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I've been on record as saying that Sony has a very reasonable and well built out FE lens lineup now in the wide to moderate telephoto range (12-200mm). With the A9 beefed up with firmware updates and the Olympics looming, it was inevitable that Sony turned its attention to longer telephoto options. 

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My policy on ebooks has to been to do error correction for free in periodic light updates, and to charge a small update fee for major "edition" changes (and to update for free any purchase made within 30 days of the edition changeover). 

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I asked for your questions to answer during Z Week, and you responded with some excellent ones. This is a "live" article (at least this week), and I'll add to it as I get more questions. (And yes, I'll be doing "weeks" for other brands coming up, generally centered around reviews as I get to them.)

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Panasonic today pulled a Sony, beginning to coordinate their still and video product lines via a unified lens mount (E in Sony's case, L in Panasonic's). The camera was pre-announced at Cinegear, and won't be available until fall.

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Mirrorless camera news and views for 2019. The stories in these folders were front page news on sansmirror during the time periods indicated:

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With camera sales overall still contracting, and with so many players duking it out in full frame mirrorless and dangling discounts to grab business, it's easy to see the Dark Side of the situation.

But rest assured, DSLR users, there's a Bright Side, too. 

Because so many people who are picking up mirrorless bodies are dumping a fair amount of DSLR gear to pay for their "upgrade" (!?!?!), it's creating a situation in the refurbished, used, gray, and even new market where the prices are coming down for DSLR owners, too. 

The thing to pay attention to is the timing of new product introductions. 

For example, on the Nikon side, the brand new 24-70mm f/2.8 S is just a far better lens than the old F-mount 24-70mm f/2.8G; heck the fairly new 24-70mm f/4 S is better at equivalent apertures, in my opinion. Enough so that a lot of the transitioners are dumping their big, older mid-range zooms for the newer Z options. Sometime shortly after the Z lens introductions, prices on the oldest 24-70mm f/2.8 F-mount lenses started to drop. 

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The common theme you see now is that we're in a DSLR-to-mirrorless transition period. I would agree, but that doesn't mean that DSLRs go away completely, nor does it mean everything will go away. After all, Nikon is still building a high-end film SLR body and selling it (F6).

Transition, therefore, means "the majority of users" transfer from DSLR to mirrorless, and probably over a period of at least three or four years (has to do with update cycles, disposable income, age, and much more). But four years from now, there will still be DSLR users.

Both Canon and Nikon have said they'll continue to build DSLR products while building out their new mirrorless systems. Moreover, Sony is still selling their DSLR (SLT) products, despite not having introduced one for years (the A99m2 body was the last one in 2016, and the last Alpha mount lenses were introduced in 2015). 

So let's talk about what's likely to go away in DSLR land, what's likely to stay available, and why.

Canon

It's no secret that the APS-C DSLRs are Canon's biggest bane at the moment. By my count, Canon still has 11 such models on the market they're trying to sell, including multiple generations of some products. Clearly, that will change. Canon executives themselves say so.

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For over a decade I've been writing the following about the currently-available digital cameras: "if you can't get good-looking prints at the maximum size a desktop printer can produce, it isn't the camera that's the problem." (The print size I'm referring to is basically 13x19", though we've gotten a few printers recently that could theoretically fit on a desktop and go beyond that.)

The 6mp D70. And yes, this image, with a lot of tender care in post processing, holds up quite well in a 19" print, despite seeming to only start with enough pixels for a 10" one. In fact, I processed it in a window on my monitor that was about 19" wide. 

As I've noted in some earlier articles, I've been using this rainy spring to go through my image files (all the way back to 1992). Those come from dozens of different cameras and brands and hundreds of lenses. Nothing I've seen so far says that the quoted remark at the top of this article isn't true.

So what is the problem? Why might you not get good-looking photos? And where do we really stand with today's products? Where might we go next?

What is the Problem?

So if the camera isn't the problem with getting bad looking images, what is? The shorthand answer is:

  • Bad setting decisions — poor exposure, poor JPEG settings, wrong white balance, wrong shutter speed (motion), wrong aperture (focus), and so on.
  • Bad shot discipline — poor handholding, support that isn't, poor timing.
  • Wrong lens — too much cropping, observable lens fault for the subject (e.g. linear distortion for architecture, vignetting for landscape, etc.).
  • Bad processing — too much or improper sharpening, wrong colors, too much saturation, improper white/black levels, incorrect noise reduction, wacky contrast decisions.

I've seen plenty of all four of these things in imagery from others when they begin complaining about their camera. 

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In dealing with all the feedback from my article on the Brutal Quarter, I found myself responding with a simple truth.

All the Japanese camera companies are thinking of and phrasing the smartphone cannibalization as a business problem. As in "the smartphone killed the camera business." 

This is incorrect thinking. It's a customer problem: "the smartphone stole our customer."

What you do about a problem in business always devolves to whether you've defined the problem correctly. 

There is no shortage of customers who want to take photos and share them. There is a shortage of cameras that let people do that quickly and simply. 

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Now that everyone has reported their detailed financial information we can see just how bad the January through March numbers were. Here are the overall sales (dollars) reported for the quarter compared to the same quarter last year:

  • Canon down 23%
  • Sony down 7%
  • Nikon down 21%
  • Fujifilm down 3% 
  • Olympus down 24%
  • Ricoh (Pentax) up 4%
  • Overall camera shipments (CIPA) were down 25% in dollars
  • Overall lens shipments (CIPA) were down 13% in dollars

That's pretty grim, overall. All total, the published financials we can track—Panasonic doesn't provide numbers that we can use—were down 16.7% overall in terms of dollars, year-to-year (e.g. first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2019). 

I'm pretty sure that set of numbers has set off panic in Tokyo. It wouldn't matter whether you're one of the ones with only modest drops or one of those with big drops, because the net net is that the overall market shrank big time. 

I don't yet have a complete set of numbers broken out in sub-categories where I could absolutely determine what happened, but the numbers I do have seem to suggest that the higher end (particularly full frame, and particularly mirrorless) is holding serve better than the lower end (particularly crop sensor consumer DSLRs). 

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