Sunday, 16 February 2014

Where next for Canon and Nikon?


Around the end of last year there was considerable speculation that Canon would be releasing a medium format camera system in 2014.

Let me state right here I have no insider knowledge on this at all, but I strongly doubt that Canon will take this path.

Canon have invested so heavily in the EOS mount and lens system it is difficult to see them investing millions of Yen on developing a new lens system for a niche camera which would sell, in Canons terms at least, in very small numbers, with no prospect of selling the lens system to the millions of 'conventional' EOS users.

This rumor I think only surfaced as Canon, and Nikon are between a rock and a hard place at the moment with the compact camera market collapsing due to mobile devices, and the rising tide of 'alternative' cameras from the likes of Fuji, Samsung and biggest by far Sony.

Sony are a curios company in terms of still cameras, having none of the heritage in the stills market that the big two have, buying its way into the market with the acquisition of the the ailing Minolta some years ago, and there it may have rested but Sony have been the most aggressive company in terms of coming up with new cameras and pioneering new technologies, not always successfully, but they do keep on innovating and their latest offerings have improved to the point that they can no longer be (unfairly) ignored by the Canon and Nikon fan boys.

Enter the Sony A7 and the particularly interesting, to my eyes Sony A7R which, by dispensing with the mirror, packs the same full frame sensor as used in the the rather porky but excellent D800 into tiny lightweight package, and delivering, according to most tests I have seen, better quality too, at a handy price saving over its sensor sharing cousin.

Not only does it outperform the Nikon in image quality, but from the varied tests on the web I have seen offers considerable images quality benefits over the likes of the Canon 5DmkIII and 6D too.

Where does this leave Nikon and Canon?

In the past they have been able to somewhat ignore Sony but the time has come where they both need new and relevant to the marketplace products, the approach particularly from Canon of producing 'me too' products like the EOS M needs revision and fast.


The danger for Canon is they will rest on their laurels with the Canon 5dMkIII selling in huge numbers, this is great news, but I believe they need to look forward and innovate.

I like many others would like to see Canon make a higher megapixel full frame camera sometime soon.

And what of Nikon?

They have made some interesting product of late in the shape of the Nikon DF(though why has it taken a company with such a rich heritage so long to exploit its fine past, in a digital form?)

The problem for Nikon which Canon does not have is that they are reliant on Sony for their sensors, and somewhat at their mercy, meaning that in all probability Sony are going to get the best out of the sensor with Nikon trailing.

I predict that many more of us will own cameras from Sony, I admit I have started to consider the A7R for specific projects, the only thing stopping me are the last remaining Sony quirks which make it a none starter, such as there in no way to connect via hardwire a cable release and anecdotally(though not verified) tales of limited battery life and battery charging the camera directly from the mains via slow USB cable.


It's a crying shame that Sony have got so close with the A7R but failed to take into account these key details, but as sure as they listened to the market regarding their Minolta flash hotshoe they will eventually get round to fixing these issues.

Not quite the last chance saloon for the old guard but they need to do something and pretty fast too if the are to have a bright future.









14 comments:

Bill Giles said...

It will be interesting to see where cameras and photography go. One of my concerns is that camera companies will fail and the systems will be orphaned. I moved into 4/3 and micro 4/3 camera systems a while ago and I hope that they can survive. I won't be able to afford buying new cameras and lenses if they don't.

Tyler Green said...

I've had my eye on the A7r. The biggest non-starter for me is the reports of shutter shock. The biggest starter is the ability to use better glass! The zeiss glass for that camera is seriously impressive!

Aaron Brethorst said...

I think the situation is worse than you describe. I'll speak about Canon in particular, but I think this all applies to Nikon, too.

Demand for point and shoot cameras is tanking, and this trend will only accelerate. 2013 saw Canon's unit sales of point and shoots decline significantly, but they've been able to stave off total disaster by robust sales of their full frame DSLRs. Interestingly, total DSLR unit sales declined too, but the higher price point of models like the 5D Mark III and 6D buffered the effects of this.

In the middle tier of the market, Canon isn't even a player. The EOS M fell flat, Fuji is getting terrific buzz with their X series, and Micro 4/3s systems are consistently getting better.

My expectation is that over the next ten years point and shoot sales go to zero, and mirrorless camera systems like Fuji X, and Micro 4/3s destroy the low end of Canon and Nikon's DSLR line. This, of course, leaves Canon and Nikon completely screwed. Unfortunately, Canon doesn't break out their imaging business' unit sales in their financial reports, but I don't find it hard to imagine that they make a lot more off selling Powershots and Rebels than they do on 1DXs or 5D Mk3s (volume, baby!).

I can't imagine they'd produce a medium format system for the reasons you describe. Of course, to my mind, this applies equally well to Canon competing effectively in the mirrorless space.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Guys,

You have raised some really good points.

Tyler you have touched on something which I will be talking about extensively in the near future, just how much of the A7R advantage over the D800 is down to the Zeiss glass?

Possibly more than one might think if my experiences are anything to go by....watch this space.

Regards

Drew

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Aaron

Just read your comment and you have called it about right, to just what extent we shall see but it does look rather bleak.

All I would say is that Canon in particular have a huge and talented R&D division which comes out with some great concepts, somehow in my opinion, perhaps it's the marketing people play it too safe? witness the moribund EOS M and at the other end of the scale the flagship Canon 1dx, which seems to be made for Gettys and sport shooters and practically no one else, as brilliant as it is at fulfilling this role.

Canon are innovators, they just need the vision to be brave and bring more of the really cool product to market than they currently are.

Regards

Drew

Bill Giles said...

Much of the future of cameras and photography will depend on how much video and still photography mix. My first decent digital camera was a Canon Powershot Pro 90 IS with an electronic viewfinder. After a number of digital SLRs, I'm now using a Panasonic Lumix GH3 with an electronic viewfinder. I'm not entirely comfortable with it, but it works.

typingtalker said...

This analysis leaves out the new market for Canon for which they have been developing some superior products -- cinema. Three bodies, seven lenses and adapters for other manufactures' lenses.

john3166 said...

Canon & Nikon face a monumental task that includes re-thinking their traditional business model.

http://www.zmetro.com/?p=5705

I've been following the challenges & opportunities with great interest.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi John,

I read the piece and I do agree, Canon and Nikon's engagement with WiFi has been limited and patchy and it is something they need to do better with.

Baffling that the 6D has WiFi but the MkIII does not.

As a Canon 6D owner, who actually uses its WiFi feature set on a regular basis, it does need improvement in some areas, not always switching on when you need it and the it can disrupt simultaneous hard wire connections, leading to missed shots.

I accept I'm probably using the equipment outside the parameters that were originally intended but it is annoying to say the least.

Regards

Drew

Drew Gardner said...

Dear typingtalking

I'm really pleased you raised this point.

The thrust of my post was to talk about still imaging, without drifting into other platforms such as video, but your point is valid.

The launch of the Canon cinema range does indeed go to show that the company is entirely capable of introducing segment disrupting products. The C300 is one of the most rented items anywhere, with countless thousands of units sold, a great success.

That Canon have fully supported this range of cameras with a family of lenses shows they are in for the long haul.

So in theory they could bring a medium format camera to market but I don't think they will, with the lenses being the stumbling block.

The cinema lenses all have a circle of coverage of less than a full frame sensor so we see similar focal lengths that we are used to seeing in stills cameras, I reckon some of the lenses, particularly the primes, at the very least owe some of their DNA to their still lens cousins.

A move into medium format would face a number of challenges, mount and circle of coverage being just two.

The third challenge would be the inclusion of an in lens (leaf) shutters which allow flash sync at any speed.

Canon is more than capable of pulling all of this together in a superb manner, the question is, would it be worthwhile in terms of sales?

I don't think a medium format system would have the same sales potential of their cinema series.

Canon I feel are much much more likely to to come up with something based around the current full frame sensor size, which would utilise the current range of EOS lenses.

The Canon 1Dx is a superb technical tour de force, but get chatting to a user over a coffee and they will curse its size and weight and will mumble something about wishing they were smaller and lighter.

Further down the range, what Canon need to do is produce a contemporary, inspirational, enthusiasts camera which sets the market a buzz, much like the A7R has.

Playing it safe with their stills camera range will erode the companies image in the market.

Regards

Drew



Drew Gardner said...

Hi Aaron

Just read your comment and you have called it about right, to just what extent we shall see but it does look rather bleak.

All I would say is that Canon in particular have a huge and talented R&D division which comes out with some great concepts, somehow in my opinion, perhaps it's the marketing people play it too safe? witness the moribund EOS M and at the other end of the scale the flagship Canon 1dx, which seems to be made for Gettys and sport shooters and practically no one else, as brilliant as it is at fulfilling this role.

Canon are innovators, they just need the vision to be brave and bring more of the really cool product to market than they currently are.

Regards

Drew

Jim Quinn said...

I've fired a few frames with my friend's Sony A7r using his legacy Zeiss and EOS-converted Canon FD lenses, and I'll admit it's a tempting camera. My 6D takes very good photos, and I enjoy using its wi-fi system for quick photo review and for closeup remote shooting of hummingbirds. But its peripheral autofocus points are insensitive (it needs a wide-spread array), it lacks a built-in flash (or a radio transmitter) that could control slave flashes, and the LCD screen is fixed (Canon puts an excellent articulated screen on its 70D, so I know they can do it). And although I'm probably the only old Canon user who liked this feature, I wish they would bring back an improved Eye Controlled system; it worked well for me on the old A2E, limited as that was. Canon used to innovate in still cameras; now it seems they're only interested in video, which doesn't interest me at all. I feel a bit abandoned!

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