Sony has been working on their Mirrorless technologies now for almost a decade; and they are only now truly beginning to reap the rewards of that labor. A shift is beginning to happen in the photography industry, and everyone sees it coming. It is a shift away from the mirror boxes of the past, to the future that is Mirrorless. It is a shift with much greater ramifications to the market than the shift from film to digital back in the 2000’s. Back then the switch was more 1:1, film lenses worked fine on digital bodies, etc. But now, with this general shift to mirrorless technologies, it’s a shift that is much more complicated than it may appear. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Editor in Chief Chris Gampat’s Note: The Phoblographer was invited to Sony Kando Trip 2.0 as a member of the press in 2018. There has been a whole lot of controversy about this recently so I’d like you to understand our stance on things. I (especially), and the staffers whom are chosen to go on press trips, are more or less immune to being blinded by the glitz and glam that come with being flown out, put up in a hotel, etc. Many of these trips are the only opportunity that we initially get to play with new products before or when they are announced. But as a rule, we never finish our reviews with images and time only spent on the dollars of a company. We always call them in once we’re back home to test them in our own conditions and situations. Many others don’t do this and we find it incredibly unethical. The Phoblographer will always be transparent as we have been for the nearly nine years that we’ve existed.
This past week I had the pleasure of being able to attend and take part in the Sony Kando 2.0 trip, which for all intents and purposes is a big gathering of industry movers and shakers who, like many of you, have jumped on the Sony train and have been taken for a ride. But really it is not only a celebration of the products and capabilities that Sony has provided, but also of the community that has developed around those products; the Sony Artisans, The Alpha Collective, those of you shooting with Sony.
Everyone loves to talk about Sony’s sensors and for good reason. They are industry leading at the moment; offering some of the best performance and features. Just about everyone is using Sony sensors in some way, either in their camera phone or in their actual camera, and that sort of statistic is quite amazing when you think about it. But going deeper, unlike a DSLR, in a mirrorless camera the sensor is the primary feature-bringer to a camera. It captures the image, does the metering, the autofocus, and collects much of the data that the camera needs to process things like stabilization, white balance, and more. On a DSLR, the sensor literally just turns on, captures the image, and turns off. So a sensor is in many ways a much more integral piece to the Mirrorless puzzle than it is to the DSLR puzzle.
Sony also makes their own processors, as many camera companies do. However, since they are also making the sensors themselves, they are able to achieve a level of symbiosis between the two that other companies have a hard time matching. The sensor and the processor are only two pieces to Sony’ puzzle; they also have to develop the software to run the sensor and the processor, and to develop lenses that can take advantage of all the capabilities of the camera that sits behind it. Sony does all of these things in-house and to a level that other camera manufacturers currently can’t. This is one of the reasons they have been able to stand out from the pack so much in recent years.
There is a Mirrorless Arms Race coming, with offerings from both Canon and Nikon looking to take some of the spotlight away from Sony. But what the red team and the yellow team want you to gloss over is that they have been ignoring the Mirrorless market for years while Sony has been perfecting the technology. Canon has been playing around with their half-baked EF-M system and don’t even get me started on the Nikon 1 system.
Canon and Nikon are at a disadvantage. They hitched their wagons to the mirror box and are now only choosing to embrace Mirrorless now that it is clear that they are on the deck of the Titanic. They have to try and cram 10 years worth of development into 2-3 years, and not only that, but for the first time in their collective lifetimes, they are not the ones setting the tone for the industry. For as long as I can remember it was Canon or Nikon that launched new tech other companies had to mimic or copy. Now, in an interesting turn of events, Sony is the one setting the stage and developing most of the features by which the Canon and Nikon offerings will be judged in the mirrorless camera market. This is not a position that Canon or Nikon have often found themselves in, so not only are they at a disadvantage in terms of development, they are at a disadvantage in terms of mindset.
Of course, there are also things that annoy Sony users, such as the entire PlayMemories set of apps being taken away or their cameras not having more capabilities.
There is a reason that Sony has focused on building their community over the last few years. That is one of the things that has always made Canon and Nikon’s market positions so impenetrable; the users were loyal, and ecosystems of third party lenses and accessories were built up and thrived. Sony has the tech handled and will of course continue to push that; but now they have started to tend the garden and plant the seeds of community that will make it a harder market position to crack for Canon and Nikon as they try to form a mirrorless beachhead.
One thing is for sure though; we, as the consumers are the winners here. Sony has not had any mirrorless competition in the full frame space, and this new threat from Canon and Nikon will only serve to push them to give us even more impressive products. Case and point? The “Basic” A7 III.