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High-end mirrorless single-lens cameras shaking up market

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Mirrorless single-lens cameras, first released as entry-level cameras for beginners, have been evolving so quickly that even professional photographers are now finding their latest high-tech features useful.

As three major camera manufacturers have introduced high-end models that can also be used by professionals, the sales competition over mirrorless cameras is intensifying even while the digital camera market shrinks.

Wider range of users

Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than digital single-lens reflex cameras, which have long been the mainstream of digital cameras.

While single-lens reflex cameras take an image of a subject reflected in their built-in mirror through the viewfinder, mirrorless cameras forgo the space and weight of a mirror mechanism.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Digital single-lens reflex cameras are relatively inexpensive, but they also have the problem of fragile shutters and reflectors.

The digital camera market itself has continued to shrink as smartphone cameras have become more advanced.

Even under these adverse circumstances, mirrorless single-lens cameras are enjoying popularity for their portability and beautiful images, which are comparable to those of digital single-lens reflex cameras. They took over the market of digital single-lens reflex cameras thanks to their popularity among women and young people who want to take beautiful, Instagrammable photos and post them on social networking sites.

With the improved performance of mirrorless cameras, the age range of their users has been expanding to include middle-aged and older mountain climbers. They are believed to be keen on photographing authentic landscapes and other scenes.

According to the Camera & Imaging Products Association, the value of shipments of mirrorless single-lens cameras surpassed that of digital single-lens reflex cameras in 2019 and reached ¥247 billion in 2020.

Models used at Tokyo Games

Major camera makers are expanding their lineups of midrange models priced at the ¥100,000 to ¥200,000 level and introducing high-end models priced at more than ¥600,000. They are promoting their products’ highly advanced functions to camera enthusiasts who want to enjoy photography in earnest.

On Dec. 24, Nikon Corp. released the Z9, its first high-grade mirrorless single-lens camera. The model can take up to 120 continuous shots per second, and automatically identify and focus on nine different subjects, including people, dogs and bicycles. In addition to photos, the camera can record 8K ultrahigh-definition video for about two hours.

The fact that Nikon is shifting its main focus to mirrorless cameras from the single-lens reflex cameras it long prioritized reportedly has attracted a lot of attention, and the company is getting more preorders for the new model than it expected.

On Nov. 27, Canon Inc. released the EOS R3, which can follow the movements of the photographer’s eye through the viewfinder and automatically focus, making it easy to capture even fast-moving subjects such as people playing sports. In anticipation of the expansion of the mirrorless camera market, Canon plans to introduce an even higher-end model.

In March, Sony Corp., a leader in top-of-the-line cameras for professional photographers, launched the α1. The model’s body weighs about 737 grams, significantly lighter than comparable competitors’ models that can weigh more than 1 kilogram. The α1 became the talk of the town when many professional photographers used it at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer.

“Even midrange mirrorless single-lens cameras can take high-definition images better than smartphone cameras.” said Ichiro Michikoshi, chief executive analyst at research firm BCN Inc. “It’s natural for mirrorless cameras to become the mainstream of digital cameras.”