No, Nikon, Canon and Panasonic’s Mirrorless Cameras aren’t Going Anywhere
I've made a conscious effort this year to try and avoid some of the incredibly stupid things that are said about photography on the internet. It was part of my new year's resolution, and while I've tried to stay above the fray, every now and then someone comes out with something so ridiculous that it has to be called out.
Last week a certain photography vlogging duo (I’m not going to give them any credit or publicity - but many of you know who I’m talking about) made a video where they claimed that certain manufacturer’s new mirrorless mounts won't survive. This was based on questionable sales figures and some really dubious projections. Normally, I would ignore such things as it’s a pretty obvious attempt at sensationalism, but I’ve seen others make similar sentiments, and I think it bears discussion.
All of the recent new full-frame mirrorless cameras, such as the Z-mount, L-Mount and R mount, are less than a year old. They are the first generation in a new market for all of these companies. If you look at every other camera system in the market, the first generation was never a market leader or massive overnight success. Look at The first generation of Sony's A7 series cameras. In fact, it's not just cameras. Look at the iPhone and the iPad. All of these systems went on to great success but the first generation always took time to take off. To write off a whole system based on a couple of months of sales is just wrong.
I pointed out when Canon launched the Eos R that they seemed to be spending more time talking about the mount and the system rather than the actual camera, and I think that's what people are overlooking. This is a whole new ecosystem, and companies are building out that ecosystem with their initial offerings. It takes time to invest in developing and delivering lenses and other accessories that people take for granted. That's why Canon and Nikon released mid-range offerings rather than high-end ones. It allowed them to sell to early adopters while building up their portfolio of lenses and accessories.
It should also be pointed out that the best selling mirrorless camera over the last few quarters is Canon’s Eos-M. This is the format that pundits have repeatedly written off. It wasn't a massive success when it came out either, and yet now it outsells every other mirrorless camera on the market. Both Canon and Nikon have invested significant amounts of money in developing the R and Z mounts, as have Panasonic and Leica with the L-mount. No company is going to pour a massive amount of money into a long term project and then abandon it based on a few months of sales of a single early adopter release. If they are all still trailing in 5 to 10 years time, then they really are in trouble, but for now, there is nothing to worry about.
As someone who has followed and blogged about Apple for a long time, I've seen this narrative over and over. How many times has Apple been “doomed”? How many times was the iPhone written off, or the iPad or the mac? The Apple Watch was going to be a disaster until it wasn’t. They're all still going strong, as is Apple.
There is an old saying that “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”, and this video is the epitome of that. These people have just enough knowledge to sound like they know what they’re talking about, but they clearly don’t. They probably think that they do, but they really don’t. As a fan of statistics and the power of data, I am no expert either, but I can spot an amateurish misuse of statistics when I see it.
As I said at the beginning, I would normally just ignore things like this. Most people who follow the industry know that this is just sensational click bait. But the problem is that not everyone is an expert in the photography market. People come across these videos who are beginners or inexperienced and looking for advice, and this kind of misinformation is leading to a sea of confusion. It's not just in photography either, it's all over.
I recently had a conversation with someone about buying a new iMac. They were concerned that the latest generation 5k iMac wouldn't be able to edit video because of all of the YouTube videos going out of their way to find some area of the computer to criticise. Meanwhile, I've worked with post-production facilities who have been editing and delivering 4K video and cinema projects to broadcasters and theatres for years using far less powerful Macs. This just highlights how these people are sowing confusion and misinformation in their quest for views and Adsense revenue.
That's why in my opinion these things need to be called out. It's not just a harmless distraction. The growing tide of sensational nonsense is having a real-world effect. Instead of the wealth of information out there leading to better and more informed choices, it's leading to confusion and doubt and is affecting ordinary people who are just looking for advice.
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