Strategy Session: Let’s Just Call It Mirrorless Already!

Strategy Session: Let’s Just Call It Mirrorless Already!


I’ve sat back patiently for months, waiting for the imaging industry to rally around a name for the mirrorless/compact system camera/ILC category, hoping that a winner would emerge. I’ve listened to all the arguments, and I’ve participated in some rather pointed discussions at a number of PMDA meetings. I believe the verdict is in.

Let’s just call it “mirrorless.”

I’ve heard the pros and I’ve heard the cons. “Mirrorless is not something that is; it’s something that’s not.” “No one knows what it means.” “Aren’t all point-and-shoot cameras mirrorless?”


I believe it behooves us all to rally around the consumer. The easier it is for them to grasp a category, the sooner all brands will benefit. But if we continue to bombard them with names that fit each brand individually, they’ll never get it.

As far as “no one knows what that means . . .” I would bet (without any research to back me up) that 80% of consumers have no idea what DSLR stands for either. It doesn’t really matter, because they’ve come to associate the name with a product category, making it that much easier to ask for one.


Research also suggests that consumers are catching on. Looking at Google search information, “mirrorless” is being searched for by a significant margin over “compact system camera.” Consumers are starting to hear the term and associate it with a product category.

Major retailers and manufacturers are seeing the confusion, and they’re adopting the name as well. “We were hesitant to make the switch, but we found that people were confused at what ‘compact system camera’ meant,” said Steve Wolf, senior merchant for digital cameras at Best Buy. “After looking at research, feedback and search engine information on our own website, ‘mirrorless’ was outpacing ‘CSC’ by a large margin. So we’ve made the switch. It just makes for a better customer experience.”

Added Manny Almeida, president, Imaging Division, Fujifilm North America Corp., “We believe it is important to differentiate the market as it is difficult for consumers to outwardly see the difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. 

A canvas of websites shows that Adorama, Best Buy, B&H and Amazon have jumped on the bandwagon as well. They’ve categorized “mirrorless” as a digital camera category. And the PRO group, which was originally urging their members to use the compact system camera designation, has recently suggested that members add the word “mirrorless” to their signage as well. 

“My original complaint was that there was no term used by everyone to define this category of camera,” said Mike Worswick, president of PRO. “So even though I do not love the term, I choose not to fight or be a holdout to a trend.”


The way I see it, the mirrorless, compact interchangeable-lens camera is a significant technology step in our industry. It offers the best of both the compact camera and DSLR worlds. It’s small enough to take anywhere but versatile enough for interchangeable lenses. Are the images as good as DSLR images? It really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that there is a viable choice for consumers to buy into a camera system that will hopefully result in additional lens and accessory sales. It’s small enough to carry around to take incredible images. And it’s not called an iPhone.

Individual brands may have their own reasons for not buying into the mirrorless name. Far be it from me to suggest this is the perfect answer or the perfect name.  But in looking at terms like DSLR and Ultra HD, when monikers become associated with product categories, the consumer has one less thing to be confused about. It makes their research that much easier, and it gives them something to ask for when they walk into the store or search online. It can only be good for the industry.

So, let’s listen to the ultimate arbiter—the consumer. Let’s call it mirrorless.