Fun With Statistics

As part of their presentations in Japan to launch the new E-P5 camera, Olympus updated their "mirrorless market share" document a bit and offered a new statistic.

First the mirrorless market share graph:

olympus-mirrorless-penetration.jpg


While it's a little difficult to interpret from this quick screen grab, the overall sense is still there: mirrorless' portion of interchangeable lens camera sales has grown over time. Well, true. It started as zero, after all, so any sales at all would be seen as growth. Note that there was a spurt in many of the Asian markets in 2010. That was the year of the E-PL1, the NEX-3, the GF2, and lots of end-of-life sales on the E-P1 and GF1. I suspect that much of the acceptance then was based upon the confluence of low price and small package.

Olympus still hasn't stated exactly what these numbers are based upon—and given the Korean market's relatively flat results since the Samsung NX was introduced, I have to wonder if Olympus is even counting the Samsung mirrorless cameras—plus the numbers only seem to extend through the first quarter of 2012, which is also curious given the things I've been noting about mirrorless growth recently.

Along with that chart was another statistic: "90.2% of DSLRs are left at home." Again, no details were given about this claim other than it was from an Olympus survey. But note that we don't have an analogous figure for mirrorless cameras. It might be that 89.8% of mirrorless cameras are left at home, it might be 10%, but we don't know. This is an old reliable tactic: using an isolated statistic to apparently damn something. But in isolation, the statistic actually doesn't tell you anything. You have to know the context, and how alternatives fare to make any conclusion from it.

The overall context of Olympus' presentation went something like this:

  1. We invented the mirrorless market (and Instagram!*)
  2. Mirrorless is taking market share away from DSLRs
  3. We have the biggest market share in Japan
  4. People don't use DSLRs
  5. The new Pen works with your smartphone and you'll carry it

What's the sub-tone here? Olympus probably won't be making any DSLRs in the future ;~). If they do, then they have the age old back-tracking marketing movement to make, a practice I call Crabbing (not moving the direction you're facing).

What I was looking for in the Japanese presentations was something that told me how Olympus saw the E-P5 differently than the OM-D E-M5. The tag line for the product probably is the answer to that: Share Beautifully. In other words, the WiFi to smartphone connection. (I'll have a lot more to say about all these WiFi to iOS/Android app attempts soon.) Of course, the E-M6 is likely to have it, too, so other than the built-in flash and external EVF versus external flash and built-in EVF, I'm still not quite feeling the model differentiation.


* Art filters. A bit of a difference, though. Generally you need to take a photo when it happens: it's the moment that counts. If you risk taking that photo with a pre-applied effect, you may not get the photo you want. The whole Instagram thing was more discovering a style that fits the photo you took, not take a photo in a particular style. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one. As I write on bythom.com: for me a camera is a tool to capture "optimal data." I very well may manipulate that data down the chain, but I want the best possible data capture to fuel my manipulations. Heck, I may layer a manipulation on top of a manipulation, and I'll want to start both from a base set of data. I've personally never found the Art Filters all that useful, as they force me into a very specific manipulation in the original data capture, leaving me fewer choices downstream. That's not to say I never use them. They are certainly useful for examining spontaneous creativity.

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