What is the (camera) world coming to…?

It has been said time and again that the only constant in this world of ours is change… Change is such a formidable force that trying to reverse it or even delay it is an exercise in futility. The camera industry has been seeing its aggregate market share shrink rapidly, while smartphones are becoming ever more powerful and capable cameras, certainly more than adequate for the vast majority of users out there.

For some camera companies, this is the last battle they will live to fight. The venerable Olympus has been sold to a fund and Nikon’s future seems pretty bleak at this point. For others, more responsive and adaptable, this mass move of consumers to smartphones, meant that they have to play at another field and compete in a territory as yet unvisited by smartphones: the ultra top category in terms of price and features. So, for the folks who are shopping in this market segment, it is one hell of a time!

For one, Sony came like a blizzard and took everyone by surprise a few years ago with their a7 series (now in their 4th iteration), a small mirrorless full-frame camera that showed the way to the competition if they decided to fight this war instead of calling it quits. Traditional companies like Canon and Nikon were late adopters, as they were heavily invested to their legacy DSLR systems. Eventually though (in the past couple of years) they introduced their R and Z series respectively and decided to give Sony a run for its money. Talking about money, full frame became almost affordable in the process and that is a good thing ceteris paribus, not that it should matter to the majority of people.

Other companies like Fujifilm took the high road! Instead of offering models in the full-frame category, they one-upped the industry by going medium format, in which they had experience from their film days anyway. They offered 50mp medium format cameras (GFX 50S and GFX 50R) that were not much bigger than pro-level DSLRs. Hm…

Hasselblad, another medium format giant, thought, #metoo! They introduced a beautiful 50mp medium format camera (and lenses) and topped the charts in terms of Image Quality. As their first model (X1D 50) was pretty expensive compared to Fuji’s offerings, the introduced an improved version (X1D ii 50) at a lower price. Beat that…

As the war was brewing in the medium format field, Sony wasn’t about to let its full-frame mirrorless dominance in the hands of Canon and Nikon. They kept pushing the envelope until a few days ago, they introduced the a1 which, at least on paper, is one beast of a full-frame camera, shooting at incredible speeds and doing 8K video in the process. All this will set you back somewhere in the vicinity of 6K, so it is not exactly cheap.

So, in both the full frame and medium format areas, 50 mp seemed to become the standard by which other newcomers and contenders would be benchmarked against. Of course, outliers do exist and such a beast came in the meantime from Fujifilm under the name of GFX100, 100 standing for an equal amount of megapixels. Costing around 10K, it will make a dent to your wallet, but then again, this is what it takes to play with the big boys.

Leica was watching closely, as “lesser” companies were moving into its own price territory and decided that it was time to up its game. Time for the 64mp S3 to rule them all in terms of price and prestige in the medium format market, right? They also revamped their SL line, introducing the 5K SL2 (at the 50mp level) and the SL2-S for 1K less at what is considered the full frame sweet spot of 24mp. Add the expensive but pretty incredible SL lenses into the price mix and things began to look different yet again!

But no company is left to rest on its laurels for too long… Fujifilm just a few short days ago announced the GFX100S, a 100mp medium format camera that is the size and weight of a pro DSLR and costs around 6K. It packs incredible tech in a package that is pretty small for what it offers. This round then goes to Fujifilm!

However, this will only last until the next introduction of a do-all, end-all camera that will cost even less and will be the dream camera of people that never knew they absolutely had to have one until the moment before its unveiling. Of course, this is not enough to reverse the trend towards smartphones, not even close actually, but for some companies it will breathe some much needed air to their sails and take them to where the water is blue and crystal clear, not a shark in sight… oh wait, is that a fin?