Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

News and commentary about the mirrorless camera world (latest on top). Hover or tap on News/Views in the menu bar above to see the full list of recent articles as well as folders containing all older ones dating back to 2011.

An Interesting Thing About Updates

You might notice that I keep a last six-month firmware update list on the news pages (right column, below ads). In keeping this list current over the last few years, I've been starting to notice something: the cameras that are important and with longer future legs are the ones that tend to appear in that list.

Look at the cameras that got significant firmware updates (other than lens compatibility) in the last six months:

  • Fujifilm XE-3, XT-20, XT-2, X-Pro 2, GFX 50s
  • Hasselblad X1D
  • Leica M10, TL2
  • Olympus E-M1 II
  • Panasonic G80/G85, GH5
  • Sony A7RII, A7SII, A7II, A7RIII, A9, A6300, A6500

While, for instance, Sony is still selling the original A7 and the A6300, note that they're falling off the recent firmware update list. Likewise Fujifilm with the X-Pro1 generation other than for addition of lens compatibility tables.

Meanwhile, Nikon's fallen completely off the list, mainly because nothing is moving forward with the Nikon 1, it's a dead system.

Where's Canon? That's a good question. They simply haven't done much firmware updating in mirrorless, ever. That's a cocky position.

Reminder, this site'scamera database includes current firmware numbers for all mirrorless cameras.

Panasonic Copies the Sony S

Panasonic today announced an "s" version of the GH5, essentially replicating what Sony did with the A7s: lower megapixel count coupled with design changes to make the pixels perform better in low light.

bythom panasonic gh5s top

Instead of the GH5's 20mp m4/3 sensor, the GH5s gets a 10.2mp sensor. That means that the photosite size on this new camera is more akin to what the APS-C cameras such as the Fujifilm or Sony 24mp cameras use.

As with the GH5, the GH5s mostly concentrates on video-related features. The GH5s features 4K at 60 fps, recorded with Log or HDR Hybrid Log gamma and Long-GOP compression in 4:2:2 10-bit (150Mbps), not just giving a slow motion capability, but also improving the gradability of the resulting image as well. Also, 240 fps is now supported at 1080P, for an even better slow motion capability than exists in previous Panasonic bodies.

The big surprise is no sensor-based image stabilization. That seems a bit unusual in a camera destined for video use. Panasonic basically says "use OIS lenses or a gimbal." The good news is that there's no extra heat at/near the image sensor, which means the images stay more noise-free. Also oddly for such a video-related camera, the camera is multi-aspect ratio, providing the same basic pixel count and angle of view for 4:3, 17:9, 16:9, and 3:2 aspect ratios.

The sensor itself is dual mode in terms of ISO, providing base ISO of 400 and 2500, despending upon setting. Overall you can set ISO 160 to 51,200 normally, plus 80, 102,400 and 204,800.

Curiously, still photography buffs will finally get 14-bit raw in an m4/3 camera (all previous m4/3 cameras have been maxed out at 12-bit raw). This seems to imply that Panasonic is capable of extracting more shadow detail from this new lower megapixel count sensor, but bit depth is not the simple construct it at first appears. We've seen camera makers make other decisions that impact whether the full bit depth available actually produces usable data before, so this one needs to wait for testing.

Overall, the GH5s occupies the same place as the Sony A7s: a specialist camera designed specifically to enhance low light work. And as with the A7s, it comes with a bit of a price bump: the GH5s is US$2499, or US$500 more than the original GH5. That's not because the camera costs more to build, per se, it's because it's likely to have fewer takers, thus the development costs have to be paid back over a smaller number of units.

But I wonder about that. Given that the primary buyer of a GH5 is decidedly a video shooter, the added capabilities in the GH5s may make it the better choice, right? It very well may be that Panasonic ends up seeing the opposite of what they expect: the GH5s outsells the GH5. The tricky part is the lack of IS.

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2017 News/Views

2016 News/Views

2015 News/Views

2014 News/Views

2013 News/Views

The news and views for 2013 by month from sansmirror.com:

2012 News/Views

The monthly news and views for 2012 from sansmirror.com:

2011 News/Views

Sansmirror was started in October 2011 as a spin-out of bythom.com. Here are the 31 News/Views stories from the original three-month period:

Claims to Remember

From time to time, the Japanese companies, those following them, the press, noted photographers, and a few prominent fan boys make claims about future sales or prospects. I like Jon Gruber's way of dealing with this, which he calls Claim Chowder. So I'm going to begin tracking statements that are made and see how they fare against reality.

Latest statements:

  • “Probably, In two years’ time, the size of the mirrorless market will exceed the market for DSLRs globally.” Toshihisa Iida, Fujifilm, in an interview with dpreview at Photokina 2016
  • “We’d like to be at least in the top three companies in the camera business by market share [by 2021]” Toru Takahashi, Fujifilm in an interview with dpreview at CES January 2016
  • Sony A6000 was best selling mirrorless camera of all time, and best selling digital interchangeable lens camera of all time. Sony marketing at A6300 launch.
  • 12% Market Share in ILC, “Number 1 in mirrorless”. Sony 2016 forecast.

Older statements:

  • Olympus Draft Plan May 2012. Claim: 30% increase in sales by March 2017 (1.1 trillion yen). Comment: 30% in five years is less than 6% increase a year. Current Olympus forecast: no increase at all, but a decrease instead.
  • Pro photographer Trey Ratcliff in Twit Photo Episode 54. Claim "I don't see myself using a giant D800 camera in three to four years [2015 to 2016].” Trey switched to a Sony mirrorless not long after saying that.
  • IDC April 2012. Claims: "DSLRs will increase to 16.76m units sold in 2012." "Mirrorless cameras will increase to 6.43m units sold in 2012." Busted: shipments from manufacturers only hit 3.96m in 2012 for mirrorless (DSLRs came close at 16.2m).
  • Olympus June 2012 Management Plan. Claims: 149b yen (FY end 2013), 160b yen (FY end 2014), 170b yen (FY end 2015). 180% increase mirrorless unit volume by 2017. 70% increase high-end compact unit volume by 2017. Unit volume of 7.5m total in 2017. "Strive to achieve profitability in FY end 2013." Last part busted! Didn'tachieve profitability in FY just ended. Double busted! Didn’t meet FY2014 claims.Triple Busted! Not meeting 2017 goals.
  • Panasonic "Mirrorless Trend" in G5 announcement. 2010=1.4m units, 2011=3.1m units, 2012=6m estimated units, 2013=8.4m estimated units, 2014=10.6m units, 2015=12.2m units and mirrorless overtakes DSLR sales. Busted! Actual number for 2012 was 3.96m units, new estimate for 2013 is 4.9m units.
  • CIPA mirrorless estimate for 2013: 4.9m units.Busted! Actual units were 3.3m.
  • Canon Re-Forecast of Sales at EOS M announcement: 21m instead of 22m of compact cameras, but still 9.2m interchangeable lens cameras for 2012.
  • Canon interview in DC Watch: goal to reach 15% of mirrorless market share in Japan by October 2012. (Given the release date of the camera, that actually translates into "we expect an instant 15% market share") Busted! The preliminary number for 2012 in Japan turned out to be 2.1% market share for the EOS M. But…they did get to that number in 2016.
  • Impress Digital Camera magazine prediction for 2013: 75% chance of a Nikon V3. Only a few months off.
  • "I have no hesitation, in my mind and in my business direction, that in the future—whether it’s three years or five years out—that there will be three dominant imaging companies on a global basis and it will be Canon, Nikon, and Pentax/Ricoh." Pentax Executive Vice President Jim Malcolm, in interview with digitalcamerainfo.com.
  • Canon 2012 Annual Report: "The market for interchangeable lens digital cameras is expected to grow around 10% annually for the foreseeable future." Busted. Canon now saying interchangeable lens forecasts are down significantly.
  • 24/7 Wall Street (Yahoo Finance): Olympus will get out of cameras by the end of 2014. Busted. Didn’t happen.
  • Olympus Ogawa-san to Nikkei.com June 2013: "This fiscal year Olympus aims to boost mirrorless-camera sales by 20% to 730,000 units. The break-even point is sales of 1 million units, and...the goal is to reach that level in the year to March 2015 and restore the company to the black." Busted. new forecast only four months later: 660,000 units, and they will have to increase sales significantly in 2H because they only sold 250,000 in the first half of the year. Last year's sales were 590,000 units, so if Olympus hits their new forecast number, they'd have grown their mirrorless sales by 12%, not the 20% Ogawa-san claimed. Double busted! Final year results were 510,000 units [source Credit Suisse], downfrom last year.
  • Nikon Makoto Kimura talking to Bloomberg 7/8/2013: compact market shrinks 12% in 2013, interchangeable gains 8% in 2013. Busted. Compacts down 41%, DSLRs down 15%, mirrorless down 16.5%.
  • Sasa-san at Olympus conference call Q2/2013: Pen series generates steady 200k units per half year (400k year). E-M1 expected to sell 100k units in second half of year. 6051 employees in Imaging. Haven't considered selling the camera business (actual quote "no approaches have been made.").
  • Sasa-san in Bloomberg article in December 2013: 1m m4/3 sales as early as April 14-April 15 fiscal year, 7b in profit for division, 5% market share in interchangeable lens cameras.Busted by Sasa-san himself in another interview with Bloomberg five months later (see below).
  • Sasa-san in Bloomberg article in May 2014: Profitable in cameras in year ending March 2016 (5b yen), but unprofitable in current year ending March 2015 (-3.5b yen). 630k m4/3 units this year, 24% increase; 1m compact cameras this year, 63% decrease. 2015 numbers busted. 510k units and -7.5b yen loss.
  • Olympus fiscal year forecast made May 2015: no profit or loss in coming year in Imaging (in context, this is the fifth year in a row they’ve indicated a future no loss point, and they’ve missed four of them). Busted: -2.1b yen loss.

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