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Crazy Camera Naming Conventions

Naming a camera seems to be a challenge for certain camera marketing departments. Never mind that there is no industry standard per se and each camera company adheres to its own set of conventions, but some cannot seem to even agree in staying faithful to their own internal naming standards. This results in confusing consumers (including experts) who cannot tell which camera is supposed to be “better.” So, we fall back to comparing nitty-gritty specs and often give up and just use the prices as cues. But why is naming a camera such a challenging process for camera companies?

Let’s have some fun and see if we can demystify some of the reasonings that went behind a camera company’s naming convention.

First, a certain de facto industry standard seems to prevail in one aspect of naming cameras: The lower the number of digits in the name, the higher the camera level. So, an A1 is in a higher level than an A10, which is in a higher level than an A100, which is in a higher level than an A1000.

A1 → A10 → A100 → A1000

This really helps a lot if only everyone in the industry would follow this one simple rule. It would mean that, at a glance, we could differentiate the pro level camera (A1) from the Enthusiast/Expert level camera (A10), the Serious/Advanced level camera (A100) and the Entry-level/Beginner level camera (A1000). But, as we will see, not everyone follows this rule and, among those who do, they do not follow it consistently.

Next, within a level, the number either adds a “Mark” after its number or increases its number to indicate a later model. So, a following update to the A1 could be an A1 Mark II or even an A2. (Note that for simplicity sake, the “Mark” is often omitted, so, we’d simply write: A1 II.) It starts to get a bit confusing when we have the A1, followed by the A2, then both the A1 and A2 stay on the shelves, and we get an A1 Mark II released after the A2 such that the A1 Mark II is better speced than the A2. For a couple of months, the A1 II is the better camera than the A2, until the A2 II comes out. The update to an A100 will probably be an A200, A300, etc. Olympus follows the E-M1, E-M1 II, E-M1 III, etc. naming standard. Fujifilm X Series follows more or less the X-T1, X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, etc. naming standard. Canon follows the M6, M50, M200, M100 standard.

A1 IV → A1 III → A1 II → A1

A4 → A3 → A2 → A1

A400 → A300 → A200 → A100

Sometimes, we’ll have a reversal of the above. A flagship camera will retain a name and not ever change. It will then simply add a Mark after its name for each newer model. So, let’s say the A1 is a flagship model, so each subsequent newer model just gets a Mark II, Mark III, etc. added. This is the same as above so far. But what about if an A5 is introduced later? Ha, the A5 is not a flagship model, so is lower in specs than the A1 (contradicting what we just said above). There might be even an A3 released after the A5, which is a completely different model higher speced than the A5. Confused yet? These models will retain their names, adding a Mark for each subsequent update. The lower the number, the higher the model. The Canon EOS R Series follow this standard with the R5, R6, R, Ra, RP, and we are still awaiting their flagship model (the R1?). This is a dangerous and slippery slope to follow.

A1 III → A1 II → A1 → A2 III → A2 II → A2 → A3 III → A3 II → A3

A1 → A2 → A3

It gets all the more confusing when some will start following one of the standards above, then switch midway to something completely out of left field. A couple of years ago, Panasonic had so many models and so many naming variations that it was almost impossible to order them properly: the GH5, G9, G95, G90, GX9, GX850, G85, GX85, GX8, G7, GF10, GF8, GF7, GM5. Thankfully, cooler heads seemed to have prevailed and Panasonic have now severely limited the number of models it produces. Fujifilm seems to have started toying dangerously with this outdated idea with their X-H1, X-T4 and X-T3 being three similar, yet distinct, models with only the in-body image stabilization as their main differentiator. Hopefully, someone will quickly squash this idea and reset the X-T4 as its APS-C flagship mirrorless camera, period (and get rid of the X-H1 model which has now been supplanted by the X-T4 — unless Fujifilm wants to convert that into a full-frame mirrorless model). Likewise, Sony is also getting consumers confused with the A9, which is the sports-oriented version of the A7, and so should really just be named A7X.

Finally, the addition of an “R,” “S,” “X,” “P,” “a,” etc. after the number signals the same camera, but modified for a specific task. For example, the Sony A7, A7R and A7S are basically the same camera, with the A7 having 24.2MP, the R having more megapixels (61MP) for landscape photography, and the S (enhanced Sensitivity) having less megapixels (12.2MP) to allow larger pixels and thus much better high-ISO-low-noise image quality in low-light shooting. Likewise, the Panasonic GH5 has 20.3MP, but the GH5S has 10.28MP for enhanced sensitivity in low-light shooting. Olympus E-M1X is the sports-oriented E-M1. The Canon EOS RP is the “Popular” version of the EOS R and is currently the cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera available. The Canon EOS Ra is the EOS R modified for astrophotography. Nikon breaks that mold with the Z 6 and Z 7: The Z 6 has 24.5MP while the Z 7 has 45.7MP, so it should really have called the Z 7 the Z 6R, if it wanted to stay true to the de facto industry standard.

A1, A1R, A1S, A1X, A1a

Note that if a camera manufacturer does not follow this rule, then all bets are off, and their “R”, “S”, “X,” “a” following a number all mean different things.

So now, let’s take a look at existing mirrorless cameras for each camera manufacturer and let’s try to order them from higher level to lower level.

CANON

EOS Ra, EOS R → EOS RP → EOS M6 → EOS M50 → EOS M200 → EOS M100.

But if we add the cameras that are coming soon, we get:

EOS R1 (? seeing that Canon’s top film SLR was named the F1 ?) → EOS R5 → EOS R6 → EOS Ra, EOS R → EOS RP → EOS M6 → EOS M50 → EOS M200 → EOS M100

FUJIFILM

GFX100 → GFX 50R, GFX 50S → X-H1 → X-T4 → X-T3, X-Pro3 → X-T2, X-Pro2 → X-T30 → X-T20 → X-E3 (?) → X-T200 → X-T100 → X-A7 → X-A5

NIKON

Z 2 (? seeing that Nikon’s top film SLR was named the F2 ?) → Z 7, Z 6 → Z 50

OLYMPUS

E-M1X → E-M1 III → E-M1 II → E-M5 II → PEN-F → E-M10 III, E-PL10 → E-PL9

PANASONIC

S1H, S1R, S1 → GH5R, GH5 → G9 → G95 → G85 → GX9

SONY

A9 II → A9 → A7R IV → A7R III, A7 III → A7R II, A7S II, A7 II → A6600 → A6500

Spot any mistake? Don’t blame me, blame the “Crazy Camera Naming Conventions.”

General Guidelines for a Sensible Naming Standard
Next, let’s try our hands at coming up with some common sense guidelines for a sensible camera naming standard. We’ll look at four rules, look at how the mirrorless cameras are currently named and how, applying our four rules, they could be renamed (barring some exceptions).

RULE 1. The lower the number of digits in the name, the higher the camera level. So, an A1 is in a higher level than an A10, which is in a higher level than an A100.

A1 → A10 → A100

We could decide that a pro level camera is named with only 1 digit, an enthusiast (expert) level camera is named with 2 digits, a serious (advanced) level camera is named with 3 digits, and an entry-level camera is always named with 4 digits.

Or, as seems to be more the case, a pro & enthusiast/expert level camera is named with only 1 digit, a serious (advanced) level camera is named with 2 digits, and an entry-level camera is named with 3 digits.

RULE 2. A flagship (pro) model should have only one digit, e.g. A1. Subsequent updates to that model adds a “Mark.”

A1 Mark III → A1 Mark II → A1

RULE 3. When that flagship (pro) model reaches another level altogether that justifies a new digit, then it increases its digit by 1.

A2 → A1 Mark III

RULE 4. Within a level, the higher the number, the higher the level.

A3 → A2 → A1

A30 → A20 → A10

A300 → A200 → A100

Of course, a camera name could have more than one letter, such as:

AM1 (flagship pro medium format model)
AF1 (flagship pro full-frame model)
AP1 (flagship pro APS-C model),
assuming there is a model dedicated to pros at each of those different sensor sizes.

If not, they could appropriately name the cameras:

Flagship pro medium format model: AM1 Mark II → AM1

Flagship pro full-frame model: AF1 Mark II → AF1

Enthusiast level APS-C model: AP3 → AP2 → AP1

Advanced level APS-C model: AP30 → AP20 → AP10

Entry-level APS-C model: AP300 → AP200 → AP100

Just for fun, let’s see what today’s existing mirrorless cameras could be possibly named by more or less following these guidelines and staying as true to the existing names as possible. (Of course, one could argue that some of the cameras I’ve listed under Enthusiast should really be under Pro, and you’d be right.)

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS (CURRENT NAMES)

BRAND ENTRY-LEVEL SERIOUS (ADVANCED) ENTHUSIAST (EXPERT) PRO
Canon M50
M200
M100
RP
M6
Ra
R
Fujifilm X-T200
X-T100
X-A7
X-A5
X-T30
X-T20
X-E3
X-T4
X-T3
X-T2
X-Pro3
X-Pro2
GFX100
GFX 50S
GFX 50R
X-H1
Hasselblad X1D
Leica CL
TL2
M10-P
M10-D
M10
Nikon Z 50 Z 7
Z 6
Olympus E-M10 III
E-PL10
E-PL9
E-M5 II
PEN-F
E-M1 III
E-M1 II
E-M1X
Panasonic GX9 G95
G85
G9
GH5S
GH5
S1H
S1R
S1
Sony a6600
a6500
A7S II
A7R IV
A7R III
A7 III
A9 II
A9

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS (PROPOSED RENAMING)

BRAND ENTRY-LEVEL SERIOUS (ADVANCED) ENTHUSIAST (EXPERT) PRO
Canon M500
M200
M100
RP10
M60
Ra
R
Fujifilm X-T200
X-T100
X-A700
X-A500
X-T30
X-T20
X-E30
X-T4
X-T3
X-T2
X-Pro3
X-Pro2
GFX 6
GFX 5S
GFX 5R
X-H1
Hasselblad X1D
Leica CL10
TL20
M10-P
M10-D
M10
Nikon Z 500 Z 6R
Z 6
Olympus E-M100 III
E-PL910
E-PL900
E-M50 II
PEN-F10
E-M1 III
E-M1 II
E-M1X
Panasonic GX900 G95
G85
G9
GH5S
GH5
S1H
S1R
S1
Sony a66
a65
A7S II
A7R IV
A7R III
A7 III
A7X II
A7X

As you can see, not much changes, except that one needs to be mindful of the number of digits to use according to the level. For that reason, I don’t know how to change the Leica M10 models; they have too many models for basically the same camera model, if you ask me.

Let us know what you think below and whether you have an even better idea to bring some sense to the camera naming conventions.