A Confusing Week of Camera Intros

I’m talking about the new Canon R100 and the Fujifilm X-S20, the two new mirrorless cameras introduced this week. (We also got a ZV-1 Mark II and Leica Q3 launch, but I don’t classify those as mirrorless cameras).

Let’s start with the Fujifilm X-S20, the followup to the popular X-S10. The first thing to know is something I’ve been pointing out is a trend: the camera is going upmarket, and is now priced at US$1300. That’s a 30% price jump. So there must be a lot of new capability and technology in the camera, right?

Not exactly. Most of the changes from the original model are what I’d call subtle in actual value. For instance, the Rear LCD gets a modest dot-count upgrade, the SD slot is now UHS II compatible, and the image sensor has had a minor tweak. The primary noticeable changes come in two areas: the use of the X Processor 5 and the higher rated NP-W126 battery. These two things allow you to get Fujifilm’s new subject detection autofocus and more images per charge, basically. Video capabilities also now go to 4K/60 4:2:2 internal recording. 

In essence, the X-H2 and the X-S20 are basically equivalent in technology and capability now, other than the differences imposed by the 26mp image sensor compared to the 40mp one. Add in a few more modest things (headphone jack, VLOG setting on the Mode Dial, minor shape and control changes), and Fujifilm is telling you that this is all worth an extra US$300.

With the X-E line now gone, the X-S10 and X-T30II down to remaining stock, the X-S20 now becomes the “low end” of the X-mount lineup. Personally, I think that’s the right decision for Fujifilm. They can’t let themselves into a market share and pricing game at this point, and frankly, pointing to an X-S20 for someone coming from having just used a smartphone before has some strong rationale behind it, though after adding a competent lens, Fujifilm is now pushing the price of entry even higher. It’ll be a tough sell, but probably a justifiable one, unlike where I find this week’s other competitor.

At US$480, the new Canon R100 just dropped the price of state-of-the-art mirrorless entry to new, lower levels. Or did it? It’s basically the parts of an M50 Mark II in a simplified R50 body. No sensor stabilization, a single rear-curtain shutter, no rear joystick, none of the latest Canon AF goodies, no articulating or tilting Rear LCD, and a complete control simplification are the prescription for low price. Also the R100 has shortest press release for a new camera I’ve seen (basically one paragraph that an AI chatbot could have written from the query “describe in one paragraph a new mirrorless entry camera based upon the Canon M50"). 

I’m not convinced that US$500-800 is still a useful or justified product point. On the video side, smartphones jump over the 4K quality bar easier than the R100 does. Is old-tech 24mp still photo capability enough to get people to carry something in addition to their phone? Not in my book. 

So Fujifilm is aiming higher, Canon is aiming lower. Surely this will allow Canon to keep their ~50% market share, but that’s a lot of less profitable work that end up being discounted even more come holidays. At least Canon’s assembly robots aren’t suddenly out of a job. 

Summary: Canon and Fujifilm introduced the new end camera in their mirrorless lineup, only they’re over US$800 apart in price. 

The Conundrum of Coercion

Last week, I wrote about the conundrum of choice, the fact that you have so many choices available to you in the mirrorless camera market. 

Today, I want to explore the opposite of that, the conundrum of coercion. The camera makers want you to buy certain models, and at higher prices. Yes, choice and coercion are happening simultaneously. 

The easiest place to see what’s going on is in the Fujifilm X lineup. Not very long ago, we had as many as eight models to choose from. Today, if I’m understanding the current situation correctly, only four models actually remain in the lineup. The X-Pro3 has been discontinued, while the X-T30 II is out of stock everywhere and rumored to have been discontinued. Thus, we’re left with: X-T5, X-H2, X-H2S, and X-S10. If the X-T30 II is disappearing and with the X-E4 already gone, that reduces the lower-cost APS-C Fujifilm models to just one: the X-S10. 

Some makers, such as Canon, built enough inventory—somehow despite the supply chain shortages—that older models continue to linger. You can still buy an R, RP, R6, M50, and M200 camera in many places, though we’re starting to see the usual “backorder” messages starting to show up, which for an older body is just one step removed from “discontinued.” At least in Canon’s case, lower cost products aren’t completely disappearing (R50, R10, even R8 could also be said to be “lower cost”). But then again, Canon seeks 50% market share as a primary goal, and the only way they’ll get to that is by selling lower-end products. I’m pretty sure that Canon doesn’t get a 50% market share of pros with the R3 ;~).

Then there’s the way things are working at Nikon lately: when a Z6 kit starts selling for more than the same Z6 II kit, that’s an indication that B&H and other companies have limited supply and aren’t likely to replace it. (You may wonder about who would buy an older model over a new model at a higher price. Some businesses require a specific model for a reason, typically because they’ve built procedures/practices around it.)

The coercion bit of the headline is that every camera maker wants to take you higher. In price, that is, not in elevation. 

Even Sony’s recent vlogging cameras reveal that, though in a different way: first came the lowish price ZV-1 (1” sensor), then they released a ZV-10 (APS-C sensor, higher priced once you factor in a lens), and most recently Sony launched the ZV-E1 (full frame, top price). In what order do you think those models will eventually be discontinued? ;~)

A quick check of CIPA numbers will tell you all you need to know. For instance, in 2022 mirrorless unit volume increased 31%. But the implied cost of those same products increased 61%. 

For a long time, even back into the 90’s, the camera companies have been a little more concerned about total dollars (yen) taken in than they have been for volume. I’m going to distort things a bit by just looking at the last four complete years, which were obviously impacted by COVID, but you’ll see something interesting in the overall sales numbers:

  • 2022 — 681b yen
  • 2021 — 489b yen
  • 2020 — 420b yen
  • 2019 — 587b yen

I’m pretty sure the Japanese camera companies would collectively be happy with the market being back in the 700-800b yen range again (2016 to 2018 levels), and there’s a good chance they’ll get there this year by simply coercing you to buy higher. As it is, all of the camera companies have reported strong sales for their just ended fiscal years. So if they can coax another 100b yen out of the market, they’ll be even happier. 

The downside to getting you to buy higher is that you’re going to less inclined to buy as often. In other words, the camera makers may be emphasizing short term results over long term. But then again, they’ve always tried to micromanage the market to their revenue needs. If you stop buying, watch for a reversal of pushing product upward and a renewed emphasis on collecting new users at the bottom at lower prices. 

To use my oft-used shorthand words, this is not a time to be sampling, leaking, or switching. If you try to do that at low prices, you’ll get older gear that will feel outdated quickly. If you try to do that a higher prices, well, I hope you have a lot of disposable income. 

I’ve written it elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it here: I believe we’ve entered an era of “ride the horse you’re on.” While I see complaints on virtually every mount that there are “missing products,” I’d also argue that there is a plethora of perfectly fine products already available, and what you should be concentrating on is building your lens collection for the mount you’ve chosen. 

That’s what I’ve been doing lately. The gear closet has gotten a lot leaner as I’ve sold off gear outside my primary mount and just concentrate on the few products I use over and over. I have a slight advantage over you in that I can still sample other products via loaners from the camera companies and B&H. But in terms of my actual kit, I’d say that it’s basically back down to a couple of bodies and less than a half dozen lenses that are getting used in my event, sports, and wildlife work. And I’m perfectly happy with that (as should you if you do the same thing). 

My advice: go ahead and be coerced into a higher-end camera in your chosen mount that’s going to last you for the foreseeable future—every maker has more than one that should qualify—and then be wise about the lenses you add. Spend time, not money, practicing the art of photography with that small quiver you end up with. 

Note this is consistent advice to what I recently wrote on about buying gear you grow into, not grow out of.

Yes, It’s In Stock

Something has changed. Last spring we had multiple products that were back-ordered (not in stock). Today, pretty much everything, even the most recent camera intros, are in stock.

A quick browse of B&H showed only the following cameras being in a backorder situation at the moment: Fujifilm X-T30 II and the Panasonic S5 IIX (not yet shipping).

One (or both) of two things must have happened: (1) the supply chain issues got resolved; or (2) demand is down. 

So preparing for summer vacations is a little different this year: if you want a new camera, you can probably get it. That’s even true of most lenses, though a few of the low-volume lenses dip in and out of stock, and a few of the exotics are still being doled out. 

The Conundrum of Choice

The “brand battles” warmed up when Canon and Nikon committed to mirrorless, but they haven’t diminished. If anything, the proliferating choices are making it tougher and tougher to figure out what to buy. (See also my recent article about growing into a camera rather than growing out of a camera.)

First, my oft-repeated advice: If you have been using one brand, try to stick with it. I’ve watched an enormous number of users leak or switch to another brand earlier in the mirrorless era—often because their brand choice didn’t make a particular model level—only to switch back. Canon, Nikon, and Sony all use different control positions/definitions, and have long-established UX (user experience) that includes consistent naming, labeling, and positioning of controls. Abandon a brand at your own risk. Muscle/brain memory is useful in photography, because you’re making snap changes and decisions. Relearning to the level of being second nature takes more time than you think.

We’ve now got a huge number of choices at a wide variety of levels in mirrorless. For example, consider:

  • Entry — The Canon R50, Fujifilm X-T30II, Nikon Z50, OMDS E-M10, and Sony A6100, for example, all sit in a similar position at the bottom of their respective brands’ offerings. Pricing variation is definitely at play, with Canon at US$800 for an R50 kit and OM Digital Solutions also at US$800 for an E-M10 Mark IV kit at one end; Fujifilm is at the other end at US$1000 for the X-T30II kit (Nikon’s Z50 kit would be there, too, if not for the persistent discount that places it in the middle). 
  • 24/33mp Full Frame — The Canon R6 Mark II, Nikon Z6 II, Panasonic S5 II, and Sony A7 Mark IV are all in the hotly contested full frame enthusiast spot that has the highest level of purchasing. Here we have the Nikon and Panasonic bodies at the low end (US$2000) with Canon and Sony at the high end (US$2500). 

At almost any slice of the market (price, sensor, capability) we now have plenty of players with products that are near enough in equivalence that making a decision is near impossible if you try to tackle it by simply asking “what’s the best choice?” 

Second, my other oft-repeated advice: Every camera currently on the market is capable of excellent prints at the largest size a desktop inkjet printer can produce. I first wrote that somewhere around 2005/2006. Desktop inkjet printers have gotten a bit better since then, but the cameras have far outpaced the output side. 

As I’ve written elsewhere, the “output bar” for photographs is still relatively low. Basically 2mp for Web/social media work, 20mp for maximum-sized desktop inkjet prints. Buying more pixels gives you some cropping flexibility, sure, but cropping isn’t the same as changing perspective, and major cropping starts to lower your effective dynamic range due to increased noise visibility. Meantime, higher frame rates and maximum pixels produce more images for you to transfer and deal with, though they might make it easier for some to capture a specific moment in time. 

The camera makers are over-selling video in our cameras these days, too. Most of you are viewing TV or streaming at FullHD, not 4K. 8K is still far off in most of your futures because of that. The old Kodak “capture your memories with the best” type of marketing still persists and makes you buy more on fear of not having the best rather than buying what works well.

Meanwhile, in a pocket near you lurks the smartphone. Today’s smartphones are certainly easily capable of excellent 2mp stills and FullHD video, and with pretty gratifying results. Which is where the “good enough” problem starts to creep into the picture (pun intended). At the lowest output bars, Apple, Google, Samsung,, provide both a camera and a camcorder that fits in your pocket, thus making them the “carry everywhere” choice. Ignore the 200mp (or even 48mp) claims; you’re almost certainly not going to use smartphones with “extra pixels" for massive stills and 8K video. 

I kinda hoped that Instagram was just a phase—technically, it is—but I’ve been noticing more and more practitioners. It used to be that the only cameras in a locker room were those of the credentialed sports photographers covering the event. Now I find pretty much everyone in the room Insta-ing, TikTok-ing, Tweeting, or Tubing. All the Millennials seem to have become influencers, trying to make a few extra dollars by talking their peers into buying something they got for free. 

Which brings us to this question: why are you buying a mirrorless camera? 

Throughout the history of consumer cameras, way more cameras were bought because the purchaser fell for a marketing line than for a specific need. Indeed, I documented that back in the late 70’s as part of my PhD work, and have been able to repeat those findings several times along the way to today. 

Starting with the Kodak Brownie, it seems that marketing was able to trigger fear-centric buying—missing out on capturing a key moment in life—over and over, and specifically centered around “life events,” such as graduation, marrying, first child, and so on. This led to household adoption of “a sophisticated camera” that hit a penetration of 60-70%. Most of which lived in closets except for a few of those sporadic life events.

Today, of course, you have a choice if that last paragraph describes you: (1) buy pretty much any current camera; or (2) use your smartphone. Guess which one is easier?

Unfortunately, this leaves the camera makers pretty much back where they were at the tail end of the film SLR era: catering to a smaller audience. That audience was basically serious hobbyist/enthusiast as well as professionals. Moreover, it was an audience with disposable income to spend on their hobby, or which had recurring income from their profession. 

Those groups tend to be the ones that read my Web sites, and whose questions I find myself answering when they’re confronted with the conundrum of choice. 

With the professionals, it tends to be easy to answer their questions and help them make good decisions. They have specific needs, know what those are, they are value oriented, and professionals don’t tend to become unflagging fans of something (other than “it works”). I’ve helped a great number of pros transition from film to DSLR and now to mirrorless. These days, I’m fielding more and more video questions from them, as most request for quotes they deal with in their business now involve both still and video needs. 

The vast majority of you reading this article—wow, you made it this far, despite my all my keyboard wandering!—are in the serious hobbyist/enthusiast realm. You’re much tougher to provide good answers for, because you range across a wide array of ability, you do have brand loyalties, yet you’re far more open to experimentation and discovery. The question you aren’t always asking but need to answer is “what do I really want to achieve?” 

That’s not always obvious. Indeed, when someone sends me a gear-related question via email, we often have to have a back-and-forth about that specific question before we can get to the correct gear choice. Too many of your questions are outward facing, and not inward facing. By that I mean you’re worried that Enthusiast B is able to do something you can’t. Or that Brand C may provide a new experience, even if you don’t know what that is yet. Or that Future D may find you in a dead-end gear wise. 

You’re actually Enthusiast A. So stick with the A observations ;~). Where are you (photographically)? Where have you been? Where do you see yourself going? What constitutes a great photo to you? Have you ever achieved one? If so, how and with what? Have you maxed out your achievement with your current equipment? How? Whose work do you admire? Why do you admire it (hint: it isn’t because of the logo on the front of their camera)? 

I’ve watched a few hobbyists and enthusiasts get worse at photography with better equipment. That’s because ultimately it isn’t the equipment that makes the hundreds of decisions that go into making a great photograph. Indeed, more sophisticated equipment sometimes adds decisions you have to make in the spur of a moment. Photos are about moments, so you don’t want to be taking too long to make those decisions.

Let me try to put the conundrum of choice into context for you. 

I obviously have my pick of pretty much any photographic gear. If I don’t own it, I can borrow it from this site’s exclusive advertiser. For my pro work with clients, I’m very careful about my equipment decisions, and make the best possible choice for what I believe will result in the best possible work for the client. 

I take photos casually, too. I have three casual trips this year where I’d like to take some photos if I find them, but where I really want to spend most of my time trying to get to know the place. I have no specific requirement to come back with a photograph of something. But I’m sure I will come back with some photographs. This is very akin to the vacation photography a number of you do. 

So, which camera do I pick?

I only produced two bullets up above because these were the two specific camera categories I’ve been considering taking on those casual trips. I don’t want to load myself up with camera gear, so smaller and lighter is going to pretty much mean my Z9 cameras sit in the office gear lock-up while I’m out on those trips. 

It’s easy for me to say Nikon Z50 or Z6 II because I also have access to pretty much any lens for them. But I also run this mirrorless site that covers all brands, so I’m not going to just say “Nikon” and be done with my decision. The more experience I get with all the brands, the more I can deliver useful and insightful information to you, obviously. 

I’ll probably end up carrying a different set of gear on each of those casual trips, but even there I’ve identified nine contenders and we’re only talking about three trips, so I’m in the same choice conundrum as some of you, though for a different reason. And we haven’t even got to lens choices yet (probably just going to be one kit lens, maybe an additional prime; again, I’m not going to carry much gear). 

So how do I decide? How do you decide?

It gets back to those questions in the paragraph starting with “You’re actually Enthusiast A.” And a bunch more questions. For you that should also be salted with “which brand are you most familiar with.” 

Now go buy a camera that you can grow into (as opposed to out of), and you have your decision. Simple as that ;~).

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