Market Share Distortion

With Nikon’s now announced intention to ship a full frame mirrorless camera sometime this fall, the inevitable “market share” debate has started. 

Frankly, I don’t care. This site attempts to be agnostic when it comes to products: we cover them all as best we can, and we just report the facts as we encounter them when it comes to market shares. We try to review any significant new product that comes down the mirrorless delivery system, regardless of vendor (disclosure: we’re a bit behind on our Panasonic coverage at the moment, bear with us). 

Some of you, unfortunately, won’t be satisfied with that politician-like answer. Okay, here’s the real answer:

  • Sony’s current near 100% market share in full frame mirrorless will drop to probably something closer to 60% (+/-10%) with Nikon’s introduction, and even further once Canon enters the market. Best case for Sony: they do better than the 14-15% overall ILC market share they currently have once all the big players have announced all their full frame mirrorless products. 
  • Nikon won’t get into the double digits of overall mirrorless market share with a full frame camera* (or cameras).

*Yes, currently I expect Nikon to only announce one full frame mirrorless camera on August 23rd.

The above bullet items are the unvarnished truth as close as it can be predicted at the moment. 

While there’s a lot of discussion and excitement about high-end mirrorless cameras, they represent a relatively small volume of overall camera sales. Based on the last twelve months of retail sales in the US, full frame mirrorless is somewhere around 3% of the total volume of interchangeable lens cameras sold. That by itself fully explains the bullet point about Nikon not going to make double digit mirrorless volume with a full frame camera (or cameras). The bulk of the unit volume is in crop sensor cameras, both mirrorless and DSLR.

The first bullet point is the iffier one. A poor product from Nikon (and eventually Canon) could let Sony retain quite a bit of the full frame mirrorless market, as they have a many year head start and now can supply a full range of lenses. A great product from Nikon (and eventually Canon) would essentially wipe out all that first mover advantage. I’ll have much more to say about first mover advantage when the details of the Nikon system are released. 

Personally, I think people are looking at Nikon’s coming re-entry into mirrorless cameras all wrong. Nikon simply has to put out a highly competitive product to even tread water. Which I’m sure they’ll do. Competitive products are good for all of us. The correct response from Sony will be to push harder and further with their fourth generation A7 models. Add in Canon, and the need for that response is doubled.

Competition is good. Sony did the right thing in being aggressive about A7/A9 development. They knew the competition would eventually come. So now we’re just waiting to see how well Sony actually did with those three generations of iteration. Was it enough? Was it good enough to break serve? Or will we be back to the Canon>Nikon>Sony market status? 

Photokina this year will be a marketing and messaging war like you haven’t seen before. 

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