Why Sony Could become the next Canikon in the next Few Years

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by napilopez, Jan 23, 2014.

  1. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Dec 14, 2013
    Dear readers of TalkEmount.com,

    My name is Napier Lopez. You may not know me, but I’ve been a community member of this forum’s sister site, Mu-43, for a couple of years. You’ll be seeing a lot more of me now. Amin recently contacted me looking for help expanding TalkEmount and its sister sites--Mu-43, SeriousCompacts, FujiXSpot, and LeicaPlace--with regular editorial and review content. I was eager to oblige. Starting out as a complete photography novice, I lurked around Mu-43 and its sister sites for for months, finally made an account and posted many of my very first “real” photos for critique, and have since developed my style and technique by observing the works of countless other members more experienced than me. I’m a philosophy graduate preparing for an advanced degree in physics, but photography is an equal passion of mine (some friends have called me the triple ‘ph’, although I’m most fond of philographerist), as well as my full-time source of income. That probably wouldn’t have ever happened without the warm, thoughtful, and encouraging community that is Mu-43.

    All that being said, I now hold the title of Contributing Editor, and you can expect to see posts from me on the front page at least once a week in the form of opinion pieces, gear and software reviews, and more spread across Amin’s various sites. I hope you’ll join me in helping this forum become an essential resource for all things E-mount, and in fostering the continued growth of this wonderful community.

    Note: A version of this post appeared yesterday that was much too long and haphazard, this version is abridged and more organized.

    Why Sony Could Become the Next Canon or Nikon in the a Few Years


    Although mirrorless cameras have been available for several years now, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across a DSLR user who simply hasn’t heard about them. But can I blame them? If you’re a working pro, looking for new gear is secondary to the act of shooting; not everyone has time to kill on forums and rumor sites. If you’re casual, you just want something that “takes professional pictures”. And so, if there are two things one can’t deny about Canikon DSLRs, it’s that their systems are complete and have good reputations. For as long as I can remember, before I even knew anything about photography myself, Canon and Nikon have been the brands that people refer to when talking about enthusiast or professional cameras. It’s something so ingrained, it’s hard to imagine anything else being the case.

    That said, I think the conditions are finally ripe for Sony to join their ranks.

    Sony has dared to be crazy

    See, while Canon and Nikon have been pretty much resting on their laurels, lightly improving quality and features while playing it safe, Sony likes to try new things. The past few years in particular have shown them incubating a variety of new technologies and features never before seen, along with admirable engineering prowess. Some would say they’re crazy. From the semi-translucent mirror technology, to large sensored compacts with fast lenses, to its wacky modular QX cameras, Sony almost seems to be throwing everything against the wall just to see what sticks. Even if not all of these products have been or will be successful, they’ve already been making plenty of headlines, and some products like the A7/A7r are clearly here for the long-run (but more on that later).

    Diminishing Returns

    I believe the camera market is starting a physical downsizing somewhat akin to the transition from desktop computers to laptops in the past decade or so, where desktops are analogous to the DSLR, and mirrorless cameras are like the laptops. Desktops are still very much around and have their benefits and applied usages, but for 90% of customers, laptops are as powerful as anyone but the most demanding users will ever need. Likewise, the DSLR will probably always have a few intrinsic advantages like better battery life, but its uses become more specialized. This applies to the mirrorless market in general, but as I'll describe shortly, it seems to apply to now apply to Sony the most.

    No compromise

    One flaw with the above comparison is that laptops, by necessity of size constraints, will always be less powerful than equally expensive desktops. Now that mirrorless cameras have full frame as an option (Leica notwithstanding), the transition from DSLR to mirrorless isn’t so much about compromising as it is about being *different*. The A7/A7r release instantly removed any potential image quality advantages of DSLRs as a whole over mirrorless cameras. And while their sensor size alone would be enough to make these popular cameras, Sony clearly seems to want to go all out in cementing themselves as the leaders here, as other brands will inevitably join the full frame mirrorless party. The camera bodies are priced relatively affordably, and though there aren't enough inexpensive lenses yet, there are more usefully adaptable lenses for this camera than probably any other new system’s release before it.

    Appealing to the high end

    However, the most important thing Sony is doing, in my opinion, is building a foundation to appeal to the highest end of photography. Sony has said they intend every lens they release on the system to be weather-sealed--its first two bodies already are--and 15 total new lenses have already been scheduled by 2015. They are also marketing these cameras as Alpha products rather than NEX ones (indeed, the NEX brand is gone), and rumors are that their next A-mount cameras won't have a mirror at all. This indicates from the very beginning that Sony is looking to go pro with its mirrorless bodies, and that it’s only a matter of time until they have bodies that compete with the likes of the D4 and 1DX in performance. Capturing the high end market like this matters because these are the enthusiasts and professionals who read up and learn about these products before they are even released, the ones from whom people learn from, and the ones who recommend products to their friends and family. Think of it this way: if most professional photographers switched over to mirrorless, the general public is very unlikely to stay with DSLRs. Couple this with enough money for a strong marketing campaign, and you’ve got a product with a lot of potential.

    Final thoughts

    Realistically, I don’t expect Canon and Nikon and their DSLRs to disappear anytime soon, and having a great product isn’t enough to make it become a household name; just look at Pentax. But as technology progresses, Canon and Nikon’s DSLR offerings become less and less exciting, and the strengths of mirrorless for casual users and professionals alike become more and more apparent. Of course, Canon and Nikon could offer stronger mirrorless offerings themselves, but it seems unlikely they'd be able to catch up at this point. Whatever the end result, Sony’s innovations in the camera market have at least put everyone else on guard, fostering competition that will surely have the other mirrorless competitors and even Nikon and Canon worrying about making better products. And if you ask me, that’s a good result for everyone.

    What do you think though? Will mirrorless ever be able to catch up enough with DSLRs to replace them in the public mindshare? I obviously think so, and that Sony will likely be at the head of this movement, but please sound off below!
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  2. José De Bardi

    José De Bardi Assistant in Virtue

    Aug 31, 2013
    Dorset, UK
    Real Name:
    I read it all this time ;)

    To answer the question, for me it's simple, when mirrorless AF is as fast as mirror I can't see much point in the latter anymore...

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Real Name:
    Nice thread and welcome :)

    I do believe mirrorless has a bright future due to its convinient/easy to carry around size (and as times passes, spec-wise they don't miss much from DSLRs) but I don't think it will completely vanish the DSLR market. And that's due to the fact that (unfortunately) the majority of people don't take seriously the photographer who opts to shoot with a mirrorless (small body etc). For them "Pro" is only who posseses a big bulky DSLR and in this world image is everything. Don't forget that for exactly this reason was the A3000 produced ;)

    Also, Sony has the tendancy not taking into consideration what their clients want (but that's another topic)...

    Just an observation on the last part of your post: Canon (Eos M) and Nikon (1) HAVE already produced mirrorless but they were so bad they can't even be compared with either Nex or A7/R :D
  4. BlueBill

    BlueBill TalkEmount Regular

    Jan 6, 2014
    If Sony could be bothered with pushing out firmware upgrades they'd be a force to be reckoned with.
  5. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Hi Napier,

    First of all, welcome to your new role. It's a great forum and I'm sure we're all going to enjoy your company.

    Next Canon or Nikon? Not an easy club for a camera company to join.

    Let's step back and ask some questions from the perspectives of four hypothetical photographers: An established pro, a new pro, an amateur, and an enthusiast. These don't begin to cover the whole market, but should identify some difficulties. (BTW, I think that most readers of this forum are "enthusiasts.")

    Established pro: Already has an established kit. Has weather-sealed full-frames and maybe an APS-C body or two. Has all the extra gear, strobes, wireless triggers, bags, etc. It all works together — tried and true. The workhorse lens is a weather sealed 70-200 f/2.8. If he or she needs a new body, is it going to be a Sony mirrorless?

    New pro: Has some equipment, but needs to make an investment. Just wants to work. Doesn't want experimentation. Has no desire to use adaptors. For any special assignments will borrow or rent. Wants to look like a pro. Wants an 85mm f/1.2 to wow the brides and the corporate weenies, and wants that 70-200mm f/2.8. Is he or she going to buy a Sony mirrorless?

    Amateur: Wants to get nice pictures on vacation and at birthday parties. Wants to have a camera kit that's as big as the DSLR (ASP-C) kit that the bother-in-law has. Wants a camera strap that screams "professional." Is he or she going to buy a Sony mirrorless over a Canikon starter DSLR kit?

    Enthusiast: Probably can't afford to spend like a pro — has a budget. Reads the reviews. Has a couple of legacy lenses. Wants low-light performance. Wants stabilisation. Happy to be unobtrusive. Wants a solid lens line-up. Is he or she going to buy a Sony mirrorless over a Canon, Nikon, Micro 4/3, or a Fuji?

    It's up hill — and probably requires a Sony commitment of more than a couple of years.
  6. Snowy

    Snowy TalkEmount Veteran

    Nov 18, 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    Real Name:
    Welcome Napier

    I enjoyed reading your first editorial and look forward to more to come.

    The Sony A7/A7r has certainly ruffled a few feathers. I have read some rather nasty reactions from Canikon devotees when the A7/A7r have been mentioned on some other forums. That tells me they feel threatened. I had, for me, a fair investment in Nikon gear and really liked their dSLRs, lens and accessory options. However my experience with their 1 system when I added a second hand V1 to my gear list started me questioning their thinking. Try as I might I could not get used to it and grew to dislike the V1. They do not seem to understand that segment of the market. As an enthusiast, the usability of a camera is an important consideration to me. After researching various mirrorless options I replaced the 1 with a NEX 6, which exposed me to what Sony is capable of. So when the A7 was announced I soon gave away or sold off all my Nikon gear. I can't be the only photographer who is prepared to sell off kit that is no longer required or desired. With on line sales sites it is not difficult to get back at least part of the original investment if kit is looked after.

    If nothing else Sony has done us all a favour by shaking things up, more so that the other excellent mirrorless options, such as from Fuji and Olympus, have done to date. If someone wants to carry around a large dSLR then good for them. If Canikon owners are happy with their kit, then good for them too. Competition is a good thing. Sony could well replace Nikon and/or Canon if those companies fail to react to the market.

    I think we live in interesting times.
  7. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    Welcome Napier. I think mirrorless are here to stay, but we are a niche market. I think I fit best into the enthusiast category Bill mentioned above. For years I bought a succession of ever more advanced P&S cameras. My last was a Sony H20, which has limited manual settings, and I was able to get some sort-of decent night shots with it . . . and that led me to start researching APS-C cameras. I was already familiar with Sony, and this article led me to looking closely at the NEX line: http://wildernessvagabonds.com/blog/?p=175

    The more I read about the NEX cameras, the more I was certain that was the way to go. I ended up buying a 5R, which is a great camera, and the ability to add pretty much any lens I choose was icing on the cake. I have since added a Pentax K-30 DSLR, which also has a Sony 16Mp sensor. Each camera has its own strengths, and I can choose whichever camera fits my needs for that day. The IQ is virtually indistinguishable between the two. As long as I have no equipment problems, I doubt I'll be buying another camera for a long time.

  8. HabsFan

    HabsFan TalkEmount Veteran

    Apr 10, 2013
    Ontario, CAN
    While like you said, most people equate DSLR = quality, I think that only goes so far. For example, I hired a wedding photographer when i got married. This was before I had any interchangeable lens camera. We hired his company on reputation and the quality of his work. We never asked or looked at what brand/type of camera he used. That being said, if he showed up with a point and shoot at our wedding, I may have been a little worried!

    The important thing is that consumers will buy cameras that they see the pros use. If the image quality and performance is there, A pro will use what gets the job done and you will see the trickle down effect to consumers. I see a lot of camera kits for sale locally (Canon Rebels, Nikon D3xxx) and many of the people are selling because they say its too much camera (too complicated/to big) so they never use it.

  9. WT21

    WT21 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 7, 2011
    I'm moving over to a NEX6 set-up, and I **think** the lenses should suffice, but based on my research, and many comments from NEX users, Sony has some great bodies and the best setup for legacy glass, but they need two things if they want to be serious contenders to the throne:

    1. Lenses! Sharper close to wide open, fewer quirks (like pillow distortion on the 16-70), etc.
    2. Better auto focus

    Everyone always says "the lenses are coming" but they are such a hodge-podge. Really, who needs a 30mm macro?

    Like I said, I might be fine with mine, but they need more sense and a better built out lens lineup, and better AF all around. Mirrorless will eventually supplant the majority of DSLR use, so that's just time. True hybrid AF will spank both PDAF and CDAF, so the mirror has to go. WHO supplants the DSLR kings (Canikon themselves, Sony, m43 or Fuji) is what the question is. Also, because of the quality of cell phones, the overall photo market will be smaller. So whoever wins will be king of a smaller hill.
  10. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Real Name:
    I have long affiliations with both Canon and Nikon and tried my honest best to stick with them, but Sony won me over fair & square. Unfortunately, one probably wouldn't want to forecast the future of the camera market based on the consumption patterns of quirky old me.

    I still own and enjoy a Canon EOS-M. On some levels, it is a joke when compared against my NEX-7 and A7. But the 22mm prime lens is very inexpensive, it's a pancake and it is a really great performer. I have seriously considered both of the other EF-M lenses because they are both reputedly sharp and really darn cheap. My point is that should Canon ever decide to go ahead and get into mirrorless with both feet, Sony should be very, very scared. (With a couple of quick strokes - a halfway-serious body and another fast prime - they could even win me partially back.)

    I admire Sony for their bold, adventurous approach, especially since one of these forays has finally produced the camera I've been waiting so long for (the A7). Ming Thein made a good point in his review when he hoped Sony would now "stay the course" more. Or at least give many of us nervous, short-sighted and fickle consumers the assurances we require. (And by "we" I don't necessarily mean me, since I am now pretty well set for bodies and adapted lenses for a good long while.)

    It is well worth noting how Sony's corporate ancestor Minolta pioneered but ultimately failed to dominate the autofocus revolution.
  11. WT21

    WT21 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 7, 2011
    I just sold my M, to focus me on one system, and because I need some cash right now. The DSLR is up for sale too (6D + Lenses). I wanted to try and keep the M, but I need telephoto, and shooting telephoto with just the LCD didn't work for me. The NEX6 + grip and EVF is much more stable.

    But if Canon released basically a NEX6 body (EVF, tilty LCD) then when added with the 22, kit lens and maybe one more native lens (how about a fast focusing telephoto), I think I would jump in again, because the adapted lenses worked well on the M, and there are so many cheap ones to choose from.