Which brand do you think of today when you hear the word “camera”? Well, There was a time when we knew Canon and Nikon to be the leading brands in the camera market. Those camera manufacturers have brought many advances to the camera world.
But with the change in time, the scenario has also changed dramatically as well. Mirrorless cameras have taken the place of DSLRs as they can provide you with more advanced features within a compact figure. With the rise of mirrorless cameras, Sony has managed to gain a substantial amount of market and positioned itself as the leading mirrorless camera manufacturer brand putting Canon and Nikon behind. So what really went wrong with Canon and Nikon? Why are they lagging behind Sony today? Today we are going to probe to find out those reasons.
Sony’s Positioning Strategy
To know the reasons for Sony’s mirrorless camera being on top of other brands, we have to dive into the history. Back in 2010, Sony launched its first mirrorless cameras, the Sony Alpha Nex-3 and Nex-5. But unfortunately, the camera couldn’t get enough attention due to its downside like lack of a viewfinder, no touchscreen, no Stabilization, and more.
Then Sony invested itself in probing out the reasons for failure for quite a long time and came up with alpha 5000 in 2014. This camera made up for all the flaws found on the previous release and became a big hit in the market. Later on, Sony released the A7 and A7R which introduced autofocus in a mirrorless body for the first time. But still, the mirrorless industry was suffering from another big issue of real-time capturing. The problem emerged as the mirrorless cameras had to convert the light captured by the sensor into an electrical signal that the photographer would see in his electronic viewfinder. Thus there was a buffer time between watching the scene in the electronic view finder and capturing the image in real-time. Sony again came up with its revolutionary Alpha a9 which eliminates this buffer time and many camera experts marked it as a “historic turning point for the mirrorless camera industry. ”With those big technological changes, Sony has positioned itself as a pioneer of the mirrorless camera market.
Leading Manufacturer of Mirrorless Sensors
Sony has been in the sensor market for a very long time. It has all the infrastructure and research facilities to not only manufacture high-end camera sensors but also bringing innovation to this. Sony has influenced the mirrorless market by its technological capabilities as it has successfully branded itself as the leading CMOS sensor manufacturer of the world. For this reason, many renowned brands like Canon and Nikon, who are also major competitors of Sony in the mirrorless camera market, also depend on Sony as a reliable supplier of high-quality CMOS sensors.
To keep the leading position intact, Sony announced its intention of investing about $9 billion in the image sensor business over the next three years starting from 2018. At the time, CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said that the company’s aim is to become the top camera brand in the world by 2021.
And it has been bringing ground-breaking innovation in sensors. For example, it has recently published a product sheet which says that Sony is coming up with the world’s first stacked micro-four-thirds sensor in the market. This just shows how technologically ahead Sony is in terms of lens production.
Competitors’ Failure to Focus on Mirrorless Camera Technology
To lead the market, there are several factors to consider and above all, it all melts down to one key point, being able to guess the next big thing. For example, Sony has kept its eyes confined in the mirrorless camera markets as they could assume a substantial future growth of the mirrorless market. On the other hand, Not focusing on a specific niche is another reason for Nikon and Canon to lag behind in the competition with Sony. The big players in the market, Canon and Nikon, didn’t appreciate the mirrorless technology at first. They were busy with their existing DSLR lineup and also they were not sure about the growth of the mirrorless market. Their split focus on different camera segments resulted in their lagging behind. They lack in adapting to change, researching users’ needs and bringing in new innovations. It’s like launching a typewriter with high-end features while the market has moved to computers and smartphones.
Competitors’ Reluctance to Change Their Existing Camera Line
In terms of quality, Sony has been continuously delivering high-end mirrorless cameras to its consumers. On the contrary, other competitors could not meet consumers expectations as they lack innovation and features. For example: in 2019, Canon launched EOS RP which is a full-frame mirrorless camera but with limited features. For example, its video crop factor as well as lack of in-body image stabilization created dissatisfaction among the consumers as well. Its M6 ii had more megapixels but limited lens support. Because of their drawbacks, Canon couldn’t draw enough attention in the market. On the contrary, Sony A7 iii was introduced in 2018 which had no video cropping factor and it also comes with sensor-shift stabilization. As a result, It got great acceptance in the market though it had a higher price tag.
Fujifilm is another major competitor in the mirrorless market. However, like Canon, Fujifilm could not put up a tough fight against Sony as well. Instead of choosing the larger portion of the mirrorless market, they targeted a small niche. Its X-A7 was designed to provide an enhanced camera experience to the smartphone users. On the other hand, Fujifilm GFX 100 was not suitable for beginners or enthusiasts as it was a medium format camera with a high price tag.
Then we have Nikon, who recently joined the mirrorless market. It launched its Z series, which is a series of mirrorless cameras, in late 2018 with limited native lens support. Moreover, it couldn’t provide a better autofocus experience than Sony. In the meantime, Sony already gained six years of experience in the mirrorless market along with a wide variety of lens support as well.
Now, take a look at Sony’s mirrorless releases in the past few years. While major camera brands were bringing fewer mirrorless models, Sony was more aggressive with their feature-packed mirrorless lineup. In 2019, it launched the A6100, the A6600, the A9 ii and the A7r IV which is almost a total refresh of their product line that puts them further ahead in the competition. In the next year, it came up with the A7s III which is a full-frame mirrorless camera incorporating great video recording capabilities while maintaining a compact design. Recently, Sony has again bewildered photographers with its Alpha 1 Specs. It offers a powerful Full-Frame 50.1 megapixel Sensor with Bionz XR processors. It has improved features for color reproduction, stabilization, and autofocus. It’s a hybrid camera offering 8k video, leaving its main competitor, the Canon EOS R5, way behind in the competition. It has even better features than the super expensive Nikon and Canon shooters like 1D and D6, meaning the rule of Canon and Nikon DSLRs is rapidly dissolving.
Sony has been more invested in the mirrorless camera segment from the beginning. Thus, they put more emphasis on making lenses best suited for their mirrorless cameras. However, the other big giants like Canon and Nikon were more into the DSLR market, thus they had to focus on making both DSLR along with Mirrorless Lenses, resulting in fewer native lenses compared to Sony. Thus they couldn’t stand strongly against Sony’s growth in the mirrorless lens market.
In 2013, Sony came up with the full-frame FE series along with the a7. On top of that, it gained years of experience in manufacturing APSC E mount lenses. Sony also started collaborating with third-party lens makers which was an unusual move back then. As a result companies like Tamron, Zeiss, Sigma, and Tokino came up with their lens support for Sony Mirrorless cameras. It proved to be a smart move as it contributed to the expansion of Sony’s available lens range. Sony is also ahead in the lens market with their innovations like linear motors and piezoelectric drive which give you amazingly quick and smooth focusing.
But what really sets Sony apart is its one mount lens approach. You as know, there are many camera brands and they make different kinds of camera mounts for their different formats of cameras. For example, Canon has EF-mount cameras and lenses and also RF mount cameras and lenses. So it’s all confusing to many. But Sony introduced its E mount for each of its cameras, no matter if it is an APS-C camera of full-frame or Cinema camera, every E-Mount lens can be attached to every Sony camera.
So that was all from our side. Right now, Sony has been dominating the mirrorless camera markets with their competitive advantages. Though Nikon is a latecomer in the market, they are now more focused. Moreover, Canon is also putting its efforts to regain their position in the market. With 2 new mirrorless camera launches in 2020, they are increasingly minimizing their gap with Sony and there are more to come, like the R1 and R3. Will Canon be able to put Sony behind and take the leading position in the market? What do you think? Let us know in the comment section.