It’s been a busy year in terms of new camera and lens releases, so there was plenty of competition in all but one of this year’s CMIA categories… which also reflects how the camera market is rapidly changing.

A week may be a long time in politics, but this year has been a particularly long one in the camera industry if it’s to be measured in new product releases. This time last year – as we considered potential winners in our annual recognition of design excellence in imaging products – we were on the brink of significant change. As we noted at the time, the big mirrorless announcements from the likes of Canon, Nikon and Panasonic had been made, but the cameras themselves were still some way off, setting up the potential of a dramatic 2019.

Only the Nikon Z 7 made the eligibility cut last year, but won the Professional Mirrorless Camera category by a canter, suggesting there would be some intriguing contests for the 2020 prizes. Since then the full-35mm mirrorless cameras have mostly hogged the headlines, but it’s been busy in the so-called ‘crop sensors’ too (i.e. Micro Four Thirds and ‘APS-C’) with, in particular, Olympus’s OM-D E-M1X really exploiting what’s achievable with the mirrorless configuration and a smaller sensor.

What we didn’t see a lot of in 2019 was new D-SLRs. In fact, there were just two, and one of these was a pretty minor upgrade of an existing model. The other, however, was a bit of a surprise package and would have been a winner even in a much more crowded field, such is its excellent mix of ergonomics, capabilities and performance.

But is this the end of the road for the D-SLR? Nikon has announced that there’ll be a D6 pro-level model, but anything launched around now would have been in development for at least a couple of years so the big question is whether any brand new D-SLR designs are being initiated now. Given that the imperative for both Canon and Nikon has to be to fast-track their new mirrorless camera systems, you’d think all resources would be focused on this task (and bear in mind Canon actually has two mirrorless systems). Plus, of course, despite the EOS 90D being so good, the D-SLR is now old tech, and mirrorless cameras will only continue to get quicker, more advanced and more capable, especially as more AI-based functions are introduced. However, this isn’t necessarily translating into increased camera sales right now, despite there being so many very appealing mirrorless models on the market. As we’ve noted previously in this magazine, there will be a ‘lag’ while D-SLR owners consider the implications of switching to mirrorless which could entail a change of brand and sensor size, and will certainly mean new lenses at some point. Consequently, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly and anybody with a D-SLR that’s not all that old may well delay making the switch, at least until they see how the relevant lens system is progressing.

With such a big reservoir of in-use D-SLRs, new lenses in the Canon EF and Nikon F mount continue coming, but even this shows some signs of slowing, and the ‘independents’ are increasingly concentrating on the mirrorless mounts as evidenced by recent releases from, notably, Sigma and Samyang.

There’s no doubt that the future in interchangeable lens cameras is mirrorless, but as is always the case with technological change, it takes a while for the market to catch up and, inevitably, the transition period will throw up its challenges. Nothing really changes then.

AND THE WINNERS ARE...