What to Expect in 2023

bythom 2023

I'm going to try to stay away from trying to predict specific camera models and features coming in 2023, even though from conversations with various sources I'm hearing a number of details about upcoming products. Instead, I want to write more generally about where we're at now that all the camera companies are committed to mirrorless moving forward.

It’s the Volume, Silly

The tricky thing no one is really talking about is that mirrorless has finally hit 2x the unit volume of DSLR, and DSLRs are clearly going to drop more precipitously in 2023 in terms of volume. That makes the very first challenge for the mirrorless camera makers a simple one: while 2022 interchangeable lens camera unit shipments probably hit 5.8m, coming close to that in 2023 is going to be a real stretch. That’s because I don’t think that mirrorless volume increases can make up for the DSLR volume decrease.

Since I write articles alphabetically when referencing companies, I going to start by saying that… 

Canon will be the only major player trying to take a real swipe at getting the mirrorless volume up in 2023 to make up for DSLR volume loss. Canon has both EF-S and M volumes they now absolutely need to replace, and I believe we'll see them become very aggressive in doing so. EF-S sales are tanking, and M models are mostly no longer in production and discontinued. We’ll see lower-end RF-S cameras to replace the M cameras, and I suspect we'll see at least another model in the R7/R10 SLR-like RF-S line to help pick up the EF-S Rebel/Kiss volume. Plus the R and RP are due for some sort of retrenchment at the bottom of the full frame lineup, and Canon doesn’t yet have a vlogging style RF camera yet. In short, I believe this is going to be a Canon-keeps-announcing-cameras type of year. If you weren't sure about their commitment to mirrorless before, you will be by the end of 2023. I guar-an-tee it.

Fujifilm, meanwhile, made a strong statement in late 2022 (X-H2, X-H2S, X-T5). First to stacked APS-C, and first to 40mp APS-C, so what do you think of them apples, Canikony? Meanwhile, 2021 was a strong Medium Format launch year for them (GFX50S II, GFX100S). I'm thinking that Fujifilm really needs 2023 to be a clean-up-the-mess-that’s-left year. A lot of generational and differently-designed models clutter their lineup, and I believe that more models than the X-A# and X-T### will have to hit the retirement couch. So in 2023 maybe we'll just get an X100VI and some de-cluttering.

Leica quietly left the APS-C realm, and also somewhat quietly dropped a 60mp M11 in 2022. What's left to update? The SL, basically. But the rumors of Panasonic and Leica getting back together after a trial separation might mean things go a different way. Do we get a Panasonic-Leica S body? Both Leica and Panasonic need L-mount to do better in order to stay relevant, particularly in full frame. I believe that will come into focus—see what I did there?—in 2023.

Nikon, like Canon, has a lot to prove. They also have three cameras due for a refresh plus a gap or two they need to fill for a truly full product line. I've written for some time now over on zsystemuser.com that things at Nikon in 2022 were probably partly slowed due to image sensor changes they need to start making. I'll bet 2023 is the year that we learn what it was Nikon was really working on and why those were slowed. I expect them to surprise, and once again try to move away from Sony Semiconductor in some way (fifth time’s a charm ;~). Previous times that happened, Sony Semi bought all the firms Nikon had contracted with or licensed their intellectual property. I don't think that will happen this time. I believe that Nikon is going to try to spread their business and take back some of their sensor mojo. If true, we should see the first part of that within the next three months. 

OM Digital Solutions now has two cameras with their own branding, instead of the old Olympus brand and naming that needs to be retired. Two or three more models to go. Expect an OM-10 as one of those. The trickier part is that other than the 1, 5, 10 trio, what else will OMDS do? What can they do? I don’t think 2023 is when we find out. 

Panasonic management is having one of those love you, hate you relationships with their camera division. On the one hand, corporate wants higher profit margins than most of the imaging products are returning. On the other hand, there's a lot of "I can't quit you" refrains going on. I already noted the renewed Panasonic-Leica relationship. That's real and heating up. They seem to be in the hot tub smooching and conjuring up things. If Sigma would snuggle up more, it would be a throuple. But what does it mean? I think it means that Panasonic isn't going to leave the m4/3 or full frame markets, but hopes that Leica and some new tech will somehow help them make more profit. I fail to see how that works, and quite frankly, Leica's old reputation for being a bestie lens maker is in my opinion no longer warranted. 

Next we have the company that decided to put their R&D in reverse, and look at developing a new film SLR instead of a mirrorless camera: Ricoh/Pentax. It seems far too easy to write that we won’t see anything mirrorless from them in 2023. But they’ve ghosted us long enough now that we just have to assume being out of mirrorless isn’t some form of corporate pranking.

Which brings us the samurai of mirrorless, Sony. They are becoming more difficult to read. As of late they’ve had a strong vlogging/video emphasis in the E/FE mount: ZV-E10, A7C, FX3, FX30. Moderate updates to two other A7 models. I can’t even remember what the A9 Mark II changed. No A6### updates in three years. Sony tends to work in sequences (themes), so what’s the sequence for 2023? I don’t know, other than to think they’ll have one.

The good news is that the Sony fan base seems to think that the company is “ahead on everything”, so it might not be a big deal to Sony users that there’s no wizard working behind a curtain right now. If I had to predict the Sony theme for the year, it should be APS-C plus firmware updates for the full frame models. But something tells me that I might not be right. They could simply be on a break.

Overall, we got 15 new mirrorless cameras in 2022, and 11 of those were in May or later. The one thing I think I do know is that we won’t see the same sluggish start to 2023 for new products as we did in 2022. I expect the first quarter of 2023 to be very active for new product launches, particularly if CP+, the big consumer trade show in Japan, welcomes visitors again as planned. 

Buckle your belts, folks. The ride is about to get exciting again.

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