Mirrorless Demand, ala Olympus

As part of their presentations on the new OM-D camera, Olympus presented a number of other interesting tidbits of interest to all mirrorless owners. Right up front was their contention of increasing mirrorless demand. I can't show the slide, as they're marked confidential and haven't been released in the press kits, but here was my takeaway:

  • In the Asian countries, unit share of mirrorless in the interchangeable lens camera category was typically at least 25%, and in the case of Japan, about 45%. All the trend lines were strongly upward.
  • In the European countries the unit shares were slower to grow and mostly in the 10-25% range. 
  • In the US, the graph is relatively flat and doesn't yet hit 10%.

This was followed by a graph showed the Japan market share by manufacturer, which purported to show the collapse of the Canon/Nikon domination. Well, okay, but the graph was curiously cut off just prior to the Nikon 1 shipping in Japan ;~). As we know, the Nikon 1 has been doing pretty well since it's arrival. 

However, the key graph in my view was the third one, because it gets us back to why people want a systems camera: market share by lens mount. In Japan, if you aggregate camera sales by mount instead of maker, m4/3 currently leads the pack, with the Nikon F-mount and the Canon EF mount being the other dominant ones. (This gets tricky, though, as I generally consider the Nikon 1 also as an F-mount camera and the NEX cameras also as Alpha mount cameras due to their excellent adapters.)

The point is this: m4/3 has done a very good job of providing a solid alternative in lens choice to the long-time standard bearers of the Nikon and Canon legacy film mounts. That probably is the reason why m4/3 is doing so well in Japan in the systems camera race. 

The caution here is that the Japan market is not quite like any other market, and certainly not like the larger American and European markets. What Olympus wants you to believe is that what happened in Japan will eventually happen in all the other markets. That's not a given, though it certainly is in the realm of possibility. However, I'll point out that here in the US, Olympus dealer marketing and Panasonic's lack of inventory and promotion are huge hurdles, especially now with Nikon running around and producing printed flyers every week in almost every tangible market with Nikon 1 promotions. One reason why the Nikon 1 is doing decently in the US is that it is being promoted and marketed heavily. Olympus' efforts have been not quite as strong, likely hampered by cost cutting at OlympusUSA headquarters. Panasonic's efforts aren't visible at all, and they keep failing to bring significant inventory into the US any time soon after launch of a new product.

Finally, one last chart was supplied, which indicated the top wish list of E-P3 users: (1) dust and splash proof, (2) prime lenses, (3) built-in EVF, (4) higher grade lenses, (5) higher ISO sensitivity, (6) swivel LCD, (7) faster fps rate, (8) zoom lens lineup, (9) faster autofocus, and (10) lighter weight. 

I'm going to have to go back and look at the survey questionnaire that Olympus used to garner those results (and I'm not sure if that's worldwide, Japan, or some other slice), but it doesn't perfectly track with what I think the market wants. (Note: owners of one high-end camera are not the market. In statistics, one question you have to deal with is predictability to population. Olympus' results are only predictable to E-P3 users, and only to those that reflect the population they sampled.) 

Nevertheless, Olympus was presenting the OM-D as fulfilling the primary demands of their E-P3 user base (it has 6 of the 7 camera features requested). It also explains why they pre-announced the 60mm and 75mm lenses long before their arrival (the #2 and #4 requests). 

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