Sony’s Alpha camera line delivers the moxy that the camera market was lacking. Sony has spent years refining the system and gave us the first taste of what a full frame mirrorless camera could mean for photographers. For their part, photographers have responded with overwhelming support of the Sony A7 product line, along with healthy feedback that Sony actually embraces and integrates into subsequent products.
This cycle of innovation and refinement continues to pay dividends in the shrinking camera market. Through the first half of 2018, Sony has sold more full frame cameras in the US than any other manufacturer of interchangeable lens cameras (this stat includes DSLRs).* In fact, Sony full frame cameras made up 40% of the full frame market sales in the US. Sony’s full frame sales lead the country across both units and dollar value.
The electronics giant has successfully niched-down to a subset of the digital imaging market and reinvented the camera along the way. I’ve talked about this many times before. Back in 2016, I thought Sony’s growth and market position was obvious and the logical trajectory was only to continue its ride to the top.
Sony has also fairly priced its A7 series and offered aggressive discounts like the current trade-in bonuses. Such deals incentivize not only the purchase of a new Sony A7/A9 model but also generate a commitment to switch from a legacy DSLR system to Sony.
We’re now starting to see the fruits of Sony’s labor over the past decade. Sony’s VP of Digital Imaging says, “To ‘Be Alpha’ is to be a leader, to be an innovator, to stand out amongst the crowd. It represents everything we stand for as a brand.”
Sony has achieved Alpha status among the full frame camera market.
While Nikon and Canon are coming to the party a few years late, don’t believe the memes that the show is over for Sony. Nikon and Canon still have to be willing to compete within their own product lines, which is something neither have had the stomach to do thus far. Neither of the established players have offered consumers a “too good to be true” camera in recent years. Sony does it with every new model it releases. The price-to-performance ratio in Sony cameras creates a dichotomy that Canon and Nikon have simply been unwilling to match.
I expect both Nikon and Canon to release impressive new full frame mirrorless cameras soon (we know Nikon’s is coming next week). These updates will almost certainly slow the bleeding of DSLR defectors to Sony’s shores. However, I fully expect Sony to continue to innovate with more frequent product updates and more bang-for-buck offerings in the full frame mirrorless marketplace. If Nikon and Canon want to regain the full frame hill, they are going to have to fight like hell to get there.
*These claims are based on sales reports from The NPD Group, Inc., U.S. Retail Tracking Service.
Tim L says
Interesting post. Canon and NIkon will no doubt get market share from those who take the path of least resistance into mirrorless but it’s hard to imagine Canon being able to stick with their philosophy of giving customers the very least they can get away with at the highest price they can get away with.
Tony Northrup posted a video with some thoughts on how each of the major brands is positioned for the transition to mirrorless. I thought a couple comments regarding Nikon were particularly interesting: 1) Nikon has never demonstrated any mastery of the type of AF needed for mirrorless; and 2) Nikon could benefit by the lack of good adapters to use Nikon glass on Sony bodies. (PSA: I don’t follow Nikon closely enough to know if either of these points are accurate.)
Eric Reagan says
I haven’t seen Northrup’s video, but I agree with the point to Nikon’s live view AF. Both Canon and Sony have the benefit of a long history in developing AF tracking for video cameras, which I think has benefitted their respective positions in the live view AF for still cameras.
Jerry Bloch says
Toche Tim! After owning Canon for 30 years I traded in all my Canon bodies and lenses for an A7lll. My RX10 lll and lV convinced me to make the switch. Most of my gallery images on Dpreview were made with the aforementioned cameras (Xcanonfodder). the G master 16-35 is magnificent as good as Canon lenses have been this is a whole step up.
I became tired of the camera of the month club during the late eighties all the way through the 90’s! Most of the MK’s added to the digital cameras were incremental at best the greatest being the step from the 5D to the MK2. The frame rates were abysmal even for the Pro offerings. Sony has been making sensors almost longer than both majors combined and are a supplier to many.
I will continue to use my RX for super telephoto shots and my 7 for larger landscape shots. With all said the switch was a no brainer.