The impressive Sony A1, also known as the Sony Alpha 1, has really laid down the pro camera gauntlet for this year – but rumors suggest that Canon and Nikon could soon be responding with powerful rivals of their own.
Canon Rumors recently claimed that the Canon EOS R1, an even higher-end companion to the Canon EOS R5, is likely to be announced "sometime in the second half of 2021".
This seems odd timing given that the Tokyo Olympics are due to start on 23 July, but with the chances of that event taking place seemingly receding, there's apparently less of a "marketing rush to get the camera to market".
And now it seems we could see Nikon's unnamed Sony A1 rival arrive before then, in either "late spring" or "perhaps early summer", according to Nikon insider Thom Hogan. For global camera fans, that means somewhere in the May-July timeframe.
While there's been no speculation about the camera's name, Hogan does suggest some intriguing specs for this higher-end Nikon Z camera "based upon what I hear out of Tokyo". These include 8K video, most likely from the same 45.7MP sensor as the Nikon Z7 II, faster burst shooting than than the Z7 II's 10fps maximum, and a new body design.
Naturally, this "new high-end of the Nikon Z lineup" will also "absolutely" cost more than the Nikon Z7 II, though probably won't be in the Sony A1's $6,500 / £6,500 / AU$10,500 price ballpark. This is because, according to Hogan, it won't be targeted to match the Sony A1, but "in one way, it might be seen as better". Given Nikon's traditional strengths, that could well be handling, but it's possible has something else up its sleeve for its loyal fans.
- These are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now
- Sony A1 release date, price, specs and features
- Sony A1 vs Canon EOS R5: which mirrorless camera wins the battle of the hybrids?
Out of sync
A response to the Sony A1 from Canon and Nikon is, of course, entirely expected – both camera giants are likely to have been developing pro mirrorless flagships long before the A1's announcement last week.
The two factors that appear to have thrown out the timing of these releases are the pandemic, and doubts around the staging of the Tokyo Olympics. Traditionally, the big camera brands announce new flagship pro sports cameras in the first couple of months of an Olympics year – which is what Sony has done with the Alpha 1.
But according to these latest rumors, it seems that both Canon and Nikon are potentially holding back on their equivalents to that new powerhouse – at least until spring, that is March-May, in Nikon's case, and possibly the summer for Canon.
Another factor is that the Sony A1 has really blurred the lines of traditional camera segmentation – it's not just a 30fps sports camera, but a 50MP landscape shooter and an 8K video camera.
In this sense, a rapid-fire sports flagship would be something of an anachronism in this new age of all-rounder hybrids. It remains to be seen what Canon and Nikon have up their sleeves, but it's possible that they too will be planning their takes on the 'one camera to rule them all' concept introduced so emphatically by the Sony A1.
For the sake of our bank accounts, we just hope the A1's price tag remains the high-water mark of this exciting new generation of mirrorless cameras.
- These are the best Canon cameras you can buy right now
- Or check out our guide to the best Nikon cameras