The Camera Market is in the Doldrums

In the words of Monty Python, I’d like to register a complaint. All the piss and vinegar has gone out of the camera market. Gone are the days when Nikon and Canon raced each other to add more and more megapixels to their models. We’re in a holding pattern driven by the tremendous market erosion of point and shoot cameras by smart phones. The camera industry is hurting and product development has come to a stand-still. Here are some symptoms:

  • Canon’s DSLR line-up has not advanced visibly since the Canon 5d Mark II arrived on the scene in 2009. Yes, there have been minor advances in auto-focus capability and high-ISO quality, but these have been incremental. Canon also totally missed the mark on the mirrorless camera wave, with a non-competitive product that seemed deliberately crippled so that high margin DSLR camera sales wouldn’t be impacted.
  • Nikon made a big splash with the D800E, but seems content to introduce small improvements across the line. Its mirrorless product line introduction was a non-event and they are an also-ran in the category.
  • Sony has made all the news lately with full-frame mirrorless, but even the market leader in this space has stumbled on a number of fronts. The A7R has a shutter that sounds like a mechanical chicken. We were at a play recently where the actors used an A7R camera as a prop because its shutter could be heard all over the theater. The full-frame FE lens line-up is pretty sparsely populated and low light focus is problematic. They have killed their Nex brand and introduced the a6000 to replace the Nex-7 and Nex-6 with a camera that features better autofocus, the same-sized sensor and have reduced the resolution of the electronic viewfinder. We are treading water. The APS-C e mount lens line-up continues to struggle, with big holes in it (e.g. no high-speed zoom lenses, no high quality long range zoom).
  • Sony’s A mount camera seems to be orphaned with all their energies being aimed at the mirrorless market.
  • One exception seems to be Olympus. We have seen a couple of nice micro 4/3 cameras come down the line lately, although the sensor resolution has stalled. 

So, here we are in the doldrums. Here’s what we need from the manufacturers:

  • Come on Canon. Put that big sensor (39 megapixel?) camera out on the market and please make it affordable. You’ve been overhauling your lens line-up to be able to take advantages of a high resolution sensor, but where is it?
  • Hey Sony, fix your lens line-up. Let’s see some high quality zoom lenses that a pro can actually use. While you’re at it, how about issuing some firmware fixes to speed up autofocus on your recent cameras (a6000 excluded). How about a fix to the A7R to cure the chicken shutter?
  • Canon and Nikon, let’s put out a serious mirrorless camera so that Olympus and Sony have some competition. 

Maybe we just have to get used to the fact that sensor resolution has reached a stable point. Do you really need more than 16 megapixels? Maybe we’re going back to the film days where the product life-cycle of a camera was measured in decades. 

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