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Report: Sony tops mirrorless production in 2020 with Canon close behind

Citing data from research firm Techno System Research, Japanese business publication Sankeibiz has revealed (machine-translated) the production numbers for various camera manufacturers throughout 2020. Amongst the data is the unsurprising fact that Canon, Nikon and Sony have, combined, produced 75% of the 3.26 million mirrorless cameras produced in 2020.

According to the Techno System Research’s data, there were a total of 5.65 million interchangeable lens cameras produced in 2020: 3.26 million mirrorless cameras and 2.39 million DSLR cameras.

Sony’s a9 II camera, released in 2020.

Of the mirrorless cameras manufactured, Sony produced 1.15 million, Canon produced 1.05 million and Nikon was trailing, having produced just 250,000 units. The remaining 810,000 mirrorless cameras were split amongst other manufacturers, including Fujifilm, Leica, Panasonic, Olympus (now OM Digital Solutions), Sigma and others, but no specific production numbers were given for any other manufacturers. As for DSLRs, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Canon and Nikon led the pack with 1.71 million and 650,000 units produced, respectively.

The number of cameras produced by a company doesn’t always equal the number of cameras sold. However, if you compare Techno System Research’s numbers with the sales numbers both Canon and Nikon have shared in their respective financial reports, it appears as though both Canon and Nikon sold pretty much every unit they produced in 2020.1

Canon’s EOS R5 and EOS R6 cameras, both of which were released in the second half of 2020.

Specifically, Canon reported 2.76 million units sold throughout 2020 (1.05M mirrorless cameras + 1.71M DSLR cameras = 2.76M total), while Nikon reported 900,000 interchangeable lenses sold in 2020 (250,000 mirrorless cameras + 650,000 DSLR cameras = 900,000 total). This not only lends credence to Techno System Research’s numbers, but also reveals a few interesting stats we haven’t been able to take away from Canon and Nikon’s financial reports, including the mirrorless to DSLR camera makeup of Canon and Nikon’s production capacity.

Of the 2.76 million interchangeable lens cameras Canon produced in 2020, 38% of them were mirrorless cameras. For Nikon, that number was just 28%. Considering the supply chain issues and overall chaotic nature of 2020, we’ll refrain from drawing conclusions from that difference, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward, especially as both companies show an increased effort to focus on their respective mid-and-high-end mirrorless camera models.

Nikon’s Z6 II and Z7 II cameras, released in October 2020.

As a whole, Sony has managed to keep its lead in the mirrorless camera world (at least as far as units produced is concerned). However, Sony’s lead is thin and as Canon shifts more of its production capacity and development efforts to mirrorless, it’ll be interesting to see if Canon surpasses Sony in 2021.

Something else to keep an eye on as people transition from DSLR cameras to mirrorless cameras is the production volume of each camera type. That is, will a majority of DSLR camera buyers switch to mirrorless or will the majority of the DSLR camera market opt to drop bulky cameras entirely as smartphone camera technology continues to improve? Assuming Techno System Research releases a similar report next year, we should have a good idea.

1 Sony‘s financial reports don’t break down camera sales numbers, so we can’t definitely state whether or not Sony sold all 1.15 million mirrorless cameras it produced in 2020. ↩

Correction: (Sunday, March 28, 2021 at 4:18 PM): The headline of this article originally stated Nikon was third, behind Sony and Canon in mirrorless production. This is not explicitly confirmed in the reported data, so we have altered the headline and the article to reflect that.