The last few years have seen promising camera systems (Samsung NX) and not-so-promising ones (Nikon 1) abandoned by manufacturers in the name of progress (Nikon Z) or in the name of saving face (Samsung). With the race towards more powerful mirrorless models, inevitably, more will be cast aside.
Which ones will those be? The year is still young, but I’m casting my bets early. Here are the systems that I think are on life support here in early 2019.
Well, not all of Canon is going to go, just its M series of APS-C sensor cameras. The original EOS M was a disastrous entry for the company into mirrorless, with its dimwitted autofocus and lack of control points. The company was so worried about eating into sales of its DSLRs that they didn’t even bother to release the M2 in the U.S. The M3 signaled Canon USA’s rejoining of the party, but even then, it was a half-hearted effort, using the company’s hybrid phase/contrast autofocus system when it already had the tech for faster mirrorless autofocus with the 70D’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Since then, cameras such as the M5 and M50 have been solid efforts, but they were launched in a time (now) when a camera has to be much more than solid (and include usable 4K video) to survive.
With the EOS M system, it’s like Canon never really took the gloves off. They certainly did (more or less) with the EOS R system, their full-frame entry into the market. But now that they have the EOS R system, it seems like they’ve all but forgotten about the EF-M mount and the M cameras, and there’s no compatibility between the two mounts.
Between recent fire sales and a large amount of layoffs from Canon’s camera division, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough firepower to keep three full lineups of cameras going from a marketing and sales standpoint. The natural first choice to go would be the M series of cameras. Now might be a good time to unload all of that EF-M glass you’ve been sitting on.
Yes, in this case, I mean all of Pentax is going to die. I can count on one hand and have fingers to spare all the times I’ve seen a Pentax in the wild. It’s a shame really, because I’ve had the occasion to use a K-1, and it’s quite a decent full-frame camera, but the company itself has never seemed to be able to reach any sort of saturation in the marketplace that Canon, Nikon, and Sony have. The bigger issue the company is facing is a lack of any sort of real mirrorless camera waiting in the wings. The Q, Pentax’s previous entry into the market, with its less than 1” sensor, wasn’t a serious entry into that market and seems to have been quietly discontinued.
While Pentax does have very high-margin specialty cameras like the medium format 645Z in its portfolio, without a serious APS-C or full-frame mirrorless camera on tap, there’s nothing to entice new users or compel the relatively few existing users to stay. It’s likely only a matter of time before parent company Ricoh gives up on the DSLR endeavors entirely.
Olympus is doubling down on its Micro Four Thirds mirrorless system with the OM-D E-M1X, a professional-grade camera built around its slightly smaller than APS-C sensor. It’s a bold move, but pricing seems to be completely out of whack with capability, and at the end of the day, the company is always going to be at a disadvantage because of the smaller sensor size. This doesn’t bode well for the system as a whole.
If Panasonic stayed the course with Olympus, I’d give them a better shot. Panasonic’s sensor tech and lenses are pretty solid offerings. However, Panasonic seems to have strayed and thrown in with Sigma and Leica to form the L-mount alliance.
Olympus may have had a more open standard in mind with Micro Four Thirds, but it seems that what Panasonic really wanted was an open relationship, and it’s one that’s now firmly tilting in the direction of the full-frame L-mount and away from Micro Four Thirds with the launch of the S1 and S1R.
With Olympus being the only strong cheerleader for the Micro Four Thirds format, they are facing a tough uphill battle for the system. It’s something that pains me to say, since I’ve been beating the Olympus drum for a while now. It’s a great system, but it’s one that I’m worried won’t survive, especially now that Olympus seems to be straying from its core strengths of small size and reasonable prices.
Who Do You Think Is Next?
These are just some of the manufacturers that seem to have a tough road ahead. Are there others that you can think of? Are there ways forward for the systems listed above?