Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

News and commentary about the mirrorless camera world (latest on top). Click on News/Views in the gray menu bar above to see the full list of recent articles and folders containing older ones.

Zeiss Touit Lenses on Sale

(news & commentary)

I don’t usually comment on pricing adjustments, as they come and go too frequently to keep up with and the point of this (and my other) Web site(s) is not to steer you towards today’s greatest bargains, but rather to point out what’s truly new and useful in the digital camera world. 

That said, Zeiss appears to have an overstock of Touit 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 lenses for the Fujifilm XF and Sony E mounts, and right now there are discounts of almost 30% applying to those lenses. The 12mm is now going for US$699 and the 32mm for US$499. Both are fine lenses and good bargains at these prices. Both Fujifilm and Sony mirrorless users have a limited choice of lenses still for their mounts, so having excellent lenses like these available at reasonable prices is worth noting. 

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Samsung Announces NX500 Camera

(news & commentary)

bythom 88

Samsung took most of the internals—sensor, processor, etc.—from their flagship NX-1 camera and stuck it in their rangefinder style body and created the NX500. You lose the DSLR-style body, the EVF, and a few of the external controls, but essentially you have the NX-1 performance, including 4K video, in a manageably small soap-bar type body. As the above shot demonstrates, the NX500 is even capable of cashing in on the selfie craze. 

A 28mp APS sensor (BSI) in such a compact body basically pushes us yet further into the smaller unit, more pixels rush that the camera makers seem to be engaging in at the moment. The phase detect autofocus system and the 4K video capabilities (using H.265 compression) are also leading-edge specifications. And unlike some cameras, Samsung has opted for 802.11ac for the WiFi, basically giving us top speeds there, too. All in all, a lot of power packed into a small package, which, with the 16-50mm kit lens depicted here, runs all of US$799. The body is available in brown, black, or white.

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Sony Officially Launches FE Lenses

(news & commentary)

bythom sony 90mm

Sony today officially launched the lenses shown in prototype form recently at CP+ and long ago talked about in their lens road map: 28mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss, 90mm f/2.8 macro, and the superzoom 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3. The 28mm also supports a wide(r) angle and fisheye converter. This brings Sony’s FE lineup to 11 lenses that cover the 16-240mm focal range in various forms. 

The three primes are all good additions to the lineup. The 28mm f/2 finally gives the FE mount a native prime wider than 35mm, and a flexible one, at that, given the two adapters. Don’t expect a lot out of the adapters, though. Early results I’ve seen say they’re weak in the corners. The price is reasonable for this lens, though personally I’d really want a 24mm f/2 before a 28mm f/2. Sony’s options are all tending to “group up” in the FE lineup. We have three lenses (two zooms) at 28mm, two additional prime lenses at 35mm. The only way to get to 24mm at the moment is via a zoom (three options).

At the other end of the prime lineup, the 90mm f2/.8 macro is a very welcome addition, finally giving us a very nice true close up lens. Caution: it’s big and heavy compared to the other primes. That’s one of the drawbacks to the A7 model line: while the cameras are smaller and lighter than equivalent DSLRs, quite a few lenses are going to end up just as big as equivalent DSLR lenses, canceling out some of the benefits of the smaller camera. To Sony’s credit, they’re emphasizing more modest designs (e.g. f/4 zooms) that mitigate this a bit, plus they’re using constructions that keep lenses a bit lighter than the all-metal approach that used to be used in SLR/DSLR lenses. Still, the 90mm f/2.8 is a largish lens, and I’ve seen DSLR lenses in that focal range that are smaller (e.g. Tamron 90mm). 

The 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom is the ubiquitous convenience zoom the camera makers seem to think is necessary for any camera. I’m sure I’ll see people using this on the A7r, but I have to ask “why”? Even the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 shows some compromises when used on the A7r—it’s a very good lens, but not everything we’d want on the high megapixel sensor cameras—so I expect this new lens to show even more. Still, it’s another option for FE users, and that’s a good thing.

To see all the Sony FE lenses in one place, click on this link. Prices and availability of the lenses are as follows:

  • 28mm f/2 — US$450, May 2nd
  • 35mm f/1.4 — US$1600, April 12th
  • 90mm f/2.8 — US$1100, July 5th
  • 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 — US$1000, March 15th 

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Understanding Numbers, Japan Edition

(commentary)

Each year, BCN in Japan reports year-end market shares for various categories of computer, consumer electronics, and camera retail sales in Japan. Generally, the mirrorless camera component of BCN’s yearly pronouncement has been interpreted this way: “Sony gains market share, Olympus loses market share.” Yes, that’s true:

  • 2014: Sony 34.3%, Olympus 22.3%
  • 2013: Olympus 28.9%, Sony 26.5%

So you might say that Sony picked up about 8 points of market share and Olympus lost about 6 points. Single digit numbers. Not terribly big numbers. Obviously, not good for Olympus and good for Sony, but this doesn’t look like big news, it just looks like a modest shift.

However, it’s important to look at more than one isolated set of data. Let’s look at just two data points, 2012 and 2014, and with two sets of numbers, BCN’s retail sales and CIPA’s shipments to the Japanese market. While it’s not a perfectly aligned set of data, we’re going to multiply the BCN observed market share each year with the CIPA actual shipments of mirrorless cameras into Japan to come up with approximately how many cameras were actually sold: 

  • 2012: Olympus 244k units, Sony 162k units
  • 2014: Olympus 159k units, Sony 246k units

Uh oh. That shows a very different picture than just a single digit gain or slide of market share, doesn’t it? In just two years, Olympus and Sony have completely reversed positions in Japan in terms of mirrorless camera sales. And remember, Japan is one of the strongest markets for mirrorless cameras, so a big reversal like this is meaningful.

Adding in Panasonic to make this a m4/3 mount versus E/FE mount comparison gives us this:

  • 2012: m4/3 434k units, E/FE 162k units
  • 2014: m4/3 248k units, E/FE 246k units

This actually makes things look worse. In 2012 m4/3 was trouncing the E mount 2.7 to 1. Two years later, the mounts are in near parity.  

Meanwhile, a lot of folk keep saying that Japan is an indication that the DSLR companies are in trouble. Well, maybe not as much as you think. In Japan—and again, this is the market with one of the highest mirrorless camera penetrations so far—the CIPA numbers say 1.1m DSLRs shipped into Japan in 2014, while only 725k mirrorless were. That’s 60% DSLRs, 40% mirrorless. But BCN’s numbers show that Canon has a 54.7% market share and Nikon a 39.1% market share in DSLRs. So let’s put the full set of calculated unit shipment numbers for Japan in context:

Updated: market shares in earlier version were calculated incorrectly; I’ve also added Fujifilm and Ricoh/Pentax to the numbers:

  • Canon*: 670k ILC units sold in Japan in 2014, 37% overall ILC market share
  • Nikon*: 460k ILC units, 25% ILC market share
  • Sony*: 265k ILC units, 14.5% ILC market share
  • Olympus: 159k ILC units, 8.7% ILC market share
  • Pentax*: 106k ILC units, 5.7% ILC market share
  • Panasonic: 89k ILC units, 4.9% ILC market share
  • Fujifilm: 76k ILC units, 4.1% ILC market share 

    *Includes both mirrorless and DSLR shipments

Certainly Canon and Nikon aren’t as dominant in Japan as they are in, say, the US, but they’re still pretty clearly the #1 and #2 players, even in one of the most mirrorless-centric markets out there, and they still hold half the interchangeable lens camera market in Japan. Canon’s recent EOS M3 release in Japan, with its aggressive pricing, looks like a salvo across Sony’s bow and an attempt to grow market share again in the home market. In a year, we’ll know how that played out ;~).   

2015 News/Views


2014 News/Views 2


2013 News/Views

The news and views for 2013 by month from sansmirror.com:


2012 News/Views

The monthly news and views for 2012 from sansmirror.com:

2011 News/Views

Sansmirror was started in October 2011 as a spin-out of bythom.com. Here are the 31 News/Views stories from the original three-month period:

Claims to Remember

From time to time, the Japanese companies, those following them, the press, noted photographers, and a few prominent fan boys make claims about future sales or prospects. I like Jon Gruber's way of dealing with this, which he calls Claim Chowder. So I'm going to begin tracking statements that are made and see how they fare against reality.

  • Olympus Draft Plan May 2012. Claim: 30% increase in sales by March 2017 (1.1 trillion yen). Comment: 30% in five years is less than 6% increase a year. 
  • Pro photographer Trey Ratcliff in Twit Photo Episode 54. Claim "I don't see myself using a giant D800 camera in three to four years [2015 to 2016]." 
  • IDC April 2012. Claims: "DSLRs will increase to 16.76m units sold in 2012." "Mirrorless cameras will increase to 6.43m units sold in 2012." Busted: shipments from manufacturers only hit 3.96m in 2012 for mirrorless (DSLRs came close at 16.2m). 
  • Olympus June 2012 Management Plan. Claims: 149b yen (FY end 2013), 160b yen (FY end 2014), 170b yen (FY end 2015). 180% increase mirrorless unit volume by 2017. 70% increase high-end compact unit volume by 2017. Unit volume of 7.5m total in 2017. "Strive to achieve profitability in FY end 2013." Last part busted! Didn't achieve profitability in FY just ended. Double busted! Didn’t meet FY2014 claims. 
  • Panasonic "Mirrorless Trend" in G5 announcement. 2010=1.4m units, 2011=3.1m units, 2012=6m estimated units, 2013=8.4m estimated units, 2014=10.6m units, 2015=12.2m units and mirrorless overtakes DSLR sales. Busted! Actual number for 2012 was 3.96m units, new estimate for 2013 is 4.9m units.
  • CIPA mirrorless estimate for 2013: 4.9m units.Busted! Actual units were 3.3m. 
  • Canon Re-Forecast of Sales at EOS M announcement: 21m instead of 22m of compact cameras, but still 9.2m interchangeable lens cameras for 2012. 
  • Canon interview in DC Watch: goal to reach 15% of mirrorless market share in Japan by October 2012. (Given the release date of the camera, that actually translates into "we expect an instant 15% market share") Busted! The preliminary number for 2012 in Japan turned out to be 2.1% market share for the EOS M. 
  • Impress Digital Camera magazine prediction for 2013: 75% chance of a Nikon V3. Only a few months off.
  • "I have no hesitation, in my mind and in my business direction, that in the future—whether it’s three years or five years out—that there will be three dominant imaging companies on a global basis and it will be Canon, Nikon, and Pentax/Ricoh." Pentax Executive Vice President Jim Malcolm, in interview with digitalcamerainfo.com.
  • Canon 2012 Annual Report: "The market for interchangeable lens digital cameras is expected to grow around 10% annually for the foreseeable future." Busted. Canon now saying interchangeable lens forecasts are down significantly.
  • 24/7 Wall Street (Yahoo Finance): Olympus will get out of cameras by the end of 2014. Busted. Didn’t happen.
  • Olympus Ogawa-san to Nikkei.com June 2013: "This fiscal year Olympus aims to boost mirrorless-camera sales by 20% to 730,000 units. The break-even point is sales of 1 million units, and...the goal is to reach that level in the year to March 2015 and restore the company to the black." Busted. new forecast only four months later: 660,000 units, and they will have to increase sales significantly in 2H because they only sold 250,000 in the first half of the year. Last year's sales were 590,000 units, so if Olympus hits their new forecast number, they'd have grown their mirrorless sales by 12%, not the 20% Ogawa-san claimed. Double busted! Final year results were 510,000 units [source Credit Suisse], down from last year. 
  • Nikon Makoto Kimura talking to Bloomberg 7/8/2013: compact market shrinks 12% in 2013, interchangeable gains 8% in 2013. Busted. Compacts down 41%, DSLRs down 15%, mirrorless down 16.5%.
  • Sasa-san at Olympus conference call Q2/2013: Pen series generates steady 200k units per half year (400k year). E-M1 expected to sell 100k units in second half of year. 6051 employees in Imaging. Haven't considered selling the camera business (actual quote "no approaches have been made.").
  • Sasa-san in Bloomberg article in December 2013: 1m m4/3 sales as early as April 14-April 15 fiscal year, 7b in profit for division, 5% market share in interchangeable lens cameras. Busted by Sasa-san himself in another interview with Bloomberg five months later (see below).
  • Sasa-san in Bloomberg article in May 2014: Profitable in cameras in year ending March 2016 (5b yen), but unprofitable in current year ending March 2015 (-3.5b yen). 630k m4/3 units this year, 24% increase; 1m compact cameras this year, 63% decrease. 2015 numbers busted. 510k units and -7.5b yen loss.

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