The Sony a7 III Might Have Ruined Canon's Plans For Their Mirrorless System

The Sony a7 III Might Have Ruined Canon's Plans For Their Mirrorless System

Canon is definitely late to the party when it comes to developing a professional mirrorless system, however, being late isn't always a bad thing. There are advantages to being second or even third to market when it comes to new products. Unfortunately for Canon, Sony seems to have anticipated this with the a7 III and competing is not going to be easy. 

Not so long ago Canon discussed how they had been slow when it came to innovation. One of the points that Canon's CEO made was about how latecomer manufacturers have a lot to gain. This is, of course, true in many cases because requirements for research and development are much lower. The cost of manufacturing can be lower too due to certain parts and materials becoming available to buy. Brand reputation has also helped Canon remain very popular in the market and trends would suggest that they may continue being popular when they release their own full-frame mirrorless option. All of the hard work and research that Sony has done is now available for Canon to take advantage of and their current larger market share will obviously help. Essentially for a company like Canon they can simply waltz into the market without having done much work and still be successful. 

Sony, on the other hand, seems to have different ideas and their answer is the a7 III. This "basic" model from Sony features an incredible amount of features, something not very common for entry-level full-frame cameras. Considering how most companies release their cameras, entry-level cameras generally do not offer many great features. They tend to be cameras which offer the bare minimum and this has remained relatively true for the most part. The Sony a7 II, for example, wasn't much of an upgrade from the original Sony a7, save a few improvements to the build/design and the addition of iBIS. 

The a7 III, on the other hand, is a very significant move against the norm because this camera is incredible. The camera is so good it's making Sony's own camera line-up a little confusing. Not only is it making people question whether or not they should buy the a7 III over the a7R III, but this "basic" model is also competing with their flagship camera: the Sony a9. In fact, in some areas, the a7 III is actually better than the more expensive a7R III and these are not superficial differences either. The a7 III has a much better autofocus system, significantly better low light performance — which actually rivals the a7S II — and also offers better quality 4k video. 

The question is, why does this "out of character" release matter so much and how does it impact Canon? Well, in short, this creates a very steep barrier to entry and the economic cost of entry is potentially much greater now than it was previously for Canon. Releasing something mediocre might be damning for Canon due to the a7 III and now, releasing something significant enough to get the attention of the market will cost much more than what they probably anticipated. 

Canon is notorious for being reserved when it comes to new releases. The drip feed mentality of Canon has annoyed many photographers and caused many individuals to look elsewhere for better and newer features. The alternatives might not be perfect but they are good enough for a vast number of individuals. Sony is the most viable option to switch to for many Canon shooters due to their feature-filled cameras and also the fact that adapting Canon lenses is really easy.

Canon is in a little bit of a quandary because they have a lot more to lose than Sony does. Sony as a company not only has a large enough budget to compete but, they can also take many more risks. This is why we're seeing Sony throw as many features as they possibly can into their cameras to stir up excitement, even at the cost of reliability on occasions. The Sony a7R II was effectively an unfinished camera that would overheat and the a7 III has been shown to overheat too in some demonstrations. Even with this, Sony cameras are gaining a lot of popularity and the risks they've taken seem to be paying off.

Canon, on the other hand, has a fully developed system that is soon to be obsolete due to needing to move to mirrorless, whilst still needing to cater to their DSLR sector. If they release a mirrorless camera that's too good then they risk cannibalizing their current line-up. Although Canon has discussed how they are willing to cannibalize their current line-up this sounds more like lip service. Unless Canon has set aside a large enough cash cushion or they release a fully developed line of cameras, lenses and, accessories in a very short period of time, they won't want to undermine their current systems. Chances are, Canon was probably going to release something relatively mediocre based on current standards. Unfortunately, if they do, many Canon shooters may feel that Sony is the better option and this is primarily down to the fact that the a7 III is such an incredible and cost-effective option. As mentioned above, the cost of entry for Canon is much greater now because of this intentional and strategic move from Sony.

It's true that Canon may be able to build their mirrorless system whilst using the EF mount as a crutch. This is with adapters of course, and many — including myself — may not like the idea of that, however, it's still a viable option. Alternatively, it may be a smarter move to continue with the EF mount on their mirrorless cameras, which means not investing in two different lens mounts at the same time. The EF mount is far from being dead right now and has received a number of new additions. Lenses like the Canon 85mm f/1.4L and three new tilt-shift lenses. This demonstrates a pretty strong commitment to it, and it doesn't seem like the EF mount will be going anywhere over the next few years either. In any case, the competition is definitely heating up and the mirrorless market could get interesting. 

What are your thoughts on Canon's future and what do you think they will do for their mirrorless camera? 

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51 Comments

Previous comments
Usman Dawood's picture

How is my title disconnected from my article? Just cause you disagree (which is fine by the way) doesn't make my title click bait or reduce anything I've said in my article. It just means we don't agree. Stick to the points instead of trying to diminish another person, bad form.

Also, have you read any of my other articles about Canon? Seems like you might actually agree with me.

Matt Williams's picture

People on this site love to call nearly every article "clickbait." Anything they remotely disagree with or doesn't interest them is clickbait.

Usman Dawood's picture

I’m feeling it lol.

Thanks for the support Matt.

A totally speculative article with no particular insight into what Canon are doing, ignoring Canon's current performance and even in the Mirrorless in Sony's home market Japan. So you use the terms "may have" because you don't know or suspect yourself you might be proven incorrect. So yes I'd rate the headline as click bait. Some of the points you raise in your article are valid but they are cliched and repeated endlessly in many articles so it needed a bit of punch in the headline.

Usman Dawood's picture

It’s an opinion, that’s how they work. You say some of my points are valid but this is also a “totally speculative article” too, how does that work?

Just because you disagree with something doesn’t make it click bait. Explain why the title is click bait, just because something is an opinion does not make it click bait. Not sure you understand what click bait actually is.

"May have ruined" is not supported anywhere in your article. You have absolutely no insight into what Canon are planning to do and whether the A7 III changes an iota of what they are doing. You can't even commit to it - "may have". Its not even an opinion - everything is "may". So for me yes it is click bait - a filler article telling us nothing

Usman Dawood's picture

Wait so you’re upset about this because I didn’t say I know this for certain.

Come on man seriously? Ok well I’ll just ignore you from now on.

It at least might make you think to write realistic titles to your articles and do a bit of research first and make them less speculative and more interesting

@Fergal O'Callaghan. Canon are ultra committed to squeeze your last dime out of your pockets. Just tell me how you can prove Canon is committed with reference to their last introduced cameras???

Matt Williams's picture

I am more interested, as a Nikon DSLR user, at what Nikon comes up with regarding mirrorless. I'm holding out on purchasing the A7 III to see what Nikon delivers us. Though, I do own the original a7 (and an IR converted a6000), because right now Sony is the only (reasonably priced) full-frame mirrorless on the market and I use a lot of vintage adapted glass (and the 55 1.8 is a true gem of a lens). But, unlike Canon lenses, Nikon lenses don't adapt as well to Sony regarding AF capabilities. If they did, I would be all over the A7 III right now.

Canon definitely has a leg up on Nikon in certain areas, particularly autofocus. Though, Nikon did show true innovation and promise with the Nikon 1 and hopefully they can develop similar technology for full frame. Nikon, on the other hand, will definitely have a better sensor in their mirrorless camera, unless Canon manages to up its game in that area.

Honestly, I may have a hard time waiting and will just end up getting the a7III. I already have a few Sony primes, and I'll still hold on to my DSLRs as long as I can along with a mirrorless system. It would just be nice to be able to use my Nikon lenses on such a camera without degradation to AF abilities.

I like the Nikon 1 and would buy one if they would update the sensor and processor. But I've given up hope for the Nikon 1.

Jan Kruize's picture

Hey look, Fstoppers is posting a pro-sony down canon article again. Come on guys... what's this. Getting big bucks from sony?

Usman Dawood's picture

You really really need to read my other articles lol. Have a look at my Canon articles and how positive I’ve been about them and negative about Sony.

That is true. Some people (as in me) even called you a Canon fan-boy.

Canon is of course capable of making a really good MILC with lots of advanced features. The question is not if they are capable of developping such a camera but it they are willing to make such a camera.

For the past few years, Canon have shown that they hate competing with other cameras in their line-up and actively handicapping their cameras. This strategy has earned them heaps of cash but I doubt if they can continue this strategy.

Even the most hardcore fan-boy should admit by now that Canon is holding out and not offering features most other companies offer. So far Canon hasn't abandonned this strategy. They did this again with the M5, offering no IS and dual pixel af when shooting 4k. The camera is hardware capable of using this but Canon handicapped the camera yet again.

Canon may be reluctant to cannibalise their product, but Sony don't care.
They will do it for them.

canon need to make a something with the same features as the a7iii, look at YouTube, look at videos where people have complaints about about the a7iii (banding etc,) and factor them in, when planning the the build and come in at a better price point than the a7iii came in.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

Am I the only photographer that gives 0 fucks about mirrorless? I'm still loving my Mark IV and get stoked about the Mark V. My friend is still geeking out over her new Nikon D850. Kids these days need all the bells and whistles. I do enjoy that Canon and Nikon shooters are bonding over shitting on Sony. lol

Usman Dawood's picture

Probably not the only one but regardless of we individually feel Canon and Nikon will be making a mirrorless
camera and they more than likely will move completely over to it.

craig john's picture

"If they release a mirrorless camera that's too good then they risk cannibalizing their current line-up."

If this is Canon's thought process, then they might as well forget about mirrorless altogether with such a defeatist attitude.

1) Would Canon rather have Sony cannibalize their current line-up, and Canon get's absolutely ZERO from this market by releasing nothing?

2) Would Canon rather release an inferior camera, and have Sony cannibalize their current line-up, and they now lose money by investing tons of money in R&D, manufacturing and distributions costs in a camera very people want? ...Which puts them further in the hole.

3) Or do they release the best damn camera they can at the $2,000-$2,500 price point - a camera that Canon users can get excited about, and encourages their current users to migrate to mirrorless. And.... this would encourage some owners from other brands to buy in...

Pick your poison...

Usman Dawood's picture

I want number 3 but how likely is that you think?

I hope Canon do that but based on the fact that is it Canon I doubt we’re going to get that.

craig john's picture

seems pretty likely. :)