2022 Is Going to See Changes

2021 brought us a number of great cameras: Canon R3, Fujifilm GFX100S, Nikon Z9, and Sony A1 to name the ones that get mentioned most often. But the real news is buried under the covers: 2021 was the year that DSLRs went on life support. The great new mirrorless cameras exceed the abilities of the great DSLRs, and even the lower-level mirrorless cameras now are putting consumer DSLRs in the dust, too.

So we're about to see the full force of the great pivot. Well, to be accurate, we're going to see the tail end of the great pivot. 

Before DSLR aficionados panic, I should point out that Nikon, at least, appears to want to keep at least two, maybe three DSLRs in their lineup for the foreseeable future. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nikon iterate one of them, though that's getting less and less likely. Both Canon and Nikon want to sell out their consumer DSLRs, though, and move on as fast as possible. I sincerely doubt we'll see another DSLR Rebel or any DX Nikon DSLR in the future. 

You can see the pivot clearly in the value changes for shipped cameras in CIPA reports. It started about two years ago, but now is absolutely crystal clear: the money is in mirrorless. And not just any mirrorless, but higher-end, full-frame mirrorless. The giveaway is in the lens sales: full frame lens sales are doing quite well compared to any other category of product CIPA tracks. 

One thing other commentators keep getting wrong is that volume is the most important number to the Japanese camera companies. It isn't—outside of a boom market—though volume numbers are often early warning signs that shouldn't be ignored. The real issue to the Japanese camera companies is this: can they maintain or increase yen taken in and also improve their profit margins while doing so?

Full frame mirrorless does both, as I've pointed out before. It's the higher-end, full frame mirrorless that are bringing the camera companies good money now, and mirrorless takes out costs and complexities that DSLRs add to the manufacturing process. The Nikon Z9 points towards the future in that respect: you'll see even more of the mechanical parts and complexities removed in future mirrorless cameras.

Canon and Nikon want to milk the last of the DSLR sales without doing anything in the process, but the cow is nearly dry, and no new calves have appeared to take their place.

However, it's the third parties that we'll see the big pivots from in 2022, I believe. The popularity of the Sony Alpha mirrorless models got Sigma, Tokina, and Tamron to all move a great deal of their production and new lens designs over to mirrorless. Fujifilm has caught Sigma's interest, for some reason. And now Canon and Nikon are selling serious quantities of high-end, full frame mirrorless cameras, as well, so I'd bet that 2022 will see all three major third-party lens makers offer Canon RF and Nikon Z options, and perhaps Fujifilm XF, as well. 

The same is true for flash. Nikon has already announced they're working with Nissin and Profoto, and I'm sure we'll see something from that cooperation in 2022. 

So, in 2022 DSLRs will "linger" in the market, with choices on the store shelves slowly eroding both in cameras and lenses that are available, with likely nothing (or next to nothing) new offered. Mirrorless, however, will be the focus of all the camera companies (other than Pentax, who seems to be focusing on nothing in particular). And because of the continued decline in APS-C volume, even in mirrorless, high-end and full-frame will be the adjectives in front of virtually all new mirrorless camera models.

Of course, someone is going to prove the exception to what I just wrote, and that's likely going to be the one company that ruthlessly pursues market volume: Canon. I wouldn't be surprised to see the first RF Rebel/Kiss model in 2022 from them. 

Finally, there's timing. 

Typically, there are two major windows for new camera launches. The first begins with CES in January and ends sometime around CP+ in February/March. The second in late summer and early fall. Spring is a catch-basin, with launches that fell out of the first window often showing up then. 

In 2022, I don't expect much in the way of camera intros in the first half of the year. With the parts shortages ongoing, everyone is struggling to ship what they already make, to the point of discontinuing or temporarily halting production on lower end models that don't pull enough profit margin. The one exception will likely be a hold-over product, such as the Panasonic GH6, which was originally scheduled to launch in 2021, but fell into the parts supply mess before it could appear.

I'm thinking the latter half of 2022 is going to be highly congested with product introductions, though. I'm hearing concentrated rumors around 14 different mirrorless models that are likely to show up (no, I won't go into what they are today, though Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony are the ones behind those 14 rumors). The vast majority of those are what I'm referring to as higher-end cameras.

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Meanwhile, I still have a ton of 2021-launched products to deal with, so I'm hoping that I'm right about the first half of 2022 being light on new cameras.

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