Collapse in unit shipments means $6000 cameras could be the norm

Something has gone badly wrong with the camera market.

Let’s talk about the Sony A1 and Fuji GFX 100S. Undoubtably flagship models, great specs and moving the high-end photography market forward. Moving the $6000 market forward, past what the 1D X Mark III or Nikon D6 ever did. They also shoot fantastic video with a mirrorless form factor far superior to DSLRs.

When the Canon EOS R5 was announced I thought it was an expensive step up in price. Rare to see a mirrorless camera at $4500. Previously $3000 had been the high-end price, for cameras like the Sony A7R IV. At the very top of the camera market meanwhile is medium format. Hasselblad, Leica, and now Fuji. As an original GFX 100 owner, the GFX 100S devalues what I already have and occupies a price territory still far out of reach to most enthusiasts, yet low enough to seriously tank sales of even more expensive models.

I believe the camera industry should think long and hard about what they are doing.

Thankfully for me the upgrade path from the GFX100 is a few years away yet, so I won’t be selling it – although it’d be nice to have a smaller body to carry around.

Personally I think the GFX 100S comes out too soon. It’s a very aggressive move, perhaps to compete with Sony, I don’t know. As I explored here the unit shipments (and sales) of digital cameras are at almost historic low levels, barely higher than in 1999 and lower than the year 2000. The Japanese manufacturers continue to be locked in a price war competing amongst themselves in a fierce dick swinging competition.

The problem is not that the GFX 100S costs $6000 and destroys the market for $10,000+ medium format cameras.

The problem is that soon $6000 will be the norm for most high-spec digital cameras, a high price to pay for anything interesting.

This destroys interest at the enthusiast level.

Where is the GH6? Where is the X-H2? Why do top Micro Four Thirds cameras cost nearly $2000? Why is there nothing interesting to buy under $1200?

At some point, enthusiasts are going to be priced out of all the interesting tools they need to sustain an interest in cameras. In fact, they may even start using smartphones.

My interest in smartphones is deepening day by day at an enthusiast level. The technology is amazing. This greatly interests me. Image quality takes great strides with each year. The choice of device is enormous. In dedicated mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, large sensors remain at almost static level for photo quality (with a few exceptions like the GFX 100) and devoid of computational photography tricks.

I don’t use my smartphones for video – but I do own one capable of shooting 8K from a sensor nearly 1″ in size and 108 megapixel in resolution. Full width 8K from a 12K sensor (not a crop) in a smartphone is a reality not of this year but even of last year and the year before. See the Xiaomi Mi 10. It cost me 500 euros and has a far better screen and processor than a $6000 mirrorless camera.

This is a dangerous game the camera manufacturers are playing in Japan.

They need to bring more enthusiasts back to the table, at higher volumes and more accessible prices.

They need to protect the investments of professional users for longer (with tools like the $10,000 GFX 100).

Maybe they also need to stop competing amongst themselves for the exact same customers.

I understand there is a problem with the shift to lower volumes, less interest from consumers, smartphones and all that (which you could have seen coming since 2008).

But if $6000 is going to be the new standard price for interesting cameras, you can say goodbye to the enthusiasts and goodbye to professionals spending any more than that.