Catalysts For Change
How readily would you change camera brands? We’ve discussed brand loyalties here before, but camera makers seem to gather ‘rusted on’ devotees more than just about any other category of consumer product, even cars. So what does it take to make a loyal user finally jump ship? A lot, it would seem.
I suspect there’s a fair amount of angst among the owners of Australian-made Fords and Holdens now that their next purchase will have to be an import. If you were buying Falcons or Commodores because you really liked the fact that they were locally built – and so had a unique element of ‘Australianness’ – you’d now be tempted to apply some other criteria to the selection of your next vehicle… well, every model on our market is an import now, isn’t it? Such a big disruption is bound to be a catalyst for change.
In the camera world the disruptions are generally technology-related, either directly or indirectly, and right now it’s all about mirrorless cameras. How appealing do the benefits have to be before D-SLR users will make the switch? The likes of Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Fujifilm must be pondering this question as Canon and Nikon continue to sell D-SLRs by the truckload. As both Canon and Nikon have been top of the ILC pops for a very long time – well before mirrorless was a gleam in Panasonic’s eye – there’s a lot of brand loyalty sloshing around here. It has to be what’s driving D-SLR sales because even the likes of the Nikon D850 can’t really match it with, say, Sony’s A7R III or the A9. I say this as a dedicated SLR user – from 35mm and 6x6cm to digital – but there really is no longer any valid reason for having a reflex mirror… it quite literally just gets in the way. If you’re still a dedicated D-SLR user, you may well think this is heresy, but I suspect you won’t when both Canon and Nikon unveil their high-end mirrorless camera systems… which is now an inevitability. It seems both are likely to maintain as much compatibility with their existing D-SLR lens systems as possible so, if they can match the top-end mirrorless bodies for shooting speed and autofocusing, it’ll be a no-brainer.
This is why I think both are taking their own sweet time with mirrorless. True, it looks like Nikon probably initially misread the likely market (hence the risible 1 Nikon system), but I’m certain that both it and Canon have been well aware of where things are going for quite a while now. Even if Sony et al are starting to gain some significant ILC market share with their mirrorless systems – and Sony’s stated intention is to be number one – Canon and Nikon are still in the box seats.
How come? Well, most owners of Canon and Nikon D-SLRs will now sit tight and see what the impending high-end mirrorless offerings look like. I can’t see either debut camera being anything less than either the A7R III or the A9 so they’ll be good, right? In which case, you can either ditch your D-SLR right away or hang on to it for a little longer, secure in the knowledge there’s a credible mirrorless system waiting for you down the track. Sony, by the way, already knows this is what’s going to happen and is preparing for “competitors becoming more aggressive in the market” with its key objective being to “strengthen products”.
Of course, if either Canon or Nikon (or both) fall short of expectations, all bets will be off and brand loyalty will stand for nothing so you can then expect wholesale defections, but somehow I don’t think this is going to happen. There have been plenty of significant turning points in the history of both (I give you the Nikon F and the Canon EOS 650 just for starters), and another now lies just up ahead. Please fasten your seatbelts.