Camera Predictions for 2021: What We Think You Can Expect
DPReview just released its annual camera industry predictions video where Chris and Jordan discuss what they think will come from the leading manufacturers. I think that, for the most part, they’re right on the nose.
2020 was an “upset the apple cart” kind of year. I think that were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have seen different decisions from the major camera manufacturers, and that many of them looked at what they could do this year and if they found that they could wait one more year before taking that action, they chose to.
So looking at next year, this is what I (along with Chris and Jordan) think you can expect from the big names in 2021.
Chris and Jordan are pretty spot on in their analysis of Canon’s position: the company is in really good shape when it comes to the high end. Right after the launch of the EOS R, Canon spent a majority of its time building out its lens lineup. By the time it finally released the R5 and R6, there was a robust lens library to back up those two cameras.
The thing is, almost everything Canon sells in the RF line is extremely expensive, making it challenging for anyone with a limited budget to get a toe in Canon’s mirrorless pool. The DPReview video duo believes we’ll see more inexpensive camera equipment from Canon in 2021, including an RP replacement, and I tend to agree with them.
One area that is a bit of a wild card is what Canon plans to do with its M mount. As Jordan says, the “M50 Mark II was kind of an embarrassing upgrade.” It’s true. That camera does not deserve the “Mark II” name, as Canon essentially gave it a firmware upgrade and put it on sale. I’m absolutely not confident in this hot take, but I do think Canon will keep it around. I’m not getting the sense that the company wants to make smaller sensor products in the RF line, and the M line is a perfect place to offer that kind of support while the RF line continues to cater to those wanting full frame.
Canon is a hard one to predict because while it’s early on in the mirrorless game for it still, the company seems so well-positioned to do whatever it wants. The company’s mirrorless strategy seems to have paid off, and now there is so much flexibility with where Canon can take its brand that it’s hard to predict. Canon fans really just have a lot of reasons to continue to be optimistic.
I think if you’ve been paying attention, it’s kind of easy to guess what Pentax/Ricoh is going to do in 2021: not a lot. We’ll get the Pentax K3 Mark III, maybe a new GR under the Ricoh brand, and perhaps one Pentax lens, but the company has repeatedly underwhelmed for years. Leadership has said time and again that it will never produce a mirrorless Pentax product and seeing how long it takes the company to make lenses for its DSLRs, I believe them. There is no way that at its current pace, Pentax could compete even if it did produce a great mirrorless ILC: you’d have to wait 5 or 6 years before there was any kind of flexible library of first-party glass to use on such a camera.
I am a bit excited to see how the K3 Mark III integrates on-sensor stabilization since we haven’t seen that technology in a DSLR before (at least not to my memory, I could be wrong). Aside from that though, there is scant little to say when it comes to Pentax/Ricoh.
I have to admit, I can’t predict Fujifilm. I like the cameras, but I’ve never been a “Fuji guy.” Jordan has a small list of expectations for the company in 2021 which primarily aim at the company’s video capability. Fujifilm has been steadily upping its video game over the last two years and stepping into Panasonic’s micro four-thirds space. I think what Jordan says here is a smart guess: expect them to give video shooters more.
I also agree that it would make sense to see Fujifilm play around a bit more with medium format cameras. Right now, those cameras are big, bulky, and still relatively expensive. Fujifilm could try and compress that excellent 100-megapixel sensor down into a smaller, more affordable, and even more approachable body.
Chris doesn’t seem to think we’ll see much in the way of cameras out of Leica this year, but there are rumors swirling that disagree, such as one hinting at a more affordable rangefinder as well as a new CL camera early in 2021.
Still, over the past two years, Leica has been making a lot of cameras and I think Chris’s opinion that we will instead see more optics from the company this year is a pretty safe bet. The L-Mount could use more interesting, faster glass. I also think that Leica should leverage its ability to make interesting lenses as opposed to the current trend of high-performing, soul-less glass. I hope we see them play around a bit in that space.
We’ll get to this more in the Panasonic section, but Leica’s autofocus needs work: it’s not a good sign that the SL2 didn’t win me over until I used manual focus lenses. Unlike Panasonic who has the DFD technology, Leica just has a competent contrast-based system without the intelligence behind it. Leica either needs to just license what Panasonic has, or it needs to add phase detection. This middle ground it’s sitting in isn’t working for anyone more than a hobbyist.
Nikon has repeatedly been featured in a negative light in the news this year, mostly due to its financial situation. Things don’t look great on that end, but I don’t believe that we are anywhere close to seeing the end of Nikon. No, instead, I think the company will do what it keeps threatening to do: make more mirrorless lenses and produce one more DSLR.
Jordan’s prediction of a Z-mount sports body to compete with the Sony a9 is a pretty good guess, and I do agree we’ll see a new sports body from Nikon in 2021, but it may be either a DSLR or a mirrorless. I’m not certain if Nikon has the technology to make a high-performing sports mirrorless quite yet, but we know it can do it with DSLRs.
Sigma is primarily known as a lens manufacturer, but it is technically a camera maker, too. While Jordan says he hopes to see a Foveon mirrorless camera, I have my doubts. I have said for years that I expect them to use that technology again and always predict that “this year will be the year.”
I think I’m done hoping there.
I bet we do see a compact, street/travel oriented mirrorless photo-focused camera from Sigma but I doubt it uses the Foveon sensor. It’s been so long since it has been seen in a camera that at this point, I have to believe that Sigma is having difficulty with making it a compelling option when faced with the market.
What is more likely is an “I Series” camera to go with Sigma’s latest compact primes.
Chris and Jordan are of the same mind as me: it’s hard to not believe this is just the beginning of the end for Olympus. Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) purchased the brand this last year and it’s hard not to believe that it will slowly just let the brand die off.
Financially speaking, I don’t know how that makes sense for JIP, though. The purchase of Olympus was not cheap and letting the brand slowly fade away doesn’t seem like a sound financial strategy to me. I have a bit more confidence that Olympus will stick around for a while than Chris does, but it’s really hard to tell. We rarely see new owners of camera brands in this industry so it’s hard to look at situations from the past and as a barometer for what we are seeing now. Unfortunately, we will just have to wait and see.
Panasonic is my favorite camera brand, and I have no qualms about saying that. I switched over to Panasonic with the GH4 and now happily use the GH5, S1, S5, and S1H. There are many who do not use Panasonic products who say that the company’s DFD technology is bad and its insistence on contrast-based autofocus is never going anywhere, but I disagree. I think Panasonic will stick with DFD and continue to improve it. At this point, if Panasonic was going to use phase detection, it already would have.
I am also with Jordan: I am 100% confident we’ll see the GH6 this year as a video-focused micro four thirds camera that will have at least the same specifications we see in the a7S III. I don’t think video shooters want more resolution, and as such it will be a camera that will focus on absolutely rocking 4K performance.
I think that if 2020 were a normal year, the a7 IV would already be on the market. Sony took a very conservative approach to 2020 because, let’s face it, the company doesn’t have to take any risks anymore: it kind of owns the mirrorless space. That won’t last forever though with Canon breathing down its neck though, and as such we are most certainly going to see Sony release some impressive new products in 2021 starting with an a7 IV.
I think Sony will also make a stronger case for its APS-C line, hopefully leaving behind that a6000-style body. Fujifilm could use some stronger competition, and I think Sony recognizes that.
Also, some of the older G-Master lenses desperately need a refresh – I am looking at you 24-70mm f/2.8. I am fairly confident that we’ll see new versions of those lenses come this year with updated optics and the brand new autofocus motors.
Do you agree with Chis and Jordan? What did I miss or get wrong? What are your predictions for 2021? Let us know in the comments.