Nikon's growing mirrorless share is a success

September 19, 2020

Nikkei published an article about the 2019 ILC market share yesterday that was also reposted by other Japanese websites and blogs like デジカメinfo. The article was then scooped up by several English speaking photography blogs, who then used Google Translate and posted their articles on the topic, mainly bashing Nikon of course. That's a standard practice on most of these garbage sites. Since I have a background in trade and business, let me and my team of geeks crunch the numbers for you and explain why Nikon's numbers are a success. 

Here's the overall ILC market share, which includes DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable cameras:

The fact that Nikon is still in the 2nd place overall did not make much news, because it doesn't fit the media narrative that Nikon is doomed. What made news is their mirrorless share, which you can see here:

Mirrorless still hasn't outsold the DSLR yet

For those who are not very educated on the matter, this looks bad, because 7% is lower than the rest, right? Well, here is the truth: Nikon was mainly selling mid-to-high end full frame cameras (Z6, Z7 and towards the end of 2019 the Z50), so the average selling price of these cameras was way higher than any other brand on the list, because other brands had a whole slew of models in the sub 1000 USD price range, and the majority of ILC cameras sold in 2019 were in that entry level price range, be it DSLRs or mirrorless.

I made this overview of ILC cameras by brand and by type and you can see that in 2019 mirrorless ILC cameras still have not surpassed DSLRs in the overall share with 45%. While brands like Sony, Fuji and Olympus are exclusively selling mirrorless ILC cameras, the two big brands Canon and Nikon still majorly sell DSLRs (Canon 77% of their overall ILC business) and Nikon (84% of their overall ILC business). 

Explaining the numbers

Why the disparity you might wonder? When it comes to Nikon, it's because they only had one mirrorless system in 2019, the Nikon Z system, which consisted of 2 full frame cameras (Z6, Z7), and one crop camera (Z50), however that one was shipping in November 2019, so it sold only 2 months that year and had a minor impact on the overall numbers by Nikon. They also only had 8 full frame lenses available, and 2 crop lenses that were released by November 2019 with the Z50 which impacted the sales of the Z cameras.

Canon on the other hand has had the EOS M and EOS R mirrorless systems in 2019. While the R system was as new as Nikon's Z system, The M system was available since 2012 and has had several iterations in the recent years (M, M2, M3, M5, M6, M6 mk II, M50, M10, M100, M200). It's also a crop sensor system, which means there are several cameras selling in lower price points, even around 500 USD and cheaper, depending on various promotions. This is something Nikon doesn't have yet, hence Canon sold much more mirrorless cameras than Nikon.

When we look at Sony, Fuji and Olympus, all of these brands sell extremely cheap mirrorless ILC cameras, in price points between 500-1000 USD where most ILC cameras are sold. Sure, they also have offers in the Z6-Z7 tier (where the average selling price is about 2000 USD), but we don't know how many they sell and how Nikon compares to that. That would be the most interesting thing to do, because that's Nikon's focus, because it's probably the segment where you can ship a decent quantity and have a very good margin. The market above 3000 USD is very small, the market under 1000 USD is huge, but margins are much smaller. Nikon smartly realized that they want to focus on the segment between 1500 USD and 2500 USD. I believe Sony is definitely #1 brand there followed by Canon and Nikon. Fuji is probably 4th.

In conclusion

Considering the fact that 2019 was Nikon's first year in the ILC mirrorless market and that they had very expensive offerings and a limited lens selection, these numbers are a big success (from 0% to 7% in a year). Unfortunately 2020 won't be good for any camera brand, but I believe Nikon's mirrorless market share will go up nevertheless, considering that the cheaper Z50 will have a full year of sale, that the Z6 and Z7 are discounted, that the cheaper Z5 was added and of course that the Z lens selection is much larger this year (Nikon has 2 times more Z lenses this year than they had in 2019).

This is definitely good news for Nikon, despite the gloomy outlook when it comes to the market itself, because at some point in the next 1-2 years the market will bottom out and then bounce back, because people will be buying more cameras again. In my opinion, Nikon has to focus more on beginner vloggers and Youtubers, people who are entering the market. A cheaper version of the Z50 with a screen flipping out to the side would help a lot and would add new customers to their fold, taking them away from Sony and Canon. A high end mirrorless is not really urgent in my opinion, but having the Z6 and Z7 successors come out soon would definitely help a lot, especially if the Z6 and Z7 remain on the shelves and sell at a discounted price, similarly to how the D750 still sells next to its successor the D780. That's common practice by Sony and Fuji and it seems to work. Once Nikon has more bodies out there, the share will go up. Nikon has a huge installed base of DSLR users that will slowly move over to mirrorless eventually, and that's a big advantage over exclusively mirrorless brands like Sony, Fuji and Olympus. Nikon's future is bright, if we look at the next 5 to 10 years.


  1. Great breakdown of the numbers. I completely agree. Nikon Z will only get bigger and better with time, because it's not complete yet. They need an entry level camera at around 500 USD, but I think they don't want to compete with their own D3000 series which is probably cheaper to produce, because it's longer on the market. I expect them more to be in that mid-to-high end market for a while.

  2. My guess is that the overwhelming majority of Sony bodies sold are the A6xxx series, which are generally less expensive. The bulk of sales are still in APS-C. Will be interesting to see if/how the Z50 boosts sales.

  3. I don't know why photography websites and youtubers comment on these companies and their sales. How is that relevant to photography? Are now photography brands like NFL teams that people cheer on? I'm totally lost...


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