This press release from Sony says that they are now #1 in sales of full-frame digital cameras in the U.S. The Alpha mirrorless system was launched only in 2010 (photography history timeline). The first Nikon-brand camera was produced in 1948. The first Canons go back to the mid-1930s (dpreview).
Sony is not all that gracious when it comes to their competition:
As DSLRs fade into the history books of photography,
but maybe that’s because the competition was not sufficiently diverse to survive?
The “Be Alpha” campaign will also feature programs that are designed to foster growth in both the current and next generations of imaging professionals, the most notable of which being the flagship “Alpha Female” program. This multi-tiered, female exclusive program is Sony’s thoughtful response to the imaging industry’s well-documented diversity challenges. It will include a variety of grants and mentorship opportunities for female photographers and videographers, as well as the production of several large-scale industry events.
[If the program is “female exclusive” and the opportunities are limited to “female photographers and videographers”, does it exclude the gender non-conforming? (see UC Berkeley list of terms)]
How did Canon and Nikon let this market get away from them? Ford and GM were eventually able to bounce back and meet the new competition (okay, it took $70 billion in taxpayer funds to prop up GM, but Ford didn’t get a bailout).
Can it be that these companies were locked into obsolete technology? The Nikon F lens mount (1959?) has some well-known deficiencies (so they scrapped it for their own late-to-the-market mirrorless effort), but Canon’s EOS mount was new in 1987. What does it lack compared to the Sony E-mount other than the short flange focal distance? What would have stopped Canon from making a mirrorless mount (they already did a half-assed APS-C one, EF-M) and throwing in a bunch of adapters for legacy lenses?
It can’t be that these companies lacked the ability to engineer a “mirrorless” digital system. They were making “mirrorless” rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses back in the 1950s. The compact digital cameras that they’ve been making for nearly 20 years are essentially the same as a Sony mirrorless body plus lens, but without mount/unmount capability.
It can’t be that making high quality sensors is impossible for anyone but Sony. Toshiba makes some excellent high-dynamic range sensors. Nikon was able to buy sensors from both Sony and Toshiba. I think that Samsung makes its own sensors for cameras such as the NX500 and DxOMark testing shows that these have excellent dynamic range. Presumably Canon could have partnered with Samsung if they couldn’t figure out how to tune up their own sensor design.
Readers: What’s the answer? How does Sony walk away with it all?