Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

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

Fujifilm Launches X-T2

Why launch today? 7/7 baby. Lucky numbers for sure.

bythom fujifilm xt2

Fujifilm today launched the much leaked and long rumored X-T2. In many ways, the new camera incorporates the changes Fujifilm made with the X-Pro2 over the X-Pro1, but in the X-T1 package. Still, there are a lot of subtle and deeper changes.

The big news is the use of the 24mp X-Trans sensor first found in the X-Pro2 (the X-T1 and most previous Fujifilm cameras were 16mp). Fujifilm is once again touting the X-Trans aspect of their APS crop sensor as providing similar or better image quality to the FX/full frame sensors of some DSLRs (“…produces image quality comparable to that of cameras equipped with a larger sensor with a higher pixel count”). Of course there’s no simple way of directly comparing X-Trans and Bayer cameras due to the functional changes required to interpreting the data, but in my experience, I wouldn’t put too much credibility into that claim. Moreover, it’s a qualified claim because it references the in-camera image processor. In point of fact, Fujifilm is apparently claiming that their in-camera X-T2 JPEGs are better than say, a D810’s in-camera JPEGs. 

Indeed, Fujifilm spent most of their time in their announcement and in their press materials about “Fujifilm’s proprietary color reproduction technology”, the film simulations, and of course the X-Trans impacts compared to Bayer. Out of camera JPEGs are one of Fujifilm’s claims to differentiation over the competitors, and the X-T2 launch didn’t change that one iota.

Probably more important in terms of sensor changes are the ones made for video. The X-T2 is the first Fujifilm camera to support 4K (2160P), and does so at 24, 25, and 30 fps. But only for a maximum of 10 minutes recording time. Similarly, 1080P has been reworked, but only records to 15 minutes. Fujifilm is also providing a new F-Log profile for recording video and a remote microphone socket, as well. (If you want a headphone jack, you have to get the vertical grip option.)

The X-T2 body grows a bit over the X-T1, partly to accommodate the 3” dual-pivot LCD. The LCD itself is now only 1.04m dots, though it has tempered glass over it. Unlike tilting and swivel LCDs, Fujifilm introduces a unique dual pivoting technique on the X-T2: tilt the LCD, then rotate it, or rotate the LCD then tilt it. Some of the controls have changed slightly in character, mostly refinements, but there’s one big addition: a thumbtack to control the active autofocus sensor. The EVF in the X-T2 gains a 100 fps mode (though this slows maximum frame rate to 5 fps in continuous shooting) that has lower frame blackout and produces less of the slide show effect often seen in the mirrorless cameras.

Both SD slots in the X-T2 are now UHS-II capable (only one slot was in the X-T1, and only one of the two slots of the X-Pro2 was UHS-II); you’ll need a UHS-II Class 3 card to record 4K video. Built-in Wi-Fi is present, but Fujifilm also added USB 3.0 support for faster tethered shooting.

The autofocus system has had a lot of rework, making it even more DSLR-like (also with modifiable tracking functions for continuous shooting). Only about 40% of the central area of the frame uses phase detect autofocus, though, and while contrast detect areas have been expanded, the X-T2 does not have edge to edge focus ability as some mirrorless cameras do.

Another thing emphasized continuously in Fujifilm’s announcement was size and weight (“…compact and lightweight”). This apparently also includes some change of heart about lenses on Fujifilm’s part. The already previewed 120mm f/2.8 macro lens “has been replaced with the 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR to satisfy the user needs for compact and lightweight lenses.” Indeed, the new Fujifilm lens roadmap only shows the 23mm f/2, 50mm f/2, and 80mm f/2.8 lenses coming in the next two years, and those are all small, compact lenses. That would put the X lens lineup at 23 lenses, 14 of which are primes, and many of those what people would consider compact.  

Overall, the X-T2 appears to be the expected update to the X-T1: moving to the new copper-clad 24mp sensor over the older 16mp one, attention to improving the controls and layout, improving the autofocus, as well as improving the continuous shooting experience. It should be a very well-received camera, despite the US$300 price increase of the X-T2 body over its predecessor. 

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The Shaking News from Japan

CIPA just posted the May results for camera shipments out of Japan, and it’s as bad as all the statements about the impact of the quake from various camera makers implied. 

bythom cipa may16

Both mirrorless and DSLR shipments took a dive from both the previous month and the previous year. Moreover, it looks like the only place that had any growth at all was Asia, which implies gray market. 

Probably a more telling chart is this one:

bythom cipa may16 5mo

That’s what the first five months of shipments look like for each of the last five years. Mirrorless drifting ever so slightly downward, DSLRs falling fast.

Curiously, Sony made a statement last week about their overall ILC market share and also stated that they were #1 in mirrorless market share. Coupled with the CIPA data, we can now actually try to account for how much of the mirrorless marketplace Sony actual owns. In other words, get fairly accurate volume numbers and very close to exact market share.

Sony’s ILC 12% market share statement implies a number of 1.6m ILC units for 2015. Of course, not all of Sony’s ILC sales were mirrorless. I still have them running a near middle single digit percentage in DSLR sales. So backing that out, we end up with 1.1m mirrorless units for Sony. That gives Sony 33% of the mirrorless market, basically. (All these numbers are rounded, as I don’t want to imply specificity when we don’t have an exact DSLR market share; I’m basing my Sony DSLR numbers on data I do have from Japan, the US, and Europe, but I’m missing Asia and Other.)

The numbers I just cited aren’t perfectly aligned on the calendar, either. Sony gave fiscal year numbers, which are off by a quarter with CIPA data. Still, I think it’s close enough to give us a pretty good indicator of the mirrorless market: two-thirds of the market is being fought over by six other vendors, while Sony controls the other third. Just as dislodging Canikon from DSLR dominance proved tough, it will be a dogfight to dislodge Sony in mirrorless, though Sony’s starting from a substantively lower position of leadership in mirrorless than Canon has been in DSLRs. But as Canon and Nikon find they can’t rely on DSLR volumes moving upward again they’re going to use every trick they can think of to try to take down Sony in mirrorless.

From Sony Semiconductor’s statements, we know that the primary sensor fab for everyone except Canon won’t be fully back online until August. That implies that we’re going to see CIPA numbers that are very weak for another three months of data. Fiscal Q1 for most of the camera companies is going to be one they want to forget and put behind them forever. 

But that same quarter is fiscal Q2 for Canon and apparently they’ve not been as affected by the quake as the others. Thus, we could see Canon push new mirrorless offerings just prior to Photokina and actually be able to deliver them quickly while others still struggle to get volume production going.

Then again, the Japanese camera companies don’t always do what seems logical, and Canon’s not known for being a fast mover. The Japanese designers get stuck in these long range planning systems that don’t necessarily consider what the customer actually wants and needs. Nikon’s misfire with SnapBridge is a good example: right idea, wrong execution, and wrong initial target customer. 

So we’re officially in the doldrums, camera wise. 

Yes, Fujifilm will announce another camera Real Soon Now, but Fujifilm is still a relatively low volume producer, so they don’t need a lot of sensors to launch the X-T2. Indeed, I’d bet that they have a small supply they can steal from the X-Pro2, which isn’t exactly flying off the shelves worldwide. 

Still, Fujifilm is likely to be more the exception than the rule this month. Enjoy the lack of wind and calm seas. Coming out of August and into September we’re likely to see a lot of jockeying for position with new product as companies try to win shares from each other coming out of the quake-imposed downturn.

2016 News/View

2015 News/Views

2014 News/Views

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.

Latest statements:

  • “We’d like to be at least in the top three companies in the camera business by market share [by 2021]” Toru Takahashi, Fujifilm in an interview with dpreview at CES January 2016
  • Sony A6000 was best selling mirrorless camera of all time, and best selling digital interchangeable lens camera of all time. Sony marketing at A6300 launch.
  • 12% Market Share in ILC, “Number 1 in mirrorless”. Sony 2016 forecast.

Older statements:

  • 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].” Trey switched to a Sony mirrorless not long after saying that.
  • 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.
  • Olympus fiscal year forecast made May 2015: no profit or loss in coming year in Imaging (in context, this is the fifth year in a row they’ve indicated a future no loss point, and they’ve missed four of them). Busted: -2.1b yen loss.

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