Statistics Interpreted Incorrectly

Lately you might have seen many of the rumors and fan sites republishing a chart from BCN about the market shares in full frame. As a reminder, BCN is one of those receipt-analyzing companies that attempts to report what's happening at the check-out register, in this case, in Japan.

The chart you've seen looks like this:

bythom bcn oct

There's been a lot of misinformation and misanalysis associated with this chart in just a few days. Be careful of what you read. While I don't agree with how the term is being applied by some, there most certainly is such a thing as "fake news."

First things first. Quite a few "reporting" about this chart seem to think that it's Canon R versus Nikon Z versus Sony A. Nope. It's all full frame cameras. That means Canon 5D, 6D, 1D, and R; Nikon D610, D750, D810, D850, D5, and Z7; Sony A7, A7R, A7S, and A9. 

Second: I didn't label the Sony cameras as Mark II or Mark III in the last paragraph because all three generations are represented in the chart. Sony has been selling the original A7 at rock bottom prices. 

Next, I see statements like this one: "Sony still outsold the Nikon cameras by a huge margin." Actually, no. The full year market share percentages in that chart are Canon 39.2%, Nikon 30.1%, Sony 30.7%. I suppose if you think a fraction of one percent is "huge," such statements would be accurate. 

The problem with trying to do analysis on such charts is that you need context. Sony and Canon are the only ones that introduced a new affordable full frame camera in the timeframe shown, and you can see the boost from both. Next, you have to go back and look at sales (or pricing). All markets are price sensitive, but Japan tends to be more sensitive than the US and Europe. The Sony fire sales that started earlier this year are reflected in the numbers.

So you have to ask why did Sony start those fire sales? 

Probably with the intent to get results exactly as we've seen. Sony executives have been on record since early in the year as stating they expected Canon and Nikon to enter the full frame mirrorless market within a year, which is exactly what happened. Sony has fairly clearly been trying to boost their sales volume and marketing presence in anticipation of that. Canon and Nikon are formidable foes, and now that we're about to enter a full head-to-head competition with full frame mirrorless, Sony needed every boost it could get. 

The final problem I have with most of the posts centered around this chart is that most seem to present the information with some "finality," as if whatever happened in Japan in the last year reflects the new norm. I doubt that it does. 

For example, the Nikon Z6 isn't reflected in the chart, and it's going to go head-to-head with one of the products that boosted Sony's numbers in the period presented (the new A7m3). Most of us are expecting other new Nikon full frame cameras in 2019, as well (the D610 is six years old, the D750 is over four years old, the D5 is due for a refresh before the Tokyo Olympics). Given the automation in the Z series, I wouldn't be surprised to see Nikon get more aggressive with pricing, too. Canon's almost certainly going to have additional R models in 2019. So I wouldn't be surprised if a chart published this time next year from BCN shows as much volatility as this one (another thing that all the posters and commentators seem to miss). 

Don't get me wrong. Sony upped their game. They've been aggressive in product development, marketing, and pricing, and the results show in that chart. That's almost certainly because they knew the Canikon pair would eventually move right into the space that Sony has had to their own for some time now, though. 

Competition is good for all of us, regardless of whether we choose EF, R, F, Z, or FE as our full frame mount (and don't forget the smoldering L alliance). Competition is going to be what keeps features and performance escalating while moderating price. Exactly as it should be. 

Personally, I'd love to see 2019 finish with Canon, Nikon, and Sony each still in the 30% range. Why? Because it will compel them to do more to stand out. 

But headlines like "Sony is crushing Canon and Nikon"? Sorry, but that's really bad analysis, and moreover, it's not what will keep the market healthy if it were right (it isn't). 

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