Once again, these views are entirely my own and this piece is aimed to provoke discussion, so you are quite welcome to disagree with me if you wish.
Way back in 2018, I wrote a couple blogs about the progress of the Mirrorless camera and how it had finally reached the “Tipping point” of viability and was likely to supersede the DSLR over time.
Well it looks like not only was my prediction correct, but as things have turned out, we may be about to witness the demise of the DSLR as a product altogether!
Camera sales have slumped by an astonishing 87% since reaching a peak of 121 million units in 2010, to as few as 10 million in 2019 and that’s likely to drop to around in 5 million in 2020 thanks in part to Covid -19. The advance of the smartphone has well and truly wiped out the need for a camera in many people’s eyes. The chances of the average person wanting to buy a compact camera, or even an entry level DSLR now are almost nil. So that just leaves us photographers and camera enthusiasts wanting to buy a camera
But where does that leave the camera manufacturers? Financially up the creek without a paddle is my guess! All the development costs are still there, but the economies of scale have gone out of the window. A few years ago, Canon had 40% of the market, Nikon 39%, Sony 10% and the rest were left to fight over the scraps. Now we see Canon still at 40%, but Nikon have slumped to 20%, whilst Sony, Fuji and Olympus have gained market share. It’s been common knowledge that Nikon have been struggling financially for a while, so the current market must leave them in a very difficult position. Fortunately thanks to their corporate owners, they are very unlikely to go under.
With Sony, Olympus and Fuji now firmly established in the mirrorless market, that leaves Canon and Nikon playing development catch up in a time when cash and returns are in short supply. Nikon seems to be banking on the mirrorless DX camera sales for volume, so they urgently need a Z70 and several more lenses in order to compete. To my mind, Canon’s range seems even more confused with the M6 range, which is a perfectly good camera, but seems out of step with the needs of the market.
Trying to run ranges of DX and FX DSLR’s whilst developing both DX and FX mirrorless cameras just doesn’t make financial sense, so in my opinion, both companies need to rationalise their ranges pretty quickly. The current DSLR’s are competing for sales against the mirrorless equivalents, so far better to have a cull of most of the DSLR’s and concentrate on expanding their mirrorless ranges. But both Canon and Nikon have some way to go before they have a viable range of cameras to fight against Sony, Olympus and Fuji.
What market is there left for the manufactures then? The smart phone offers all the average person needs and more, so they won’t be buying any more cameras, so that just leaves enthusiasts and professionals. As things stand ,the way I see it for Nikon (Whose range I’m most familiar with) is, the Z50 is too expensive at £900, so they need to bring out a Z70 at under £1000 and reduce the Z50 price to around £700, and expand their Z range of lens asap. Once these cameras and lenses are in place, cull all the DSLR’s apart from the D850 and D6. Cameras are so advanced now, many people are close to the “last Camera” purchase, so the only way to shift cameras is to come up with a spec that has potential buyers salivating. So bring out a D860 with a 60mp sensor and packed with all the tech they can muster, like pixel shift and more advanced focus stacking. Then concentrate entirely on mirrorless. DX for the enthusiast and FX for the pros, and high-end enthusiasts. As for Canon, who knows which way they will go in 2021, but it’s going to interesting to see.
When I first started writing this piece, I imagined I’d be saying “ you’d have a choice between a DSLR and mirrorless camera for some time yet”, but as things are panning out, I suspect that the financial situation will dictate that the DSLR will disappear very rapidly throughout 2021.