Last week, I asked Fstoppers readers what their plans were for the inevitable moment when Canon and Nikon release professional-level full frame mirrorless cameras. I was genuinely surprised not only by how many readers responded, but where their opinions fell. Here are the results.
I shot Canon film cameras growing up, but that had no real bearing on the brand I picked up when I decided to get serious about photography. I ended up in the Canon ecosystem simply because there was a good Black Friday sale on a Rebel kit back in 2010, and so, that was the camera I bought. Once I became a good enough photographer to start appreciating the difference between the brands, I was a bit frustrated, mostly by the dynamic range of Canon sensors at the time (to their credit, they've caught up a fair amount). What kept me with Canon was their glass, which includes some of my favorite lenses out there.
I dipped my toe in the Sony waters last year when I picked up a used a7R II and adapted my Canon glass to it, as a high megapixel body with stellar dynamic range was something that appealed to me as someone who shoots portraits and landscapes. Plus, I'm just a geeky guy, and Sony cameras are fun for people who likes lots of tech in their cameras. I liked the Sony’s features and image quality (with adapted lenses) quite a bit, but there were a few small things that kept me from making it my main camera. When the a7R III came out, all those issues were solved, plus Sony doubled the frame rate, making a sort of hybrid sports/high-resolution monster, and I was sold. The Canon 1DX II remains my primary sports and action camera, but the a7R III has become my everyday camera, replacing my 5D Mark IV for events, portraits, landscapes, and most other things that don’t demand the AF performance of native glass. I’ve hesitated to make the switch with my glass just because I have a lot of it, and for many lenses, there aren’t exact equivalents. Eventually though, I’ll probably end up switching everything over as soon as Sigma and Sony fill in the last remaining gaps, unless Canon pulls the surprise of the century with their upcoming mirrorless model(s).
For the survey, I gave five possible answers to the question: "Canon and Nikon Owners: Will you buy a mirrorless camera from your brand?" Over 3,100 people responded! Here were the results:
- Yes, without a doubt. (440 votes, 13.96 percent)
- Yes, but only if they keep the same lens mount. (884 votes, 28.05 percent)
- Maybe, depends on the feature set and price. (1,053 votes, 33.41 percent)
- No, I'm staying with DSLRs. (355 votes, 11.26 percent)
- No, I plan to switch brands. (420 votes, 13.32 percent)
What They Tell Us
First, it was a bit exciting to see that only 11 percent of those who voted plan on sticking with DSLRs. I think it shows that excitement about mirrorless cameras continues to build and increasing proportions of photographers are looking to move toward using them. That's not overly surprising: with mirrorless cameras closing a lot of the gaps where they traditionally lagged behind DSLRs (and even jumping ahead in some cases) and offering features and a shooting experience an optical viewfinder simply can't, it's no wonder that the photographic community is starting to really embrace them. That's of course not to say that DSLRs will go the way of the dinosaur (at least, I don't think they will for quite some time), but I do think the mirrorless adoption rate is going to continue to increase, particularly when Canon and Nikon truly jump into the market.
While I was not surprised to see that a decently sized proportion of photographers are basing their decision on the lens mount, I think those 28 percent will be disappointed. Physics precludes Nikon or Canon from simply shortening the flange distance, and I doubt they'll just build a mirrorless camera with the same physical space between the lens mount and the sensor. What's more likely (and what rumors seem to indicate) is that introduce a new mount and create adapters of some sort. In fairness, those who think the lens mount is a dealbreaker should probably give the adapters a chance. Whereas a third-party adapter like Sigma or Metabones is at a disadvantage because it has to reverse-engineer the camera manufacturer's autofocus algorithms, a first-party adapter may be much faster and more reliable, possibly on par with native mount performance or close. Possibly. Wait to see on that.
I was also surprised that while the vast majority of people plan to invest in mirrorless in some fashion, only 14 percent plan to definitively stick with their brand. That leaves a large proportion that either plan to switch or are open to the possibility if their current brand doesn’t meet their expectations for one reason or another. Switching brands is both a tedious and expensive thing to do, and if so many photographers are willing to seriously entertain the possibility, it indicates both the collective desire to embrace mirrorless as a serious professional tool and the expectations photographers have of Canon and Nikon to deliver a competitive, professional-level product.
While Sony (and Fuji) have certainly made major inroads in market share, Canon in particular is still dominating the industry, but they do lose a bit of a competitive edge without the EF mount on a camera, losing the ability to leverage that massive lens library and the inertia that might stop photographers from switching. While what I mentioned above about potential adapter performance may hold true, there's still an issue of perception that may cause some users to at least peer over the fence at what the other brands have to offer.
Continuing in that sense, I wasn't surprised to see the greatest proportion of photographers choosing to wait to see what Canon and Nikon can come up with. I think many have a sense that we're nearing a major shift in the photography industry, and Canon and Nikon's unwillingness to enter the game until Sony gave them no choice has delayed the shift in the paradigm and created higher stakes around the moment that's finally approaching. If they fail to deliver on a level that comes close to the products Sony has been putting out at a breakneck pace, I don't think we'll suddenly see Sony wake up as the market leader the next morning, but I do think that sometime around 2022 or 2023, we might see Sony with the number one spot and look back on this as the watershed moment.