Declining MFT/mirrorless camera sales?

Started Jan 1, 2014 | Discussions
Corkcampbell
Corkcampbell Forum Pro • Posts: 18,869
Two things: It's not a NYC article; it's Reuters, looks like Reuters Japan.
2

Second, if the authors had been at a mountain snow festival with me last Friday I would certainly understand their comments about smartphone use. There were hundreds of people there, mostly young people and families with children.

I was shocked (!!) that, considering the event and the scenery, I was the only one carrying a camera (new Sony RX10, bought as a complement to my GH3). There was a guy who had a "Nikon" camera bag with a tripod attached, but I never saw him take the camera out of the bag. Everyone else was using phones - even for big, formal group photos. This was even new to me...why would you take a photo of your child's class, teachers, etc., with a Samsung smartphone?

Of course I disagree with the referenced article, but last Friday was maga-weird, and a bit scary.

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Optical1
Optical1 Senior Member • Posts: 1,096
Re: Declining MFT/mirrorless camera sales?
1

Len_Gee wrote:

Greetings,

A non-geek photog ( she shoots with a Canon G12 on Auto Mode ) emailed this article to me:

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/12/29/business/29reuters-japan-cameras.html?hp&_r=3&

So, she got me an iPhone5 as a Christmas present. The iPhone5 camera IQ is not too bad in good light and makes it convenient to upload pics for sharing on social media sites , self pics of my travels, and to quickly email pics to friends and family. Not so good IQ in restaurant/pubs, just OK, I reckon.

I'm thinking of just using iPhone5 as the backup to my existing MFT or Sony RX100 when on vacation trips since I'm just a casual photo enthusiast snapping memory type photos. And I have no illusions of taking award winning Nat Geo type photos. I'm at the age where small and light kit is good.

Questions:

Do you agree with the NYT article?

How many of you are planning to add more MFT/mirrorless cameras or lenses to your stable in 2014?

Why? Need or G.A.S. ?

And, do you use your smartphone as primary backup to your MFT /mirrorless kit(s)?

Regards and happy 2014.

Articles like this are misleading in my opinion because they seem to confuse lagging sales of compact cameras with mirrorless camera sales.  Now, obviously mirrorless cameras sales are not the majority of the market, but their market share has increased since their introduction - and with new models that are pushing FF DSLRs in capability (such as the A7/A7R) and m43 models that are pushing APS-C cameras for capability, it is only a matter of time before the market in the US/Europe begin to catch up with Asia.  To say that mirrorless cameras are dying, is similar to saying that hybrid/alternative fuel cell vehicles are dying because the majority of the market belongs to conventional vehicles, when in fact they are just new to the market and are simply overcoming design compromises as technical limitations are designed around.  They are the future, just as mirrorless cameras are the future.

A small sensor like those found in a cell phone will never replace an ILC for me.  I use my camera phone regularly to document things when I'm at work, and when I'm out and about - mainly due to the convenience of always having the phone with me.  However, I rarely - if ever - use my camera phone to take the type of pictures I use my m43 camera to capture.  The lack of interchangeable lenses, and the laws of physics almost certainly guarantee that this will always be the case.

Even compact cameras I don't believe will be entirely replaced by cell phone cameras.  The type of compact cameras that are being replaced by smartphones are relatively entry level/budget cameras. As an example, my company used to purchase roughly 25 compact cameras per year simply to document site conditions.  The need for these cameras has been eliminated because each of our employees has a smartphone that allows them to not only document the site conditions, but also to send/share their findings on demand.  Budget cameras do not possess this ability. However, I can see high-end compact cameras such as the RX100 or Ricoh GR continuing to exist for camera enthusiasts as backup and go everywhere cameras.

The lone aspect of this article that I agree with is the portion about the connectivity of camera phones, and the ability to send photos on demand.  This feature needs to be improved upon in future cameras.  It should be simple to connect any camera to a wi-fi network (or smartphone) to easily text/email photos or upload them to social media sites such as facebook/twitter.  
As for my purchasing plans, I will likely add an E-M1 to my stable in the coming year.  I may also return a full frame DSLR to my kit, as I plan to pursue more wedding work and will be pushing the low-light/high DR limitations of a m43 sensor and will need the focusing capabilities of a true pro level DSLR.  However, I do look forward to the day that mirrorless models can overcome these limitations and deliver on the high end of the market.

-K

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desaroo Contributing Member • Posts: 751
my 3 cents
6

To clarify for some, as noted by an earlier poster: This article, which may have appeared in The New York Times, was written by a reporter for Reuters, a well-respected international news organization.

The New York Times, for those not familiar with it, is perhaps the finest newspaper in the world when it comes to reporting and editing and coverage and analysis. Many, however, find its left-leaning editorial positions off-putting. In any case, its readers (harrumph) most certainly are not dumb, as one respected poster intimated.

As to the article itself, it is preposterous to call it a "hatchet job." The piece is quite factual and, indeed, balanced in its approach. There is no attempt to denigrate any individual or company, which is essentially the meaning of a hatchet job. That is, to deliberately cut down.

The reporter stated the premise of the piece at the beginning -- that the mid-tier camera makers such as Fuuji, Panasonic and Olympus -- have a battle on their hands, not especially against Canon and Nikon, but against Smartphones. Anyone here who has stepped outside his house in the past year and had his eyes open surely cannot dispute this. Probably 90-95 percent of people these days take photos with their phones. I saw this in mid-summer on a six-city baseball junket with my son. In every city -- Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore -- and every place in it, practically everyone was taking pictures with their phones.

Here's why: They're convenient, the pictures are "good enough," and the shots can be quickly emailed or posted to Facebook or whatever other social media site these folks use. They NEVER print photos, they don't care about ISO or noise or shutter shock or vignetting or etc. A decent shot will do. It's just going to be emailed or posted on the web. That's it. They don't want a bunch of lenses and a camera bag and a tripod and all the rest. And that's how it is for most people.

And that's what the reporter was referring to. He noted that mirrorless was selling well in Japan and in Asia in general, but not in the United States and Europe. Anyone want to argue about that? I read another piece recently that noted, when it comes to "serious cameras," Americans go for "bigger is better"; that is, DSLRs. Again, if you step outside, you'll see that's also true. In general, in the U.S., right now, if it ain't a smartphone someone's using, it's a Nikon or Canon DSLR. That may change, but it hasn't yet.

Again, the fact is that neither Panasonic nor Olympus nor any other "mid-tier" camera company can compete with the marketing muscle and brand recogniton of Canon and Nikon (and to some extent Sony). That's just the way it is ... for now anyway. Mirrorless may in fact make headway, but financially it's going to be a difficult battle for the small guys.

In short, there is absolutely nothing incorrect or biased or dumbed-down about the Reuters piece. It's simply a clear statement of where things are for the smaller camera makers and the problems they face in the marketplace.

As for other questions in the OP:

Boy, I'd love to spend $1,500 or more on an Olympus E-M1 or whatever, a 12-40 lens and maybe some others, but I'm too damn old and I'll croak and my wife/widow would be furious. She's not a photographer; even point-and-shoots always intimidated her. Sigh. So I'm probably stuck with my early Panny G1 or whatever the heck it is and Oly E-PL1 and 15, 17, 14-42, 45-200 lenses. Wish I could grab more primes, 12-40 and whatnot, but doubtful.

Finally, nope, I have a stupidphone and have no plans for a smart one to take photos or otherwise.

brycesteiner
brycesteiner Senior Member • Posts: 1,923
Not really
1

So, she got me an iPhone5 as a Christmas present. The iPhone5 camera IQ is not too bad in good light and makes it convenient to upload pics for sharing on social media sites , self pics of my travels, and to quickly email pics to friends and family. Not so good IQ in restaurant/pubs, just OK, I reckon.

I would use an iphone 5 or most any other camera from this year to take basic snapshots of birthday parties and lots of other . I don't have a smartphone and I don't take selfies.

Questions:

Do you agree with the NYT article?

No. As pointed out in the story, the real problem is going to be the compact cameras. I believe the next will be the next to go down will be consumer SLR's (Pro will still sold) as soccer moms figure out the quality isn't any better (because many don't know what they are doing). If the optical quality in the view finder, which is not digital, was really the issue, shouldn't the rest of the camera be analog too, such as film?

How many of you are planning to add more MFT/mirrorless cameras or lenses to your stable in 2014?

Sure do.

Why? Need or G.A.S. ?

I use another camera for backup such as one of my 4/3.

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Vlasty Senior Member • Posts: 1,856
Re: Declining MFT/mirrorless camera sales?
3

I agree with a good portion of the article. It really boils down to simple economics and if mirrorless producers cannot make money thats pretty much the end of the story. I have quite a bit of mirrorless gear but I did not buy into the system for the mere fact that the camera is mirrorless. I bought into size and feature sets that matched my needs after a ton of research.

In my opinion ALL mirrorless systems are far too expensive for what they offer in comparison to a DSLR. Like it or not for a good portion of the populace the DSLR is the benchmark of what a real camera is and that is a shame. Im a geek so I can afford an over priced mirrorless system that fits a niche for me.

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nrwhitman Regular Member • Posts: 397
Re: Declining MFT/mirrorless camera sales?
1

Len_Gee wrote:

Greetings,

A non-geek photog ( she shoots with a Canon G12 on Auto Mode ) emailed this article to me:

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/12/29/business/29reuters-japan-cameras.html?hp&_r=3&

So, she got me an iPhone5 as a Christmas present. The iPhone5 camera IQ is not too bad in good light and makes it convenient to upload pics for sharing on social media sites , self pics of my travels, and to quickly email pics to friends and family. Not so good IQ in restaurant/pubs, just OK, I reckon.

I'm thinking of just using iPhone5 as the backup to my existing MFT or Sony RX100 when on vacation trips since I'm just a casual photo enthusiast snapping memory type photos. And I have no illusions of taking award winning Nat Geo type photos. I'm at the age where small and light kit is good.

Questions:

Do you agree with the NYT article?

Agree with their statement of the current conditions but not on where things will go.  I believe MILCs will supplant SLR's as technology progresses. EM1 really shines and feel it is very competitive with SLR's.  optical viewfinder as case in point.  Anecdotal but based on forum comments and reviews most seem to like, and in some cases prefer the EM1's viewfinder. I was sold on the EM5 viewfinder but suppose I had lower expectations as my SLR's were an E1 and E30.  Note, MILC does not mean just m4/3.  The mirror box will soon be a thing of the past IMHO.

How many of you are planning to add more MFT/mirrorless cameras or lenses to your stable in 2014?

Think an EM1 is in the future depending on what I get in sale of old equipment, tax refund and bonus.

Why? Need or G.A.S. ?

GAS for sure.

And, do you use your smartphone as primary backup to your MFT /mirrorless kit(s)?

Yes.  Always have it with me.  Nice for documenting dry erase boards at work and other "info" that needs to be shared quickly.  In decent light they really do a fair job.

Regards and happy 2014.

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brycesteiner
brycesteiner Senior Member • Posts: 1,923
Re: my 3 cents

Here's why: They're convenient, the pictures are "good enough," and the shots can be quickly emailed or posted to Facebook or whatever other social media site these folks use. They NEVER print photos, they don't care about ISO or noise or shutter shock or vignetting or etc. A decent shot will do. It's just going to be emailed or posted on the web. That's it. They don't want a bunch of lenses and a camera bag and a tripod and all the rest. And that's how it is for most people.

Many of these pictures will print fine for a 4x6 and some even larger. Most don't care for quality. They recorded the memory and that's great. I don't blame them either. Sometimes I wish I could do that and not think about the print quality, or 'what could have been better'. That's not me though. I like vibrant, natural colors and large detailed prints. The feel of the print needs to be good. I can't stand the walmart or walgreens prints.

And that's what the reporter was referring to. He noted that mirrorless was selling well in Japan and in Asia in general, but not in the United States and Europe. Anyone want to argue about that? I read another piece recently that noted, when it comes to "serious cameras," Americans go for "bigger is better"; that is, DSLRs. Again, if you step outside, you'll see that's also true. In general, in the U.S., right now, if it ain't a smartphone someone's using, it's a Nikon or Canon DSLR. That may change, but it hasn't yet.

You, again, are right. People in the US think bigger is better. I take sports pictures and this year I switched to the E-M5. Focusing is better than almost any other camera bar none. I've been using it for the dark football games to indoor volleyball, basketball etc. I had, while waiting in line for the gates to open, a person who buys prints talk to me, at the end of the volleyball season. She asked me why I was using the small camera to take the pictures instead of the larger one I normally use. I replied, "This is the camera I normally use." "Can it take good pictures?" and then I said all of the pictures she had purchased was taken on this small unit. I then went on to show her it's still a removable lens camera and how incredible the EVF is. I'm not sure she was convinced because she couldn't get past the size.

Again, the fact is that neither Panasonic nor Olympus nor any other "mid-tier" camera company can compete with the marketing muscle and brand recogniton of Canon and Nikon (and to some extent Sony). That's just the way it is ... for now anyway. Mirrorless may in fact make headway, but financially it's going to be a difficult battle for the small guys.

Mirrorless will make headway, it already has, whether it be in range finder, point and shoot, m4/3, or any other. Who knows what the equipment landscape will look like in five or 10 years? Canon and Nikon will probably make a very good competitor because they see how much inroads the others have made. Olympus and other smaller camera makers have always been the innovators and the larger companies pick it up and run with it after it's already caught on. We've seen this over and over in nearly all markets from computers to automobiles and it will continue in cameras. The consumer ends up benefiting either way.

Finally, nope, I have a stupidphone and have no plans for a smart one to take photos or otherwise.

I use a an ipod touch for quick pics. I don't want to pay the monthly fees when I can use it for 90% of everything that a smartphone would do.

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Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,558
Re: Declining MFT/mirrorless camera sales?

I agree with the article that easy access to connectivity is important. My GM1 has wifi but the implementation is so clunky and user-hostile that I don't bother with it. Why not just have a "share" button on the quick menu?

As for gear aquisition in 2014, that depends. The 15/1.7 looks promising. Whether I actually "need" it over my 14/2.5; probably not.

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dgnelson Senior Member • Posts: 1,143
iPhone
5

I don't know if I'd say that I use a smartphone as a backup, but it did allow me to get this shot when I didn't have my em5 with me.  I always have my phone with me.

Dan

dgnelson Senior Member • Posts: 1,143
Re: Not declining in my household.
2

Guy Parsons wrote

No phone, if I had one then people could contact me.

Made me laugh.  

Dan

al_in_philly Regular Member • Posts: 478
A report in Bloomberg says otherwise
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Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson Forum Pro • Posts: 13,174
Off the Grid
1

Guy Parsons wrote:

No phone, if I had one then people could contact me.

That reminds me of Wally, the lazy worker in the "Dilbert" cartoons.   In one strip he's in a meeting saying:  "My voice mailbox is full, and my spam filter rejects all incoming e-mail.   As soon as I build up a good load of ear wax I'll be completely off the grid."

Barry Stewart
Barry Stewart Veteran Member • Posts: 8,983
A beauty, Dan!
1

I can see this being used on a book cover — or on someone's "final" book… the cover of a memorial pamphlet.

Modern smart phones can get very good-looking photos, if given good light. They still struggle when high performance is needed… as did cropped cameras in years past. Gaps have closed in both mediums, though.

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Barry Stewart
Barry Stewart Veteran Member • Posts: 8,983
Good counterpoint! nt
1
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Barry

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al_in_philly Regular Member • Posts: 478
Re: iPhone
1

When the mode of exhibition is limited to viewing on a small, high contrast, computer/pad/phone screen, a decent smartphone camera can often produce great results.  Your really nice photo is a great example of that.  But when exhibition on walls or in books is desired, that's where a higher quality camera is necessary; again, the photo you posted is an example of that as well.  The problem for camera makers is that the vast majority of photographs never go beyond the internet, and as such, most people have decided to opt exclusively for using their smartphones as their photographic tools of choice.

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Erik Magnuson Forum Pro • Posts: 12,247
Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Len_Gee wrote:

Questions:

Do you agree with the NYT article?

Most of this just repeats what has been known/talked about for a while: all camera makers are struggling to manage the transition from compact sales and the future will be challenging. Growth in mirrorless is not likely to be driven by US sales.

The one bit of new information is ambiguous: "Sales, which globally are less than a quarter of those of SLRs, fell by a fifth in the three weeks to December 14 in the United States, which included the busy Black Friday shopping week, while SLR sales rose 1 percent, according to NPD, another industry researcher."

The 3rd quarter was very good for mirrorless driven by the introduction of a number of new models. Did people simply mainly buy their mirrorless cameras earlier than Thanksgiving?  Short term deviations are not signs of doom unless you are already looking for doom.

The only note of concern is for Olympus possibly rosy predictions for future growth: http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/2013-newsviews/december-2013-mirrorless/visicalc-dreaming.html

BTW, I wrote all of this before reading http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/smartphones-shatter-mirrorl.html  which makes mostly the same point.

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Erik

Zensu11
Zensu11 Senior Member • Posts: 1,542
Unused smartphones for photos!
2

Just got back from visiting my family in PA., it's been 5 years since I was last up and my nieces and nephews were in college back then. They are all out in the workplace now and I was surprised to see that all of them had smartphones but none were using them to take photos. When photo opportunities presented themselves each one would pull out a compact camera and not cheap compact's but sophisticated compacts. They were using Samsung, Nikon, and Sony cameras. In speaking with each one I learned that they sometimes used their smartphones for snapshots but if they knew there would be photos opps' they always carried a compact, good image quality camera with them for important photos. So young people are sophisticated enough to know a quality image is more likely with a device designed to take quality photos than an add on app on a device designed to make phone calls. Just my 2 cents in the future of photographic tools.

topstuff Senior Member • Posts: 1,209
Its not just MFT , "photography" as we know it is dying off..
4

Kids want instagram and to take pics on their iPhones.

Thats it.

MFT simply won't survive this IMO.  IQ is better but not better by enough for people to care about it.

The enthusiast market is probably smaller than we realise.  I think it will embrace highest IQ.  MFT is never going to win in the IQ comparisons.

So IMO , MFT will get squeezed out on each side.  Snappers will use their phones.  Enthusiasts will want better IQ and go full frame, especially if makers start making FF cameras smaller, faster and lighter.

DSLR's will remain for enthusiasts who want specialisms like long lenses and shooting birds and sport.

But in the main, snappers will use their phones.

MFT will be gone, but it will probably take a decade or so.  So anyone spending hard cash on EM-1 really need not worry.  Use it and enjoy it.  It will all be worthless junk in a decade anyway IMO.

Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 32,329
Re: Off the Grid - there's a reason....
1

Sean Nelson wrote:

Guy Parsons wrote:

No phone, if I had one then people could contact me.

That reminds me of Wally, the lazy worker in the "Dilbert" cartoons. In one strip he's in a meeting saying: "My voice mailbox is full, and my spam filter rejects all incoming e-mail. As soon as I build up a good load of ear wax I'll be completely off the grid."

I'm getting there, one ear already has gone rather deaf.....

The reason for my aversion to phones is that the only calls I get seem to be from friends and relatives with computer problems. It's a case of most calls proceed like this "Hi, happy new year, blah, blah, blah.... oh, by the way, my computer...."

After working hands-on fixing the darn things since 1963, I retired early in 1988 due to a modest windfall of $$$. Since then have never managed to escape from fixing computers.

One daughter went totally Apple so removed that source of problems as I know nothing of Apple and do not want to learn. The other daughter luckily married a computer geek so that's taken care of, but I still get calls from the geek's father....

I don't mind photography questions and problems but 50 years of hands-on computer fixing has stretched my patience.

Regards.... Guy

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Lab D Veteran Member • Posts: 6,938
The mirror is a "dead man walking"
1

topstuff wrote:

DSLR's will remain for enthusiasts who want specialisms like long lenses and shooting birds and sport.

Every manufacturer including Nikon and Canon is putting most of their R&D money in to getting rid of the mirror.   Canon and Nikon both now have decent PDAF sensors and we will see more in the future.

Their dilemma is what to with that giant registration distance needed for a flapping mirror.   Do they leave it and keep their cameras larger than they need to be?  Do they stick with lenses made for those mounts?  Or do they start making smaller lenses with a different mount like Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung and Fuji already starting years ago?

Remember the goals of mirrorless that are impossible for DSLRs (unless they flip up the mirror rendering it useless and disable the VF):  A global shutter which means no more mechanical shutter needed, a perfectly silent shutter, extremely high FPS shooting (60+), focal points of any size across the whole frame, any kind of video, and so much more.

Before anyone tries to put words in my mouth, I never said DSLRs are going away next year or in 5 years, but the writing is on the wall and just like buttons on phones, walkmans, and typewiters, a newer/better technology is going to replace them.

btw, 99.99% cameras sold today are mirrorless.  Did you really think that camera in your phone had a mirror????

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