2015 is now behind us. As always, most magazines and online review sites concoct some recap of the products released this year and draft top lists of what they consider the most significant introductions of the past 12 months.
The camera market has been changing for several years. DSLR’s sales have been experiencing steady declines among all brands for several years in a row and compacts are engaged in a seemingly endless free fall. Sales of so-called hybrid systems have not built-up as expected, at least in several markets.
However, the two most obvious patterns of 2015 as far as I am concerned are :
1/ 2015 was an evolutionary year not a revolutionary ones. Take the hybrid market for instance : Fuji introduced the XT10 a cheaper alternative to its Xt-1. Olympus improved its OMD-EM5 with its mark II model (although this is a more significant improvement than the name alone could indicate). Panasonic updates its GX7 and G6 models with its new GX8 and G7 models (and a replacement of its tiny GM1, GM5 models is announced for the spring).
A similar phenomenon can be observed for the so-called “expert” compact camera market. The Sony RX100 got a fourth version (here) and the GRII is only slightly improved over its predecessor.
2/ The second strong pattern of the year , in my opinion, is how far off their game the two brands dominating the DSLR’s market- Nikon and Canon- are as pertains to the evolution of their non-dlsr line.
Take for instance the Canon G5x & the Eos M3 two recent introductions of Canon supposedly aimed at advanced users. Canon is asking a premium price for a camera (G5x) which is basically a single shot camera for raw users. Granted this is not aimed at sport shooters but how about making a picture of your kids or dogs running in the garden or simply taking pictures of a event in the street ? My site is kept alive by providing links but I cannot in good conscience recommend this new model.
the GX line now includes five models (G1X mark II, G3X, G5X, G7x, G9X) which are supposed to succeed both the classic G and the S lines but fell short in several ways. (The G1X mII could be a good camera with a better sensor and a more modern optic).
What about their mirrorless system ? in 2015 Canon updated its line with two new models the Eos M3 and Eos M10. Canon started half-heartedly its mirrorless system back in 2012 with the eminently forgettable EOS-M, followed shortly hereafter by a marginally better M2. the M line features an APS sensor and there is an adapter for Canon DSLR users to adapt their lenses on the smaller M bodies. This is good because honestly at this point in time, it is hard to imagine who else but a die-hard Canon user would choose to invest in the Canon system which features now 2 bodies and ONLY four lenses
Nikon does not fare much better. For its mirrorless system, Nikon chose to adopt a much smaller 1″sensor. There are several bodies which create some confusion about which market Nikon is aiming at with its “1” product line. The main interest of the system is to allow small bodies and lenses with very fast autofocus, making it maybe a product of interest for “soccer moms”. The lens line -up is small with nine lenses to choose from (six zooms and three fixed focal lengths). Again , there is one adapter to mount its Nikon F lenses on the 1 bodies but the size and weight of most those lenses on the small 1 bodies make it more an emergency back-up plan than a wise choice for use in the field.
It is very clear that both Nikon and Canon are not really concerned by the competition and treat the mirrorless cameras system as an afterthought. Also abundantly clear is the fact that they are more worried that better products would diminish the sales of their own dlsr products. Whether this is true or not, I think they are making a huge mistake of underestimating the depth of the change affecting the industry.
Lots of photographers may salivate on an full-featured expensive (and heavy) 35mm DSLR from one of these two companies. While sales of these expensive 35mm bodies make up for nice profit margins, they do not come close in terms of volumes to the entry and mid-level dslr (generally aps-sized). To say that Nikon has been neglecting the high-end segment of its APS sized DSLR line is an understatement.
I am fully aware that lots of people like top 10 or top 5 lists. However, for me it makes little sense to attribute scores to cameras as it mixes different aspects of the products that maybe important to one and not to someone else.I think it is more useful to list the most interesting cameras of the year. Here there are :
Sony A7IIR is without the doubt for most reviews the star of 2015. Undoubtedly with its 42MP 35mm sensor, it has a high profile for those who need the best quality in a still very portable volume. Just keep in mind that such a resolution is going to require the best glass. At $3200 for the body, it is not cheap though. Camera body can be purchased here
Panasonic GX8 . black body only here
Panasonic G7. This camera deserves without the doubt the first place for best value for your $ buck. At less than $700 for the body plus the kit zoom , its value cannot be beat. The black kit can be found here. It is also worth to check the silver version here which is very elegant in its darker than usual grey finish
Leica Q. Back in the days when I was shooting film, the Leica M6 was one of my favorite 35mm cameras, despite my dislike of the 3:2 ratio for composing my images. I did have a Leica M8.2 for a while but I have been less than impressed by the ergonomics of the Leica at the digital age. Add to that very high prices for the digital models with some potential serious issues (difficult to accept at this price point) and the fact that I am no longer able or willing to rely on manual focus only camera systems.
Now comes the Q model which keeps the slimmer M silhouette , offers a better handling and several improvements including a very high definition built-in EVF, PLUS an fixed autofocus bright 28mm lens. Unfortunately, Leica insists on not giving users the option of a 4:3 ratio which makes no sense in a camera deprived of an optical finder. But if you do no mind being restricted to the 3:2 ratio and enjoys landscapes and street photography the Q might be for you if you can swallow its high price tag .
In my next article I will publish a short list of my pick for worst cameras of the year as well as some comments about what is coming next in 2016. Stay tuned !