Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Look at the State of Flux We're In Now

We live in interesting times. Popular Photography & Imaging magazine's December 2005 issue is out,and their Camera Of The Year Award goes to...drumroll...the Canon EOS 5D. The magazine's editors state that the EOS 20D _had_ been their Camera Of The Year choice for most of the year, but the new full-frame Canon model displaced the 20D. Full-frame digital for less than $8000 from Canon. Wow-what a big drop in the entry price for a Canon full-frame camera! And also,according to the folks at Pop Photo, there are now 20, yes count 'em, 20 D-SLR models, with prices on bodies ranging from around $620 to about,well, $7995 for the EOS 1Ds-Mark II, the new 16.7 megapixel pro flagship digital from the folks at Canon.
So,where's the "flux", you ask? The flux is all over the place. Kodak has recently abandoned the D-SLR market and its F-mount and its Canon-mount offerings,so it's bye-bye to Kodak in the D-SLR field. According to Popular Photography's Herbert Keppler, last year Canon and Nikon combined for 90 percent of the D-SLR market's total sales, leaving Fuji, Sigma,Pentax,Olympus,and Konica-Minolta to split up the remaining paltry TEN PERCENT of sales FIVE ways. Meaning that D-SLR sales were pathetic for all companies except Canon and Nikon. Meaning that Fuji's S3 Pro's sales figures were poor. Fuji is in a state of flux, having lost a significant amount of its S1 and S2-generation users to more-attractive offerings from Canon with the 20D, and also to Nikon with the D70s and the D2x,and soon, FUji will lose a significant number of its users to the upcoming Nikon D200. Fuji tried to stay with its higher-than-expected retail price of $2500 on its S3 model far too long in the face of bad press and bad reviews,and the camera's specifications and oddball $2500 retail price basically killed Fuji's S3 sales big-time. Users who had been with Fuji since the S1 Pro and the 2002 S2 Pro models were state of the art were confronted in 2005 with a very compelling choice when it came time to upgrade; namely, the EOS 20D for $1499 with 8.2 MP, 5 frames per second,and superb handling (for a Canon) and a tremendous amount of VALUE-For-Dollar or Value-Per-Euro spent. Look at the sales figures. 90 percent of D-SLR sales went to 1)Canon then 2) Nikon and then 10 percent of sales were split between basically, five other brands. Nikon went to its first-ever CMOS sensor in a digital SLR when they plopped a SOny-built sensor in the D2x....how is that for a state of flux?
Where's the additional flux? Nikon's new D200 has seen pre-order figures through the roof world-wide. Nikon is _finally_ coming out with a significant upgrade for D100 users. Nikon now has a serious,serious contender for the semi-pro/serious hobbyist/utility camera market which the EOS 20D captured so well. In other words, the state of flux we are in now has Kodak out of the picture, Fuji with an almost-stillborn and very slow S3 model and no word of an S3 follow-up, Nikon's D2Hs was also a lead balloon. Canon and Nikon are no longer concentrating just on the highest end of the D-SLR market, but are now producing and selling HUGE numbers of low-end D-SLR models like the D70s and D50 for Nikon, and the EOS Rebel and Rebel XT for Canon. Canon alos has runaway sellers in the 20D,and the EOS 5D is taking off nicely. The state of flux has Kodak and Fuji suddenly with almost no market presence,and the market has HUGE numbers of new Canon converts, and also huge numbers of people entering the Nikon camp with the lower-end D50 and the moderately-low-priced D70s. Also, large numbers of Fuji and Kodak shooters have abandoned ship and bought Nikon's D2x.Right now, clean Kodak SLR/n and 14n models are available for as little as $1100 to $1700 used.Kodak-made full-frame cameras which were retailing for $4995 not that long ago are now very low priced on the used market. That's a sign of a market in a state of flux.
Nikon took a huge hit when the D2h's target market went to Canon and the EOS 1D Mark II 1.3x in order to get superb High-ISO performance,8 FPS,with twice the MP of the D2h. Canon's 20D and now the EOS 5D have set new standards for performance, as well as for price/performance ratio. NIKON has now jumped into the price/performance ratio battle with the D200,and I fully expect that new model to be a landmark camera in terms of consolidation of F-mount shooters back toward Nikon,and away from Kodak and away from Fuji.
Right now, people all over are considering their next D-SLR model. There are twenty models to choose from. With prices as low as a little over $600 US dollars. THAT is part of the state of flux;where a year ago there were a mere handful of models to choose from and we had too few choices, this year we have an entirely new landscape unfolding,with smaller,lighter,and more-affordable models, as well as exciting new innovations like body-integral anti-shake systems, as well as new partnerships announced with Sony joining forces with Konica-Minolta, and Panasonic also apparently ready to enter the D-SLR arena.Here at the end of the eyar 2005, I feel that we'e really going to see the flux hit the fan during 2006.Will Fuji continue its niche dominance in the "beautiful file" category? Will Sony help bring Konica-Minolta into the Digtal SLR's 21st Century? Will we finally be able to buy $500 D-SLR bodies which are "good enough"? Will Nikon finally stem the tide of defections to Canon? How will the Nikon D200 stack up against Canon's offerings in 2006? I think the answers might be surprising, but more importantly, I think we need to consider that no matter what happens, we are all starting to want more and more for less money. The 5D and the D200 show that Canon and Nikon are prepared to give us "more" for "less money",and that is a postive direction which will help to kick off 2006 in a very,very positive way for both Canon and Nikon shooters.

No comments: