Relentless Mirrorless Advances

The Independent, Under Construction - Austin, Texas

The Just Announced Sony A9

Sony just announced their newest mirrorless camera, their top of the line A9. It appears to be aimed towards the professional sports market, challenging Canon and Nikon’s last strong hold in the DSLR market. We’ll see in the coming months, if Sony’s latest foray actually succeeds on a technical level. Can this newest mirrorless best DSLRs in continuous tracking?

It’s not the camera itself that interests me, however. Rather, it’s the trajectory. The relentless pace of mirrorless advances continues, as I expected. A week ago, I posted “Why DSLRs will Ultimately Lose”, where I explain why mirrorless will dominate DSLRs. It’s worth a read and explains why I’m not surprised by Sony’s latest move.

Fast action sports is the last bastion of DSLR superiority and I’m confident that this too will be overtaken. If not by the Sony A9, then by some future incarnation from Sony or from some other mirrorless player. What makes Sony potent, however, is their deep pockets and their own sensor technology, which they reserve the best for themselves. Nikon and others need to wait in line, after Sony, for their sensors. Canon makes their own, but in recent years, their sensors seem to have fallen behind.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean DSLRs will disappear. They will continue in the market, but will no longer be the top of the heap. 60 years ago, rangefinder cameras dominated and were ultimately displaced by SLRs. Now Leica, a high-end luxury camera company, is the only one making rangefinders. They are popular, and have a strong cult following, but are decidedly niche. Hard to say if DSLRs will meet the same fate. But, I doubt the market can support 4 DSLR manufacturers — Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony (yes, Sony still has a small DSLR line — which they call SLTs).

Sony can probably drop their SLT cameras without much marketshare consequences. I wonder about Ricoh/Pentax’s survival in the camera market. Can their devoted followers be enough to sustain the company? Canon will survive. They are so diversified that they will probably have camera models in every segment. I suspect that they will continue to up their mirrorless game, which they’ve already started, with the EOS M5. Nikon is the biggest mystery and potentially in the riskiest position.

Expect to see more mirrorless assaults in the near future, with increasing frequency and with more devastating technology. What will the DSLR companies do? It will be interesting to watch.

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