Sony conquers Canon and nixes Nikon in the full-frame mirrorless market

(Image credit: Future)

In 2018, Sony announced that it was investing about $9 billion over three years into its image sensor business in a bid to dominate the digital photography market. At the time, CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said that the company's aim is to become the top camera brand in the world by 2021 and, it seems, that investment is paying off.

The latest market analysis reports from Japanese firm BCN has shown that Sony has knocked Canon off the top spot when it comes to year-on-year sales of mirrorless cameras.

According to the 2019 BCN rankings – based on sales figures between November 2018 and October 2019 – Sony's marketshare has jumped from 31.6% last year to 38%. In second place, Canon's sales dropped to 36% from last year's 37.8%.

While it's good for Sony, the full-frame mirrorless snappers only make up a fraction of the total digital camera sales. And that's where Canon is still king, despite the slowing of sales. Sony, however, has taken the second spot in overall digital camera sales, relegating Nikon to third position.

Staying focused

The full-frame mirrorless market is, admittedly, becoming a saturated place, with options from not just Sony, Canon and Nikon available, but Panasonic as well. Sony, though, has been in the business longer, with the others making their foray into full-frame mirrorless snappers in only the last year.

Canon may have offered the average consumer the most affordable full-frame mirrorless option in the EOS RP, but not many people were happy about the cropped video. Nikon, though, had excellent options in both the Z6 and the Z7, but none of the cameras could keep up with Sony's superb autofocus system.

Firmware updates have since improved autofocus performance for both Canon and Nikon, but there's something to be said about being able to take a camera out of the box and know you'll be able to focus on your subject in the blink of an eye.

There's also the matter of lenses: where Sony has an established stable of superb glass for all its cameras, the others are still playing catch-up, with only a few native lenses available for each of the new lens mounts.

Given time, though, those sales figures might change as the number of native lenses available for each system increases, which could make Canon or Nikon a more appealing option for some, particularly if the price tags are competitive as well. 

Whether Sony is able to keep up the momentum remains to be seen, but there's no denying the company has some of the best full-frame mirrorless cameras in the business.

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She's also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn't enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom's Guide, while also working on two of Future's photography print magazines Down Under.