Mirrorless had a big year in 2018, with many full frame entrants (4, or 10% of all cameras introduced), plus some good energy on either side of that size from Fujifilm. Lenses came in droves for mirrorless this year. I count 27 significant mirrorless-only lenses introduced this year (plus things like the Sigma Art series in FE mount adds quite a few more). 2019 is likely to be more of the same: lots of new lenses now that Canon and Nikon have to get their mirrorless foundries up-to-speed to match Sony.
Clearly, all the camera makers—other than Pentax, who’s still wandering around in the woods somewhere seeing if trees make noises when they fall—are going to be executing significantly in the mirrorless realm in the future. We’re now clearly into the DSLR-to-mirrorless transition period. How long that transition will take depends upon how fast the camera makers move.
My predictions are:
The whole camera market is moving up-market — just like the iPhone X line. We’ll see more capable, but expensive mirrorless camera bodies and better quality lenses. We’ll pay more but we’ll get a better product.
The low-end consumer cameras are dead. Advancement in smartphone cameras with AI will put a nail in that coffin. The market will refocus on the advanced amateur — amateur is defined as one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession — and professional market.
We have cheap bicycles for people who like to ride on cool spring/autumn days and we have more expensive (and capable) bicycles for cycling enthusiasts who ride 50–60km (one way) on the weekend (just because they can).
Now I know that this is just me voicing lessons learned over a long career in Silicon Valley versus a whole building in Tokyo full of accountants, analysts, and Japanese CES-trained staffers. Yet I’m pretty sure I’m right and they’re wrong. They’ll argue that they’re “optimizing the net ROI across a product line.” I’ll argue that you have to be careful what you measure if you measure narrowly because that’s what you’ll achieve. When everything becomes an ROI cost decision, you’re also making an assumption the public won’t notice and it won’t affect anything else in the buying cycle. I’m telling you—and I’m 100% confident in this assessment—that public perception has turned against Nikon. Thus, each new cost reduction or missing product update becomes a negative on overall ROI as people don’t update or worse, sample or move to other brands.
Nikon is doing the opposite of what I learned to do. First, generate the excitement and volume. Then make sure you can drive costs out to produce the profits. Nikon is currently in a “first cut costs out of everything and then see what product you can still make” mode.
I feel the same way. I upgraded from my D40 to a D5100 without much thought. But it’s been six months since my D5100 broke and I have yet to replace it.
Over the last few years much as changed in the interchangeable lens camera market. The so-called “mirrorless” cameras have become quite capable and in many areas are surpassing the best DSLRs. I’ve rented and tried many of these cameras.
My indecision is because I am not sure buying a new Nikon — I considered the D500 — is the right choice. I am more informed about the capabilities of other camera brands than I was before previous buying decision. Perhaps I should look elsewhere.
What to expect from Nikon in the short term
Nikon needed a DX mirrorless entry a year ago. They could have launched with only a couple of lenses and a lens roadmap and done just fine. Now they’re racing from behind. Far behind.
Nikon needed an FX mirrorless entry this buying season. One that deals with the D6xx/Df crowd and could hold serve against any upcoming Sony A7 Mark III. That, too, could have launched with a couple of lenses and a lens roadmap and done just fine.
So we’re about to see if Nikon has a miracle accelerator in their arsenal. Don’t laugh. Put a Tesla in Ludicrous mode and it will smoke any Detroit entrant so bad you might have time to walk out on the course to see if the gas eater is still coming. Technology can change the game.
If he’s correct, perhaps it’s a good thing my Nikon broke.