Sony wins mirrorless race, beating Canon and Nikon for 2019 full-frame sales

Sony has beaten Canon and Nikon in the 2019 full-frame camera race
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

While the western world was tying itself in knots buying all the Black Friday bargains, something very important happened in Japan: it was revealed that Sony sold more full-frame cameras than anyone else in 2019, overtaking Canon for market share. 

In short, this means that Sony has won the full-frame mirrorless race in 2019; despite their best efforts, the Canon EOS R (opens in new tab) and Nikon Z7 (opens in new tab) simply couldn't keep paces with the awesome sales of Sony's Alpha cameras. 

The news comes courtesy of BCN+R, the Japanese retail analysis service that monitors point of sale data in the nation. In its report (opens in new tab), BCN+R announced that Sony now holds dominant market share of 38% in the full-frame arena, followed by Canon at 36% and Nikon at 24%. 

This is in stark contrast to 2018, which saw Canon hold a 37.8% share, Sony 31.6% and Nikon 29.1%. 

"In September last year, Nikon launched the Z7, Nikon entered the market with Z mount, Canon entered RF mount, Panasonic, Sigma and Leica with L mount," said the report (machine translated). 

The BCN+R data shows Sony (blue) in first, Canon (peach) in second, Nikon (grey) third for full-frame sales

The BCN+R data shows Sony (blue) in first, Canon (peach) in second, Nikon (grey) third for full-frame sales (Image credit: BCN+R)

"However, Canon and Nikon have already been brilliantly defeated, partly because they have been wary of fighting against the full-size model that is being developed with a single-lens reflex camera. Even if the full size model of mirrorless and single-lens reflex camera is added up, the result is that only Sony is growing after all."

So, despite Canon and Nikon launching their own full-frame mirrorless systems AND combining those sales with sales of their full-frame DSLRs (which Sony does not make), Sony still beat them with mirrorless alone. 

What is interesting, however, is that between the 'big three', full-frame cameras are an incredibly small part of the puzzle (albeit the most profitable). According to BCN+R, full-frame only accounts for 10.4% of sales (6.4% of that being mirrorless, 4% DSLR); APS-C cameras account for 89.6% (55.7% mirrorless, 33.9% DSLR). 

Still, the fact that Canon is no longer the king of full-frame imaging is a pretty significant milestone. Christmas has come early for Sony!

What do you think – did Sony only win because its mirrorless cameras had a head start? Will canon and Nikon turn it around next year, now that the RF and Z mounts have matured? Or is APS-C the real battleground worth fighting for? Have your say on the DCW forums (opens in new tab)

Read more: 

The best mirrorless camera (opens in new tab) in 2019: we pick the best compact system cameras
Canon EOS R review (opens in new tab)
Nikon Z50 review (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.