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Whither Olympus? Whither M43?

Perhaps the clearest ‘leading indicator’ of the future direction of the camera market is that in 2019, with over 40 cameras announced to date, there were only four new DSLRs – three from Canon and one (announced but not yet released) from Nikon: Looks like DSLRs won’t be playing much of a role in that future.

Nikon D6
The Nikon D6 full-frame DSLR was announced in September but won’t be released until next year. Will there be a D7?

Other than that, the listing below of 78 camera releases from the start of 2018 to the end of 2019 shows us that, for the most part, the camera makers are doing their best to ‘fish where the fish are’ – for instance, almost all compact cameras released are either premium, superzoom or weatherproof models – delivering results smatphones can’t – and almost half the cameras released were mirrorless, which CIPA figues show is the only segment showing anything close to growth.

Of the 38 mirrorless interchangeable cameras released (according to DPReview data), it’s interesting to note that 16 of them were full-frame models (including the two Fujifilm medium formats), which would seem to indicate that the mirrorless category is moving upmarket.

In a market which has been losing roughly 20 percent of sales each year for the past five, it would be sensible to assume something has to give eventually. Can the global camera market really sustain eight or, counting Sigma, nine competitors?

In the light of rumours of the closure of the Olympus camera business, which Olympus has been kinda, sorta half-arsed in refuting (‘we currently have no plans to sell’), it’s worth noting the meagre list of its new releases over the past two years – only five new Olympus models have emerged in two years. Is this an indicator that Olympus has lost interest in the camera market? By comparison, Olympus’s partner in the Micro Four Thirds format, Panasonic, has released an impressive 14 cameras in the past two years (equal to putative market leader, Canon), with six new mirrorless M43 cameras compared to just two from Olympus.

Olympus attempted to break into the professional sports photography market with the chunky $4499 OM-D E-M1X.

With only OIympus and Panasonic supporting M43, and Panasonic doing a fuller job of it than Olympus – especially with its niche video-centric models, Olympus emerges as the weakest player in arguably the weakest format. Panasonic also has the advantage of being part of the L-mount consortium, whose impact on the camera market is yet to demonstrated but could be profound, especially when Sigma rolls out a full suite of more affordable L-mount lenses. Then there’s the useful connection with Leica in sharing some camera models and for supply of lenses…

And what of the competing formats – will Micro Four Thirds as well as APS-C format be around in say, two years time? I recently read of someone calling the M43 format ‘half frame’, and if that perception bites, why would serious enthusiast photographers not prefer the larger APS-C or full-frame formats? While Olympus competes with Panasonic in M43, it also competes with Fujifilm’s X series APS-C cameras for the ‘retro-aesthetic’ market and on this measure, the competitor once again seems to be in a better position than Olympus.


EOS M50 (Mirrorless APS-C)
Powershot SX740 HS (Tele compact)
EOS R (Mirrorless Full-Frame)
Powershot SX70 HS (Tele compact)
EOR RP (Mirrorless Full-Frame)
Powershot G5 X II (Premium compact)
Powershot G7 X III (Premium compact)
EOS M6 II (Mirrorless APS-C)
EOS M200 (Mirrorless APS-C)
EOS 1D X III (DSLR Full-Frame)

XP`130 (Mirrorless APS-C)
Finepix XA5 (Waterproof compact)
XH1 (Mirrorless APS-C)
X T100 (Mirrorless APS-C)
Finepix XF10 (Premium compact)
XT3 (Mirrorless APS-C)
GFX 50R (Mirrorless medium format)
Finepix XP140 (Waterproof compact)
X T30 (Mirrorless APS-C)
GFX 100 (Mirrorless medium format)
XA7 (Mirrorless APS-C)
X Pro 3 (Mirrorless APS-C)

C-Lux (Tele compact – Lumix TZ200)
M10 P (Mirrorless full-frame)
M10 D (Mirrorless full-frame)
QP (Premium compact)
D-Lux 7 (Premium compact – LX 100 II)
Q2 (Full-frame compact)
M-E (Mirrorless full-frame)
SL2 (Mirrorless full-frame)

Coolpix P1000 (Tele compact)
Z6 (Mirrorless full-frame)
Z7 (Mirrorless full-frame)
D3500 (DSLR APS-C)
Coolpix A1000 (Tele compact)
Coolpix B600 (Tele compact)
Coolpix W50 (Waterproof compact)
D6 (DSLR full-frame)
Z50 (Mirrorless APS-C)

PEN EPL9 (Premium compact)
Olympus OM-D E-M1X (Mirrorless M43)
Tough TG-6 (Waterproof compact)
Pen EPL 10 (Premium compact)
OM-D EM 5 III (Mirrorless M43)

Lumix GH5S (Mirrorless M43)
Lumix GF10 (Mirrorless M43)
Lumix GF9 (Mirrorless M43)
Lumix TZ 200 (Tele compact)
Lumix GF10 (Mirrorless M43)
Lumix FT7 (Waterproof compact)
Lumix LX100 II (Premium compact)
Lumix S1 (Mirrorless full-frame)
Lumix S1R (Mirrorless full-frame)
Lumix TZ95 (Tele compact)
Lumix FZ1000 II (Tele compact)
Lumix G90 (Mirrorless M43)
Lumix G95 (Mirrorless M43)
Lumix S1H (Mirrorless full-frame)

Pentax K1 MkII (DSLR full-frame)
GR III (Premium compact)
WG60 (Waterproof compact)
G900 Waterproof/industrial compact)
WG6 (Waterproof compact)

Alpha A7 III (Mirrorless full-frame)
Cyber shotRX 100 IV (Premium compact)
Cyber-shot RX100 VA (Premium compact)
Cyber-shot HX95/99 (Tele compact)
Alpha A6400 (Mirrorless APC-C)
RX0 II (Premium ‘ultra’ compact)
Alpha A7 R IV (Mirrorless full-frame)
Cyber-shot RX100 VII (Premium compact)
Aplha A6100 (Mirrorless APS-C)
Alpha A6600 (Mirrorless APS-C)
Alpha A9 II (Mirrorless full-frame)

-Keith Shipton

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