Tokyo Olympics update

For decades, Canon and Nikon have been in a duopoly position in the field of professional sports photography. But just as changing technology can affect the competitiveness of athletes, the development of mirrorless cameras has broken their dominant position in the professional market.

People watching the Olympics may not have noticed, but with Skateboarding and the climbAt the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Sony’s mirrorless camera was successfully unveiled on the track.

The prominence of the Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras in the Olympics and the praise of the photographers who used them marked a turning point in the professional market. Even though consumers have moved to smaller and lighter devices, the professional market remains loyal to digital SLR cameras.

During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the battle was mainly between Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras. According to a photographer working at the Olympic venues interviewed by the Financial Times, although official data has not yet been released, Sony’s mirrorless camera estimates for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are between 10% and 30%, and a large part of it is likely From Nikon.

“During the Rio Olympics, everyone used DSLR cameras, but I was surprised to see so many photographers using Sony’s mirrorless cameras this time,” said freelance photographer Yusuke Nakanishi.

For the Tokyo Olympics, Nakanishi has switched to Canon’s mirrorless cameras: “I am ready so that I can switch from this Olympics, because I think SLR cameras will gradually disappear in the future.”

Last year, global shipments of mirrorless cameras surpassed SLR cameras for the first time.

According to the Camera and Imaging Products Association, global digital camera shipments have fallen by 93% in the past decade.

Although the popularity of smartphone cameras has led to a decline in the sales of digital cameras, Sony took a gamble and decided to develop a series of more expensive mirrorless cameras, echoing the strategy adopted by its consumer electronics business that turned losses into profits.

According to data from Techno Systems Research, its bet since 2010 has paid off. Last year, its share of the global mirrorless camera market reached 35%, the same as Canon and more than four times the share of Nikon.

“Sony is currently the leader in the field of mirrorless,” said Ichiro Michikoshi, an analyst at BCN, a market research group. “Canon and Nikon are late because they have their own SLR lineup, which poses the risk of cannibalization, so now the gap with Sony is even bigger.”

As a high-profile symbol of breaking the Canon-Nikon duopoly ambitions, Sony occupies a major position in the huge Olympic media center, and its brand service center competes with Canon (the gold sponsor of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics).

Since the release of the Alpha 9 mirrorless camera in 2017, Sony’s influence in the professional market has been increasing.

Last year, the Associated Press, a US news agency, announced that all its photographers and videographers would switch to the Sony Alpha system, which surprised the industry.

Associated Press photographer Eric Gay uses a Sony mirrorless camera in a women's basketball game

Associated Press photographer Eric Gay uses a Sony mirrorless camera in a women’s basketball game. The Associated Press says camera technology is superior to SLR cameras © Charlie Neibergall/AP

“We switched to Canon after the Athens Olympics [in 2004] Because Nikon hasn’t prepared the technology we expected. This time it was almost like that. Canon is not ready to use professional-grade cameras,” said Denis Paquin, deputy director of photography for the Associated Press in charge of Olympic photography operations.

In addition to simplifying the workflow of the Associated Press photo editor, Paquin expressed the benefits of a mirrorless camera-there is no viewfinder mirror that must be flipped, and the sensor is avoided every time the shutter is triggered-including focusing speed and quality of the image. Without the dull sound of familiar SLR cameras, mirrorless cameras are also quieter, making them less disturbing in activities such as golf and tennis.

“What the mirrorless does is to make us invisible again. This is what we have always wanted to be—observers that don’t change history and the things in front of us,” Paquin said.

Two photographers who have been participating in the Olympics for decades-a Czech and a British-predict that by the 2024 Paris Olympics, most professionals will use mirrorless cameras.

However, for some photographers, the cost of switching to a new system is high, and it is not easy to change a long-established habit.

Canon and Nikon have been renting mirrorless cameras that have not yet been officially launched from professionals at the Tokyo Olympics, but their main driving force is the use of flagship digital SLR cameras.

“It is risky to suddenly change something you have used for so many years. That’s why I decided to wait until Canon develops a professional mirrorless camera,” Nakanishi said.

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