This is a question that many photographers ask and no-one but Canon and Nikon can truly answer for; however, I have a few views in this so I would like to add my two-pennyworth on this topic.
There are mainly two markets for the potential owners of a mirror-less camera, I am also including fixed lens large sensor cameras in this area too. The first (which Canon and Nikon seem to be at least aware of) is the user who is “upgrading” from a compact camera and/or smartphone and the other is the DSLR or pro user who requires a smaller/lighter model to augment their system.
The first market has a few large holes that need to be sorted out in that the camera manufacturers need to consider that most of the potential buyers are coming from a smart phone. The types and implementation of features on the phone are simply not available on the cameras in today’s market. The answer is not “shoe-horning” an OS like Android onto a camera, they instead need to focus on the best ways that the camera can work with the user’s existing smartphone and now more importantly the cloud where the pictures ultimately need to go to.
However, this post is mostly about the second market – the photographer who wants to augment their existing DSLR kit OR is looking for a smaller and lighter system, which is happening more and more. At the moment (apart from the photographers who must stay “in brand”) photographers just go and buy a Fujifilm X-T1 and a few lenses, the Fujifilm X100s is also another favourite.
The second brand they typically choose is Sony with their A7 models and the Alpha-thousand models (i.e. A6000) which used to be called NEX.
The problem here is that these are not made by Nikon or Canon. What exacerbates the problem further is that once these systems are tried the photographer decides to ditch the DSLR kit and go completely mirror-less. Fujifilm now have an almost complete lens line-up and if they sort out the Speed Light (flash) problem and continue with the progress they are making there is less and less reason to keep the DSLR. There are certain areas where the DSLR is still the best choice but if the pace of progress continues as is this might not always be the case; it hasn’t taken Fujifilm that long to create their “X” system.
If the photographer is trying their hand at video the mirror-less cameras are better, the best (consumer?) camera on the market for video today is the Panasonic GH4 – again no Canon or Nikon badge.
I understand that both Canon and Nikon want to protect their DSLR market (which is shrinking anyway) but this doesn’t excuse their efforts that they have produced so far, they are simply not cutting it.
I will make it simple for them – people want a mirror less version of the manufacturers’ DSLR in a small form factor mirror-less camera with a built-in EVF. For Canon this would be a mirror-less EOS and for Nikon a mirror-less D series camera.
Canon already have the EOS-M which has had abysmal support and the creation of the lenses has been lethargic at best and frankly the line-up is mostly consumer slow zooms – contrast this with Fuji which has a fantastic range of fast glass or Olympus/Panasonic with their comprehensive ranges.
Canon’s mirror-less system is based on their APS-C (1.6 crop factor) sensor. Take the sensor from the EOS 70D and stick this in the mirror-less body, give us the mode dial back add two control wheels and then an EVF and voila here is the true EOS-XM (next gen stuff usually has an “X” in there somewhere). Add a few fast EF lenses and the two f2.8 zooms users want and you have the system that the pro’s would want to use.
You could even produce one that is more based on the rebels without an EF but you can add the EVF you created for the PowerShot G1X Mark II.
On the subject of the PowerShot G1X, the next version should be essentially the EOS-XM but with a fixed zoom – the sensor would obviously be the same size of the existing G1X.
Also ensure that all three models retain their Canon hot-shoe and continue something that the EOS-M is doing right – keep the full Speedlite flash control in place too. Whilst we are at it provide the capability to use the add-on GPS device too. Naturally all of them will have Wi-Fi with a full remote control capability – something like we have for the EOS 6D and 70D but much better!
Nikon have a fairly decent range of glass and only a few additions would be necessary, their waterproof mirror-less models are also good.
However the Nikon “V”range has to go under the “what where they thinking?” question box. There is no coherency here and every model has been completely different to the prior models. I just cannot fathom what possessed them to go from the nice form factor of the V1 to the ugliness of the V2 to the sheer foolishness of removing the EVF from the V3. The V3 is now actually much larger than before and much more expensive than the Nikon D7100 (and this includes the fact that the D7100 comes with a much better lens)!
Nikon – go back to the V1 design; change the mode wheel for one from the D7100. In fact base the V1 (we’ll also use an X here and call it the VX1) on the D7100. Upgrade the EVF to a newer version, the body will have to be slightly bigger. Resist bunging everything in menus, gives us a touch screen that is either tillable screen (like the Sony models) or a vari-screen (like the Canon 70D). Base the menu system on the one of you DSLRs too.
Like Canon Nikon also have some high-end fixed lens models (Coolpix A and P7800), these should also be based on the VX1 but with a fixed lens, they should also be cheaper too.
Cost and final Points
Finally, regardless of who makes what, the new mirror-less models cannot cost more that the nearest comparable DLSR in the same range. If they cost more, most of the potential customers will either buy the DSLR instead or go somewhere else. The photographer who wants to augment their existing kit might be more willing if they haven’t already got bored and gone somewhere else.
Canon and Nikon – you need to wake up and understand that the DSLR market is shrinking and that the mirror-less model cameras are going to be used more and more. If you want those mirror-less models to have your badges on them, now is the time to do something about it or risk either not being the top two or possibly oblivion!