Why Canon and Nikon Hasn't Released a 'Mirror-Less' Camera

Much to the dismay of enthusiast photographers, camera and lens market leaders Canon and Nikon have not released a 'serious' (professional level) mirror-less camera. I think there are two very different reasons why the big two haven't released a 'serious' mirror-less camera. The first has to do with sales figures and the second has to do with the metaphoric understanding of cameras.

Let's look at sales figures first. Mayflower published this graph in September last year:

©2015 Mayflower Concepts

©2015 Mayflower Concepts

Yes, the chart shows an alarming decline in camera sales but what I want to highlight is that the so-called 'rise' of the mirror-less camera is based on the decline in DSLR sales. In other words, the mirror-less segment is doing nothing to lift overall camera sales. At this point in time, it is looking as though mirror-less camera sales have peaked and DSLR sales decline has bottomed out. Some good news there I think.

In this market condition, the big two would be reluctant to invest heavily into a mirror-less system simply because the numbers just aren't there. DSLR's substantially outsell mirror-less cameras. What's actually happening is the cannibalisation of DSLR sales rather than additional sales on top to boost overall camera sales. When seen this way, it really isn't surprising that they haven't taken the mirror-less market seriously.

Now let's look at the second point. This is more difficult to explain than simple sales figures. A camera, as a product, is metaphorically a camera. Well obviously you say. But what, exactly constitutes a camera? What are its defining attributes?

Let's say that you're one of the big two. You've been building cameras for decades. Your products are used by every professional photographer both past and present. Your brand is a household name globally. You've honed your expertise in creating the most intricate and complex imaging system known to photography. Your product is durable and of very high quality. When you hold the top models from the big two, you can feel it's engineering prowess and quality. You know you can depend on the camera system to deliver, over and over, through any circumstance. You know you have a highly attuned service support system behind you when something goes south. Metaphorically, a camera is the combination of the above. They are what makes a camera a camera.

Then consider this. Along comes the so-called 'mirror-less' camera. It's become a thing. A circuitboard with a sensor on it. A clamshell to surround it. Stick a video monitor in it so you can see what you're shooting. A mount for the lens and off to the races you go. It suffers from poor battery life. From the established player's point of view, this is bad form. The mirror-less camera not only lacks finesse only earned by decades of experience, it also doesn't offer any kind of promise for durability or service. It is purely a consumer device. The mirror-less camera at the moment exists solely for the purpose of ticking off features to gain marketshare from DSLRs.

Whether you agree with the above or not, put yourself into Canon and Nikon's shoes and it'll start to make sense. Why create a product that will not only cannibalise your current (and future) products but will also add legitimacy to what they surely consider a bad metaphor for a camera?

Competition, as they say, is good for everyone. But I seriously doubt if the big two will indulge in self-harm by creating their own 'serious' mirror-less systems any time soon.

Well, that's my two cents. Of course, if they do release a serious mirror-less camera, you can bet that the cameras will be outstanding in every way.