Over the last few years, we’ve seen how Sony has made some pretty huge gains in the photography industry. This is especially true for the mirrorless market and plenty of photographers have switched from DSLR cameras to Sony mirrorless cameras. Even still, I predict that once Canon releases its mirrorless cameras, it will eventually dominate that industry too.
I’m assuming some of you may have some snarky (and more than likely humorous) comment about how Canon might if it actually released a mirrorless camera. We can comfortably allay those thoughts because Canon has stated it will be focusing on mirrorless, even if that means its DSLR sales are cannibalized. Many of the rumors are suggesting that Canon will be releasing a mirrorless full-frame camera within the next few months and once it does, mirrorless will officially be on the road to becoming mainstream.
Although companies like Fujifilm and Sony have been doing a fantastic job producing some of the best cameras on the market, considering their actual share of the market, to some extent they’re still pretty niche. The two major manufacturers within this industry are Canon and Nikon, and Canon currently holds the largest portion.
In a recent article Sony stated that it is the number one full-frame camera supplier in the US, but context is important. Sony released its a7 III this year and Canon has not released any cameras in over a year. Also, the US is only one section of the market and not indicative of the whole industry.
Here are the reasons I believe Canon has the advantage…
Dual Pixel Auto Focus
If you’ve used any of the new Sony cameras like the a7R III and the a7 III then you’ll know the current autofocus system Sony uses is significantly better than its previous versions. The focus system is not only fast and accurate, but you also have features like eye detect autofocus and face detect which are incredibly useful for many photographers.
The issue is that Sony’s autofocus system is still not quite as good as Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF). In my regular use, I’ve found that Canon’s focus system from the sensor is still by far the best. Even in relatively low light, I’ve found that with my 5D Mark IV using DPAF I’m able to find focus more effectively than I ever can with my Sony cameras.
Don’t get me wrong, I love using Sony cameras, but when it really counts, I still pick Canon over Sony. This is especially true for video, for some reason Sony’s AF system seems to “pulse” in continuous AF. It’s as though Sony cameras have a hard time keeping focus on a subject even when stationary.
I also find that on occasions it completely misses focus or gets easily distracted by other subjects or objects that temporarily block a portion of the frame. Canon, on the other hand, is just much more effective. Tap to focus on your subject and you can be sure that subject will remain in focus even if something blocks the frame slightly.
Tap to focus on Sony is okay at best and it doesn’t seem to track as well or at all on many occasions. Even focus racking on Canon cameras look far smoother and more natural when using their AF system. In essence, DPAF is still the best AF system by a long shot. With mirrorless on the horizon for Canon, I predict this system will only get better.
On the surface it may seem like Sony has a clear advantage in this area, but Canon still has the edge here. Many photographers have found that adapting EF lenses to Sony cameras is just not an effective option for anything meaningful. Canon, on the other hand, will more than likely produce a native adapter that will work pretty much as well as its native lenses. We can assume this quite comfortably based on how its current EOS-M adapter works.
Therefore, it has a significantly greater lens selection on offer. Essentially this means many Canon shooters may not need to immediately replace their lenses because the current lineup will be more than enough. Even in the unlikely instance that Canon produces a mirrorless camera with no lenses specific for that mount, Canon shooters will still have more options available to them.
Existing Customer Base
You really cannot underestimate the number of photographers that are waiting for a good mirrorless option from Canon to switch to. Switching from one brand to another is a very costly affair. The time it takes to sell all of your equipment and buy new equipment is also a factor that needs to be considered. Also, when you consider the lens selections available from many mirrorless manufacturers, it’s not always possible to replace like for like.
Take tilt-shift lenses, for example: there are no viable options available from Sony and adapting reduces image quality with some of the wider lenses. For these reasons and several others, there are many Canon shooters who will simply buy the next Canon camera. Familiarity is a valuable factor for many photographers and Canon will take advantage of this.
This is somewhat of a minor point, but a point nonetheless. Canon seems to do a much better job when it comes to colors, especially for skin tones. I say this from experience, Sony colors even when using a color checker passport just aren’t as pleasing. Sickly yellow tones or green shifts in skin tones are ever present and it does affect the workflow.
Yes, the colors can be adjusted and custom profiles can be created, but, having a camera that does a good job with colors straight out, is useful to have. Even when filming, Canon’s colors for video just look more pleasing and natural.
This one may a little early to tell, but based on Canon’s track record we can make some relatively safe assumptions. Canon regularly releases cameras that are complete, straight out of the box. They just work and are far more effective for the working photographer. Canon does not rush out its cameras and then try to fix things with firmware updates.
Sony, however, has had to provide plenty of firmware updates just to make its cameras work better. You’ve heard about issues with overheating or bugs and glitches and these are not issues Canon cameras suffer from. Based on its track record, you can be confident in the fact that any camera you buy Canon is just going to work and let you do your job.
Even now when it comes to any professional work, I will pick my 5DS R over the a7R III every time. When it comes down to speed of operation, Canon is noticeably better. Sony cameras take longer than I like to do basic things like switch on.
Going through menus and changing settings is still not quite as fluid. Things like needing to change the mode dial to switch from manual mode to video is a little annoying. Sure, you can press the record button on the Sony at any point, but, I like to see the shot and compose before I hit record. With Canon, it’s a simple flick of a switch.
Switching back and forth between MF and AF in video mode on Sony cameras is an absolute pain, and why are so many Sony lenses missing an AF/MF switch? Tap to focus on Canon is simply incredible and Sony just doesn’t have that feature nailed yet. Also, if you’ve set the camera to write to both cards on the Sony and only have one SD card in the slot, you can’t take any pictures until you change the settings.
Canon just does it intuitively and knows to write to the single card without needing to change settings. Ergonomics, the top screen, the huge plethora of accessories, and the fact that Canon doesn’t have a fiddly switch to open the door to the card slots are some of the reasons why Canon is way ahead when it comes to usability.
If we’re being honest, there isn’t much that Canon needs to do in order to cement its position. If Canon released a mirrorless camera with similar specs to the 6D Mark II, a few tweaks, an extra card slot, and the ability to record full frame 4K with a modern codec, that would make for an extremely compelling reason to stay with Canon. Even with all the bad press the 6D Mark II received, it’s still a top seller on B&H. In-fact several popular YouTubers have described it as the best vlogging camera.
It’s easy to criticize Canon because such a large number of people use its cameras. When you hold the top position, everyone is gunning for you. Canon cameras tend to be a slow burn and first impressions are not one of their strengths. It’s with time that people realize how good their cameras actually are.
Exciting new features are great, but Canon seems to always get the most important features right. This is why so many professionals put their trust in them. Even I had to reevaluate the 5D Mark IV after using it for a long time because the majority of the benefits are not found on the spec sheet. We all love a good underdog story and seeing how far Sony has progressed is impressive.
Ultimately, however, Canon will continue with their number one position, even in the mirrorless market.
About the author: Usman Dawood is the lead photographer of Sonder Creative, an architectural and interior photography company. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.
Image credits: Photographer photo by Augustas Didžgalvis and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0