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Photokina 2018 - Why the Mirrorless Camera Format will be the Star of the Show

Since the last Photokina two years ago, product innovation has dramatically increased, especially with regards to mirrorless cameras and lenses.  In 2016, the industry and show buzz was all about the new category launches, including the Fujifilm entrance into medium format mirrorless. Now, two years later, Nikon, Canon and Panasonic have unveiled their entrance into the full-frame mirrorless segment. The level of industry confidence in the mirrorless segment, as well as the pace of innovation, continues to grow, whereas the industry consensus is that the opportunity for further DSLR innovation has become somewhat limited.

What are the advantages of Mirrorless v DSLR and what are the end-user benefits of making the switch?
Size and Weight

Mirrorless bodies are typically smaller in size, lighter in weight and mechanically simpler, compared to DSLRs, due to the lack of a mirror mechanism. A large lens combined with a smaller/lighter camera body is a limitation for some users who prefer larger DSLR-style grips, although some manufacturers have started to address this issue by marginally increasing the size of some mirrorless cameras.

Increased Retailer Support

Specialist channels/retailers e.g. consumer electronics and photo specialists are offering more extensive support for mirrorless. This will ultimately benefit end-users.

Affordable Prices

Increased competition among the mirrorless brands and the relatively fast pace at which mirrorless models/generations are updated, compared to DSLRs, often results in more significant price discounts, often between 6-9 months after launching. Sony heavily discounted its older full-frame models in early 2018, including the A7 camera body & kit with 28-70mm lens for $999 (USA) and £750 (UK).

Full Frame Development

The Sony A7 III launch was well received by the industry due to its impressive specification at a relatively affordable price point ($2,000 body-only). Nikon, Canon and Panasonic have all unveiled similar priced full-frame mirrorless cameras.  Consequently, feedback suggests that demand for higher priced, full-frame cameras between $3,000 - $3,500 may suffer slightly moving forwards.

Widening Range of Camera Bodies and Lenses

The range of mirrorless lenses is still not as extensive as that for DSLRs, although mirrorless manufacturers are offering a growing range of camera bodies and lenses for both enthusiasts and professional end-users. Third party lens manufacturers e.g. Sigma launched new mirrorless lenses in 2018, thus increasing credibility for the mirrorless segment.

A Move to Video

This functionality is appealing to both video enthusiasts and professionals e.g. videographers. In 2017, 35% of mirrorless cameras sold were equipped with 4K video resolution versus only 7% of DSLRs; this is set to rise to 51% of mirrorless cameras and only 9% of DSLRs in 2018. An interchangeable lens camera is considered an investment with at least a 2-3 year lifecycle and ‘futureproofing’ plays a role in the purchase decision; consumers and professionals will increasingly expect 4K, even if they do not immediately have a requirement to capture in 4K.

Improvements in Technology

Further improvements in technology will be available to consumers, including reductions in blackout time, motion blur and rolling shutter effect, along with significant improvements in autofocus/accuracy of shooting subjects, as well as processing speed. Additionally, wireless connectivity is a standard feature (100% of mirrorless cameras offer Wi-Fi versus two thirds of DSLRs), while mirrorless digital viewfinders have improved considerably in recent years (e.g. minimal lag) – the performance is almost on par with DSLRs.

The Futuresource Imaging and Consumer Electronics team will be attending Photokina 2018 and will be producing its annual report covering the product and technology highlights at the show.

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Cameron Meldrum

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Cameron Meldrum

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