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The sad reality we must face if we are at least a bit honest with ourselves and sensor test data is that basically, image quality of so-called fullframe sensor hasn't improved since about 2012. The tech around it has been in stagnation, not any advancing. But according to the DPR,etc the A7R2 is a real game changer, so great that we should even change our own value and standard for system functionality, ergonomics preferences,etc, to get that specific camera. But in reality, as I said, the image quality of the 42.4 mp sensor is basically the same or identical to the old 36 mp sensor first introduced in the D800 in 2012. In fact, if the base ISO image quality is the most important aspect of a camera to you as DPR forced us to believe, then even the venerable D800 would still beat the A7R2. The A6300 is basically a bit more glorified, refined version of the NEX7 from the 2012, nothing more than that, but those so-called reviewers just intentionally dramatize, grandiose the minor difference in the feature set of these 2 APS-C cameras, to call the A6300 a true game changer......before it they did the same to the A6000, which was actually a dumbed-down version of the NEX7.

The OM-D EM5MK2 is the same exactly the same as the ancient EM5 IQ wise and so on. No format is actually getting better in terms of sheer image quality and basic functionality.

  

So will Nikon/Canon/Sony still be around in 2020?

I think Canon may survive but Nikon will not be around in this business by 2020(I do not mean it will go bankrupt). They are severely criticized for their slow adaptation of new techs. In Hokkaido, I met many many people still shooting D-SLRs and they were rude and blindedly believing in the ancient semi-analogue 1950th tech of their Canon Nikon cameras the absolute best, it was like a bad religion. But even in D-SLR land, there are not many guys still shooting Nikons any more, I think 8 out of 10 people still using DSLRs today shooting Canon, and they seem to ratiocinating their choice to the better lens selection of Canon, the better support and QC of Canon and Nikon's long neglecting of a proper D300s update. Actually, I was kind of able to relate to some of them if I still had some Nikon glass, I was waiting for a D700 successor in addition to my D810 for a long time, but I got tired of it and moved to Sony.

Now, they can get the D500 but many of them told me it was just too late, they've already bought a couple of EOS7DM2 with more than 10k worth of EF glass.

And Nikon is very very slow adapting to new tech and sudden market changes or environmental changes surrounding this unceasingly contracting stills camera market. How many years did they actually need to produce actual 4k capable consumer grade cameras in the D500 and the D5? How many years did they need to actually make their very first FF camera in the D3?

 

So is Nikon sinking or doing just fine?

The camera companies(especially Nikon) do need to listen to our iPhone generation photographers.

By carefully studying our young gen customers' shooting behaviors I find they do almost never use the OVF when they try out one of our displayed D-SLRs.

They cellphone generation boys always just hold cameras we display at our shops in front of their face with arms stretched out to see the LCD, never looking into the EVF or OVF when they try out any camera we display at our shops.

This means to them DSLR AF feels extremely slow, they always pan the DSLRs as slower than their smartphones in AF. We older people around 30 or older know if they shoot through the VF, the D-SLRs are actually still faster than most of mirrorless cameras out there(at least in C AF mode), maybe the Panasonic GH4, the GX8, maybe also the new GX85 and some latest gen Olympus being rare exceptions. But the young boys/girls almost never shoot through the VF unless they are already pretty well experienced or educated in this very odd hobby or art.

So after trying out a Canon or a Nikon FF D-SLR for about 10 minutes, many of our lovely young customers tell us,"we just gave up on DSLR AF already, it is too slow, just so annoying and we do not have time waiting for it to AF on what we want it to focus on,they are useless ".

 

Well, while I think they have no patience and the problem is obviously themselves not the camera, honestly, even if I were not a mirrorless shooter, I would still likely think very similarly about the D-SLRs and the dated tunnel view OVF since I have been quite used to using LCD and EVF devices since about I was 18y/o. So I definitely have no hard feeling on the EVF and the LCD LV shooting like many of my aged people have on the Sony or Fuji EVF cameras. I actually much prefer the current generation EVF and LCD to any of the current best tunnel view OVF from Canon or Nikon. I think even the 1DXMk2 OVF is not as good as the best EVF on the XT1 or the A7R2 for precise manual focus.

I think camera makers are too narrow-minded and conservative or stupid to ignore those kind of younger after digital era or iPhone gen people, but they should focus on them and they even need to educate them how to use cameras properly.

Many many those who claim themselves pro reviewers think the OVF cameras are faster in AF than the EVF cameras and they still always recommend the DSLRs for action shooters.

But I know many of our customers who are younger than me never use the VF when they try any camera out at our shops, and therefore, they think the DSLRs are actually much slower in AF even in C(action tracking mode), and they are right, the D-SLRs are super slow and unreliable in LV mode. The D-SLRs(especially Nikons) are slow, I mean super slow to the point I consider it is useless in LV mode. In fact, the only 2 D-SLRs I know of to have fast LV AF are the EOS80D and the EOS7DMK2, which I've panned a few times for the poor quality sensor with the terrible conversion noise issue. All the Nikon FX D-SLRs that have a superb sensor with clean base ISO performance have terribly slow, almost useless LV AF, which has never got better since the D7000 era.

Now, we have realized many of our customers telling us something like below after using any of our displayed DSLRs at our shops.

"Well, I still have and enjoy a DSLR, but I think that as a category, "DSLR Auto-focus" is overrated. Can you really put the Canon SL1 in the same boat as the Nikon D4s and generalize that the category is always the best? Why do you guys always compare the best D-SLR AF in the D5 or the 1DX2 vs the average class AF system of the mirrorless type cameras? It is simply wrong". I agree, many many reviewers and camera sales persons compare the D5 or the 1DX2 vs the cheap mirrorless AF performance to pan or even bash the cheap mirrorless as slow or not capable of tracking action. It is not fair.

There are all kinds of problems with the general-comparison-discussion I see on the net.

First: very few people have deep experience with many different systems, so their comparison is actually "camera I have two years, with 50,000 frames of field experience shooting" (DSLR) vs. "camera I tried once in a local camera shop and didn't really understand in the two minutes I held it" (Mirrorless X).

Second: people obnoxiously mix categories to serve their argument. So we see comparisons of the very latest or flagship DLSR bodies (D5, 1Dx2,D810, D750,etc) vs. the very cheapest mirrorless cameras (Fuji X-T10, Sony A6000, Panasonic GX85,etc). When the $500 mirrorless camera can't topple the $6000 pro FX DSLR, mirrorless technology is proclaimed generally insufficient as a category. Scott Kelby and his Canon-schilling cabal favor this approach. Someone asks him if he sees mirrorless as a viable alternative and he starts explaining all the ways an Olympus OM-D E-M10M2 won't get him the decisive shot on an NFL sideline. Um . . . yeah. How honest, sincere ? Why not compare your Canon to the best mirrorless the Sony A6300 or the Panasonic GH4 or the Fuji X-Pro2(in terms of AF)?

Third: people skip camera generations to serve their point. They compare the newest DSLRs ($1700 D750 from 2015) with much older mirrorless technology ($450 Olympus E-M5 from 2012) and, again, when the five-year-old mirrorless camera (that costs 1/4 as much) can't best the year-old DSLR in every possible test, mirrorless as a wholesale category fails. Some of so-called reviewers intentionally compare the D750 to the ORIGINAL A7R with the lamest AF tech to bash the entire Sony system as slow or useless fail in AF department. Why not compare the D750 to the A7M2 or even better to A6300 if you want to be taken seriously?

But we all real A7X shooters know that only the original A7R had slow(but accurate) AF and even that worst AF in the A7X camera history was decent enough for many of us. At least for me it was good enough, and actually I even say the worst AF in the A7X system- the A7R AF system was more accurate than any of the best D-SLRs I have used in my life, therefore, the A7R is better than any DSLRs even in AF department(at least for me). They-DSLR guys should realize not all of us shoot BIF or boring sports, in fact many of us have no interest in sports at all.

Honestly, It'd be easy to reverse these goofy arguments to "justify" an opposing conclusion. Compare an A6300 with a Nikon D3300, and conclude that DSLR autofocus categorically sucks. Voila, right? I guess now you get my point,right?

 

But the D-SLR guys always do this anyway to keep stereotyping all different AF systems and EVF systems of all different brand mirroless systems as though they were all made to be the same lousy.

What we really need to see is tier-to-tier, generation-to-generation comparisons, conducted by photographers who're just curious--folks who aren't interested in jamming a point down the industry's throat. And they must be neutral persons not old farts who have crazy long history of shooting film and SLR type gear with the super analogue tunnel view finder.

My sense, there is that you'd see pretty much even give-and-take in those comparisons. Pit a Sony A6300 against a Nikon D500, and I imagine you'd see that the Sony would win a few of the contests (accuracy / consistency, for sure, given that it uses the focal plane) and the Nikon would win a few (predictive, continuous acquisition speed). Neither victory would be decisive--it'd be give-and-take of a few points, either way,don't you think? And even if the A6300 is a lot worse than the Nikon D500, it is still 1k cheaper than the unreasonably oversized Nikon.

Pit a Fuji X-Pro2 against a Nikon D7200 and the X-P2 is going to come away with some AF victories. So will the D7200. Stack an A7R II up next to a D810 and you'd see the same thing. Neither camera will win all the tests for every subject. They'll be competitive, and some shooters(me included) will favor the mirrorless strengths. There's nothing strange about that. I personally cannot accept the size(not the weight) of the D810 and the inaccurate focus system of it. The AF fine tune thing was really annoying and almost never worked well in real use.

And as we start comparing the LV AF of the 2 different camera types, then the latest mirrorless system(even the cheapest one) is vastly better. In fact, even the current best D-SLRs such as the Nikon D810, the D750 and the Canon 5DS cannot touch the slowest LV AF of the OM-D E-M5 from 2012, let alone the cheapest m43 or Sony A7X of today.

 

As I said a couple of months ago, I really really wanted to buy a new camera system because my 5 A7X cameras died in rain in the last December, and I have been testing many many camera systems that I might buy into. Like many of my young customers, I quickly lost interest in any of the best D-SLR options from Nikon and Pentax as I tested their terribly slow LV AF compared to my ancient Sony NEX5n(not even A6000 that I also owned at the time and now replaced by the A6300).

Honestly, none of current the best DSLRs can keep up with even an ancient primitive mirrorless camera like my 6 year-old NEX5n in LV AF mode shooting down slowly moving people from over my head height. It is just simply embarrassing, how bad the current DSLRs are in terms of LV/video AF. And it is really deplorable to see how conservative Canon Nikon really are, maybe not just conservative but arrogant, not to listen to the young gen photogs?

The D7000,which I shot in 2010-2011 had the same LV AF speed and accuracy as the D750, the D7200 and the D810(which I had in 2014-2015). It is seriously embarrassing that Nikon has not made any progress in LV AF speed in the last 6 years. The D750, the D7200 are the same slow as the ancient D7000 that I owned in 2010-11.

I think as Canon has dual pixel AF tech and already using that in their latest APS-C D-SLRs, they may be able to make the LV AF of their next gen cameras as fast as that of the last gen mirrorless from Sony, Fuji and Panasonic. Hopefully, they will improve their fullframe DSLR LV AF dramatically in the next gen 5D4 and 6D2. But I think Nikon really needs to take this issue seriously to rectify their Dxxx line of D-SLR into more modern hybrid camera system( if they do not want to go serious FX mirrorless route to compete against Sony and Leica/Panasonic).

As I said many times, the iPhone gen people simply ignore cameras having slow AF in LV mode. I emphasize this again " they always shoot it with the LCD monitor, not with the EVF or the OVF when they try any of our displayed cameras at our shops".

Most of boys and girls coming from their smartphones or tablets or even from point and shoot cameras rarely use the OVF and thus, they think the D-SLRs are slower in AF and video mode than anything else including their cheap $99 US Casio. I know it is not the best way to shoot moving things, but like or not they do it anyway, they do use the monitor not the OVF, period. This means Nikon has to up their game in this specific area or they will be ignored to be an irrelevant player. Personally,I shoot most of stills images with the EVF, but there are times I need to shoot or prefer to shoot with the LCD monitor of my A7X camera. When I shoot video, I do not use the EVF because I always use a tripod or stabilizer for video but I sometimes wish if I could shoot handheld snap like easy video with AF. So even some middle aged person like me find the real fast LV AF very important these days. And I am actually thinking I am and our generation might be the last people who actually use any type of VF on any camera.

 

Update : now, Canon has just announced its new sensor development policy. Canon seems to have built a new sensor plant in Mie prefecture of Japan. It seems like Canon is going on new 65nm process rule and all upcoming Canon sensors will be produced at there.

I think the 1DX2 and the 80D sensors are processed at the new plant.

Sony is still leading the CMOS imaging industry, but giants like Samsung are in close pursuit. Also big players like Panasonic are forming joint ventures with the likes of TowerJazz to offer 12-inch wafer fabrication with state-of-the-art quantum efficiency and dark current performance at 65 nano meters, and additional 45nm digital technology, and added available capacity of approximately 800,000 8-inch wafers per year in three manufacturing plants in Japan, according to TowerJazz.

 

The stakes are huge. The CMOS image sensor market will reached the historic $10 billion milestone in 2015, according to Yale, and with new applications popping up in automotive, medical and surveillance, while smartphones begin adopting high-definition front facing cameras, the industry is likely to hit the $16 billion mark by 2020. So nobody is just sleeping and Sony has to consolidate its position ASAP, or probably Sony will lose it again just like its short-lived TV business.

 

Maybe Sony will be the final loser, not Nikon or Canon?

 

UPDATE 2: today Nikon announced some serious VR related issue with the D5 and the D500. I am not very sure what the real issue is here, their manual is really inanely written and hard for most of people to understand it. Me? I will wait what Thom says on this issue, it is much easier to read his article than annoyingly tedious Nikon manual.

But some Nikon technicians at Nikon Fukuoka warn me not use the VR in all lenses at super high ISO settings due to possible horizontal banding caused by the combination of high ISO plus the VR, I read this issue and many many people actually wondering what this issue really is and how serious it is.

I think Nikon really has some serious problem(probably internal power games in management) and all the current board members of Nikon corp should be replaced. The current president Kimura is terrible and running down the company to the worst possible, he has wasted about 40 percent of its total revenue money for nothing but silly one inch sensor compact business.

  

UPDATE3: Looks like Sony has actually done something right this year.

Sony was the only one of those 3 camera companies to break even this time, and was actually profitable for the year in Imaging, though it’s difficult to say how much of that is contributed by pro video gear. The Imaging Products group at Sony posted slightly lower sales (-1.7%) but a very healthy profit (up 30.4b yen and hitting about 10% of sales).

In terms of unit volume, digital cameras at Sony dropped from 8.5m units to 6.1m units year-to-year. That’s mostly compact camera sales that dried up. Sony won’t say exactly how that shift is working other than to say “improvement in the product mix of digital cameras.” In other words, they suggest that by getting rid of compact camera volume and focusing all its effort on high priced ILC units they are getting a better profit margin.

The other two camera companies still making some money out of their camera business are Fuji and Canon. We do not know Canon's result in detail yet.

I think it is fair to say Fujifilm has a hobby camera business as their Digital cameras are about 2.5% of the company’s overall revenue stream. That they give us any insight into how that business is working is actually a bit surprising. Sales for digital cameras were down 8.2% year-to-year, yet it is still quite profitable.Fujifilm Japan says the imaging business earned 9 percent more profit to them and it was the best of the last 9 years.

To me, the most surprising finding is that Casio's camera division is still profitable and they sell only compact cameras.

But how do they make any serious money out of that compact camera sells is a big mystery to me.

     

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Taken on June 4, 2012