Coming Next

Curiously, it appears that we're going to have a number of new camera introductions between now and the end of October. One or two might spill into November. 

Moreover, we're getting a lot of development announcements all of the sudden. The Nikon D6 has already been teased by Nikon, but now we have a new "flagship" APS-C DSLR teased by Pentax, plus the odd addition or another rear LCD in the development announcement of the Fujifilm X-Pro3. 

bythom pentax dev

The as-yet-named new Pentax APS-C DSLR

Other cameras that are strongly rumored to be coming soon are the Canon M200 and Ra, the Leica SL2, something from Nikon with the 60mp sensor, the Olympus E-M5m3, the actual appearance of the Sigma fp, and the Sony A9m2. A bit further out (say start of the year) and you could add a Canon 1DXm3 to those. Meanwhile Nikon has a total of seven cameras that have been registered at worldwide radio licensing agencies, and that leaves six that aren't the D6, and those can't all be Coolpix. 

It seems that we're in for a spurt of new cameras, and both DSLR and mirrorless will be in that mix. The question is whether the market can handle that much iteration. How many of those models will be "sticky" and get some traction?

Depends upon how you define "traction." 

A Canon 1DXm3 and Nikon D6 will have traction, but in a small subset of the user base, mostly sports shooters; perhaps with a shrinking pickup of photo journalists. Photo journalists are better served by 24mp mirrorless cameras that shoot silently, I'd say, so the beasts at the top of the DSLR mountain are going to see a bit less traction this time around.

Likewise, an APS-C DSLR flagship from a company with less than 5% of the fast declining DSLR market isn't going to be very sticky, either. Oh, it very well could entice the few lingering Pentax aficionados to upgrade. The photos released by Pentax with the development announcement show a pretty full-featured camera (see above). But even catching up with the Nikon D500—which isn't selling well—wouldn't be a big enough step forward to move anyone to Pentax. The new camera's traction will remain within the small Pentax crowd that's still buying.

The recently released Canon 90D DSLR, also APS-C, is turning out to be a bit better camera than I would have guessed, but I don't see anyone burning down doors to buy one. It was and remains "in stock" everywhere immediately following its release, which is not a good sign. We'll see if its mirrorless companion, the EOS M6m2, does better when that's released to dealers this week. Indeed, sales differences between those models would tell us something about the market. Same basic performance, half the size/weight at a lower price (okay, equal if you buy the EVF). I know which way I'd lean.

It shouldn't surprise you, though, that the three remaining DSLR makers are going to be putting out more DSLRs. Many of the enthusiasts that make up the top end of the DSLR buying market are looking for some excellent and compelling iteration, not a complete disruption of their system by moving to a different type of camera (e.g. mirrorless). 

Looking at the DSLR lineups, the cameras I see that are most likely to get another iteration would be: 

  • Canon: absolutely 1DX, maybe the 5D, probably the Rebel T7i. The first because it's overdue and would be accepted by a good portion of the 1DX shooters. The second if the right sensor can be found to stick in it. Enough 5D users out there haven't chosen to switch to mirrorless that you don't want to lose them to something else. The latter to pick up some remaining price-sensitive consumer DSLR customers with that 32mp sensor. If I were Canon: I'd do more or I'd accelerate the move to mirrorless. By more, I mean an SL4 with the 32mp sensor to capture the bottom end, and a 7Dm3 to capture the top end of APS-C.
  • Nikon: absolutely D5, probably D850, probably D7500, maybe D750. The first because it's already been announced (as well as the same reasons I cited for the 1DX). The second because this has been one of Nikon's most successful platforms and a 60mp sensor certainly would be tempting for the next iteration. The enthusiast D7500 because the jump from 20mp to 26mp would look good, and this was Nikon's most successful APS-C platform for enthusiasts who would still be in the market (started with the D70). Finally, I can see Nikon finally getting around to updating the aging D750 if they can slot it against the mirrorless offerings correctly. Full frame is Nikon's weapon of choice now, so having a three-camera DSLR line that's full frame and current seems like the right thing to do. If I were Nikon: 24mp D6 optimized for speed/low-light; 36mp D760 optimized for generalized shooting; 60mp D860 pushing that product a bit more as the quality/studio camera. I'd drop all the APS-C cameras and start over in mirrorless.
  • Pentax: I had to go to Pentax's Web site to see exactly what they think is current: K1 (both iterations), KP, K-70. Yikes. Given Pentax's very low sales volume, they have sensor issues. To get sensor pricing down to levels where you can hold a reasonable gross profit margin on the result, you commit to a specific volume for each sensor with Sony Semiconductor. This is one reason why the K1's are still using the 36mp sensor and the APS-C models are using the 24mp sensor. My guess is that whatever that new flagship APS-C camera is, it's still at 24mp. If so, then it would be difficult to predict anything other than minor iteration for any other Pentax model, and that would be using the current sensor. If somehow they move to the 26mp sensor, then the other two APS-C models need it, stat. If I were Pentax: I'd say it's past time to make a choice. (1) do an aggressive iteration of all the DSLR models bringing them much more up to current standards; (2) dump DSLR development entirely and go all in on a mirrorless system; or (3) give up the ILC business. I probably would have also given up the traditional selling model and gone 100% direct-to-customer, too. With an active base that small you need to be really close to the customer and you need the extra margin. 

Update: article was updated to clarify a few sentences.

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