The few wanting to move to a better camera will opt for the large sensor compacts like the successful Sony RX100.

I’ve been predicting the slowdown of DSLRs for years but it finally appears to be happening. Perhaps that’s why Canon and Nikon are starting to take mirrorless seriously. While Canon and Nikon are the most recognized in the camera world, will their brand be strong enough to overcome their mirrorless deficits?

The others have a big head start in lens selection. And I would argue for the serious shooters — the kind that would replace their DSLRs — they need a strong selection of quality lenses. Legacy Nikon and Canon glass may work, but are you getting the benefit of a mirrorless system? No, not really. Adapting old DSLR lenses to mirrorless is just a stop-gap. The big question for the big two will be, are people willing to accept this stop-gap as a viable solution? We’ll see.


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14 thoughts on “Mirrorless cameras trends in 2015 and forecasting the future

  1. Pentax has always been a niche player, even back in the 60s and 70s when it was film. Very underrated, but good, solid cameras and high quality glass. I don’t like the way their cameras handled in the past. Maybe the new ones are better, but they were always kind of klutzy.

    I absolutely LOVE some of the Panny Lumix cameras. Those all-in-one cameras with Leica lenses are much better than I expected.

    Nice article. I may reblog it. Lots of photographers poke around my site and everyone is interested in the technology.

  2. Reblogged this on SERENDIPITY and commented:
    The technology is moving fast. I’m not always as quick to realize what’s happening as I want. Here’s an excellent roundup of the latest, greatest in my world, the mirrorless cameras. That tiny Pentax looks really appetizing.

  3. Through the years I’ve run the full gamut from D800 & D7000 Nikon DSLRs to Sony NEX-5N mirrorless. When I discovered the Fuji X-E1 I was hooked on mirrorless. I sold the two Nikons with 6 top lenses and the Sony NEX-5N with 3 lenses and now own two Fuji X-E1 bodies with 6 Fujinon X series lenses. Fuji glass is second to none. Their APS-C 16.1 MP sensor without a moire filter creates the sharpest picture I’ve ever seen. Their low light sensitivity is remarkable. The system is 1/3 the weight, size and price than the equivalent DSLR cameras. I love the rangefinder ergonomics of the X-E1 which keeps my eyes on the prize, the main subject instead of looking through a subset of menus to make critical changes to focal points, shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I loved the Sony NEX-5N but hated to work through menus between shots. I also feel the Fuji optics are superior to everyone. Each lens is faster and sharper than the competition. As an example the Nikon full frame 24-70mm F/2.8 lens weighs almost 32 ounces and requires a 77mm filter size. My 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 Fujinon weighs 11.6 ounces and is a third the size of the nikon. The Nikon is $1900 while the fuji is $639, again, 1/3 the cost. – Bob

    1. Bob, glad you like the Fuji system and it works well for you. Many of my photography friends have gone to various mirrorless system, leaving Nikon or Canon. It’s interesting to see how the big two will respond.

  4. My first serious digital camera was the Canon 50D, which served me well for several years. I eventually replaced it with the Canon 5D Mark II, along with premium glass. I loved this camera, and the results it provided, But I’m getting old, and just didn’t want to haul that heavy system around anymore. So I picked up a Sony NEX-6, my first mirrorless, and was hooked. I kept the Canon gear because I wanted to have a ‘professional’ camera around (more for my ego than my actual needs). The Sony was fun to shoot, but the menu system was frustrating, and there was a serious lack of good lenses, so I started checking what else might be available. I considered the full-frame A7 line, but then switched things up by purchasing an Olympus OM-D E-M1. I LOVE shooting with this camera! Very intuitive with lots of capabilities. I’ve filled out the lens line-up with some excellent M.Zuiko glass. The Canon has been sold, and my Sony has been relegated to a backup role. I don’t see myself ever switching back to a DSLR.

  5. I’ve put my Canon bodies and lenses up for sale. Because they sit on the shelf while I’m out there with my Olympodes. For travel, I pack my EM1 with the 12-40mm, and for walking around, I have an EPL7 with a Panny 20mm in a hip pouch. They give me all the IQ I need in a package that doesn’t weigh me down.

    I bought an Eos M, with an adaptor, but the native lenses aren’t much chop, the M itself sucks, and if I mount an EF lens on it, I’m back to having a chunky camera/

    At least with µ4/3 I have an excellent selection of native lenses, Olympus gives me that fabulous IBIS, and I have all the functionality and flexibility of a DSLR in a smaller, lighter package.

    1. I shoot with a lot of different cameras but my Olympus 4/3s are my primary cameras. The Canon M has been a disappointment. They are very behind the mirrorless competition.

  6. Thank you so very much for the information contained in this blog. I have been following the evolution of the mirrorless camera systems since their inception. Now, I am seriously attempting to make my choice of which system.

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