Seems Canon and Nikon watching on the sidelines while their leadership in camera sales burns and threatening to be totally taken over by Micro Four Thirds

Written by Gary on February 10th, 2012

No one doubts that Nikon and Canon are the 2 joint leaders by a long shot in the pro dSLR marketplace.

Until June 2009, this was the situation with their consumer level dSLRs as well.

Then out of the blue, Panasonic and Olympus radically changed the game with their hugely successful Micro Four Thirds system.

This is particularly the case for sales in Japan if the data from these charts are to be believed.

In early 2009, Nikon and Canon shared ~75% of total dSLR sales, Olympus struggled with 5% with their Four Thirds system and Sony was averaging about 10%.

Once Olympus joined Panasonic in the Micro Four Thirds system in mid 2009, the pair increasingly cannibalised Canon and Nikon dSLR sales in Japan to the point that by August 2011, Canon and Nikon had roughly equal share of only 40% of all dSLR/mirrorless sales, while Olympus and Panasonic now shared a whopping 30% of these sales, and in terms of units sold according to lens mount, Micro Four Thirds hit the lead in Japan in mid-2011 with over 30% of unit share, compared with Canon EF at 20% and Nikon F at under 25%! The initial surge in the Sony NEX sales has dwindled from their peak of 20% to fall to 12%, although not helped by the Thailand floods which has delayed their NEX 7 model.

No wonder lens manufacturers started jumping on the Micro Four Thirds band wagon in late 2011!!

Mirrorless cameras account for 45% of all dSLR/mirrorless camera sales in Japan by Sept 2011 – this was not even remotely thought of in 2008!

Canon and Nikon seem to be caught out by this demand for high image quality, large sensor, quiet, compact cameras with small lenses which mirrorless have brought to the marketplace and captured the attention of a public who had their appetites wet with point and shoots but deciding they wanted more image quality but not the bulk of dSLRs.

Nikon has finally entered the mirrorless marketplace but their choice of sensor size which severely limits ability to blur the background seems strange as it is unlikely to attract their dSLR users nor the ladies moving up from point and shoots.

Canon is still to enter the mirrorless market and one wonders if they have left their run too late to stop the Micro Four Thirds juggernaut – a force that will only grow ever stronger now that they have finally created a metal bodied, weatherproofed, awesome camera with an amazing built-in IS which works in movie mode, 9fps, flash sync 1/250th sec, remote TTL flash and the fastest AF available.

We have Panasonic using their expertise in the video market to create great video quality Micro Four Thirds cameras, while Olympus builds on its OM and Four Thirds experience to develop nice photographers cameras such as the newly announced OM-D E-M1 which I expect will sell like hot cakes when it is available in April 2012.

The sheer versatility of the Micro Four Thirds system with lens adapters for almost any lens ever made and they become image stabilised when used on an Olympus body, and when used with shift or tilt adapters, become shift or tilt lenses – this is just not a possibility with dSLRs unless you use the massive medium format or large format lenses.

But in the end it may be the vast array of lovely compact lenses available in Micro Four Thirds mount such as 7-14mm f/4, 12mm /2.0, 20mm f/1.7, 25mm f/1.4, 45mm f/1.8, 60mm f/2.8 macro, 75mm f/1.8 which all come in under $1000 and offer fantastic image quality which will mean that MFT’s will be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years.

Why would most people bother even considering a dSLR in this environment if it is not full frame or for sports / professional use?

Canon and Nikon are likely to be increasingly squeezed in the top end as more and more professionals move to medium format systems to distance themselves further from the non-professionals and to stay competitive in a difficult market.

Sure the new Nikon D800 will shoot 36 megapixels, but it won’t be the same quality imagery as a 50mp medium format and this is where Canon and Nikon may find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Their only “safe place” lies in the photojournalism, wedding and sports arenas but that will not be enough for them so Canon will be forced into the mirrorless market as well whether it likes it or not.

Mirrorless cameras are bringing the fun and the image quality to the masses and it is hard to see the momentum faltering!

I bought my 1st mirrorless in mid 2009, will be buying the OM-D E-M5 in April and I can’t see myself buying a dSLR ever again, unless I upgrade my Canon 1D Mark III to a full frame version one day.

Micro Four Thirds sales in Australia would be far stronger if Panasonic and Olympus Australia changed their ridiculous pricing strategies which tend to price their products 30% higher than US prices encouraging Australians to buy their cameras and lenses overseas. Please guys, with the $A higher than parity with the $US there is no excuse for this.

Take for example Panasonic Australia, the much loved Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens retail price in Australian stores is $A599 (down from the $A799 RRP on Panasonic’s website in 2009), but Australians can have it delivered to their home from overseas for $340 brand new in a box – even allowing for 10% GST the Australian RRP is just ridiculous!

All very fascinating and exciting for us enthusiast photographers who can reap the spoils of the fight – no longer do we have a duopoly!


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