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Mirrorless CSCs Will Impact DSLRs

TWICE:Is the mirrorless compact system camera (CSC) category likely to evolve into a legitimate alternative for advanced camera users and professionals?

Bo Kajiwara, Nikon: While it is a new market, we anticipate there is a consumer need for those looking for a compact portable solution that offers flexibility and creativity gained from interchangeable lenses and accessories. So far, this has included compact buyers seeking a more advanced system and we expect that will continue for the foreseeable future.

We believe the mirrorless compact system camera (CSC) category is serving a new market and is an excellent complement to both our compact and DSLR offerings. We’ve seen more consumers graduate to the Nikon 1 system for its portability, style and amazing speed. But the DSLR market also continues to grow as does the demand for compact digital cameras, and we continue our strategy to target different audiences needs which is working quite well as consumers are choosing the best camera to fit their lifestyle. With the Nikon 1 system, we have created a new market from demand among consumers who want seek a portable, creative camera that fits their lifestyle. The Nikon J1 is consistently the leader in this category and the market is growing. This ultimately benefits both consumers and dealers; as the system continues to expand and we continue to offer new products and accessory options.

Stefan Guelpen, Panasonic: We believe there are already large numbers of professionals – not just traditional photographers but also video centric professionals – who see the huge advantage of only having to own one camera that excels in both applications – still and video. We call that segment the “hybrid” professional.

The acceptance of entry-level CSC cameras is slower then expected – the step-up customer from high-end P&S is still gravitating toward the basic DSLRs. We see trends in the step-up CSC models that enthusiasts and educated consumers are embracing the technology and starting to understand the key advantages over traditional DSLRs.

Ron Gazzola, Samsung: We are already seeing this happen. As the performance capabilities of new CSC entrants, especially our NX models, rival those of DSLRs but in smaller and lighter packages, more consumers, including prosumer and professional photographers will choose to buy and shoot with a CSC. The CSC technology will continue to challenge DSLRs and the CSC category will maintain its rapid growth. In fact, IDC has reported that by 2015, CSC unit sales will surpass that of DSLRs. The consumer’s awareness of the CSC category and its benefits are growing. They increasingly understand that the performance of a CSC can rival that of any DSLR in a much smaller and lighter package. The consumer has spoken, which is why you are now seeing many brands entering this growing segment.

Mark Sherengo, Pentax: Pentax currently manufactures compact DSLRs that are not much larger than mirrorless cameras, yet still have advantages that most mirrorless cameras don’t, like a view finder, larger sensor and weather sealing. While there is room for improvement to make these tools better and more suited for professional photographers, most professionals have a defined shooting style from a long history of working with DSLRs.

It is a category that we expect to continue to grow but believe the recent numbers are skewed as a result of the natural disasters that occurred last year. The DSLR category will remain strong as an option for entry-level and professional photographers, but due to competition between the CSC and SLR segments, SLR pricing has shown a decrease.

Liz Cutting, NPD Group: The desire for more advanced cameras is panning out across both compact and interchangeable lens cameras. We have seen double-digit increases both in 30x-plus (bridge) compact cameras as well as smaller form factor, larger sensor compacts at $400-plus price points in 2012, at the same time as mirrorless surges forward. The bridge cameras are still a much bigger segment than mirrorless.

According to NPD’s “Next Camera” study, it is current DSLR owners who are most likely to be interested in purchasing a mirrorless camera in the next 12 months. While they were less likely to be hampered by a higher price point, they still held a concern that the camera wouldn’t have the same set of features and accessories as a DSLR. That said, the majority of advanced camera owners would be looking at a mirrorless camera as an addition to their existing camera family, and perceived as doing the work of a high end compact camera as opposed to replacing a DSLR. Compact camera owners interested in a mirrorless camera were also more likely to see it as a purchase instead of another compact camera. Still, as amateur consumers continue to step up to fuller featured cameras, the mirrorless camera is in a prime position to take some of the share that would have gone to entry level DSLRs.

Chris Chute, IDC: Eventually, I see the mirrorless platform being aimed at mid- and lower-end usage models, where the DSLR platform is more of a prosumer and pro tool. I think vendors in a mature market will want to streamline costs and use mirrorless in the lower end, where the average user doesn’t care about pentaprisms. So this will be more of an evolution over time.