Canon restores camera production in Japan, hints at mirrorless model in 2012

There's no question that Canon and Nikon still dominate the interchangeable lens camera (ILC) market, but with Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and now Pentax all launching compact, inexpensive, mirrorless models in recent years, the legacy manufacturers have some catching up to do. In an interview confirming the restoration of pre-quake production levels in Japan, Canon camera division head Masaya Maeda told Reuters that the company is "considering the technical aspects" of creating a mirrorless camera, following up by saying "we will launch an interesting product next year." The comment doesn't exactly make a mirrorless Canon a sure thing, but it's as solid a commitment as we can expect for now.

One possible concern for Canon is that entry into the new ILC category would cannibalize the company's higher-end point-and-shoot offerings, which likely offer higher margins. But if mirrorless models gain market share over traditional DSLRs and Canon doesn't have its own cam to match, the company could find itself racing to catch up, rather than dominating the ILC category as it has done in the past. Competition from Canon isn't likely to start a price war, since there isn't much elasticity at this point, but it could put pressure on other manufacturers to push the limits with image quality, accessory selection, and perhaps even lead to a future lens standard -- though we're probably more likely to see a Pentax Q that can actually capture DSLR-quality images far before manufacturers decide to adopt a universal lens mount.