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.