More on Sony and why you should care

A few days ago, I reported on the significance of Sony’s recently announced cameras (see here). I argued that Sony, a relative newcomer to the digital single lens reflex camera market (but a longtime leader in the point and shoot and video segments) and a chronic pro and serious amateur market wannabe, was doing some interesting things of late. The kinds of things that can radically change an industry.

Well, here’s a bit more evidence…

Bloomberg reported a few days ago (see here) that the market is responding to significant “paradigm shifting” trends… trends which Sony seems to be riding to their advantage. And to market leader Canon’s and Nikon’s disadvantage.

As I noted in my earlier post, Sony is out in front in the emerging mirrorless segment, producing smaller, lighter, and less expensive, though still APS-C sensor-sized, interchangeable lens cameras. Their NEX line-up, especially bolstered by the new C3, 5N and 7 models, have been a smash success and their translucent SLR-style cameras possess extremely fast autofocusing and high frame rates which make real-time focusing during video capture and respectible live view shooting a true breeze.

And people seem to be taking note. According to Bloomberg:

  • Sony’s worldwide marketshare has increased to 15 percent in the year ending March 31. That’s up from 10 percent in the prior year.
  • In the same timeframe, Canon and Nikon together have seen their share drop 35%.
  • In Japan, typically a leading market in this arena, mirrorless cameras account for nearly 41% of SLR sales. In 2009, that figure was just 5%. Wow.
  • Globally, mirrorless camera sales have exploded fivefold in just the past year. Industry experts suggest that total market share for such bodies will likely reach a quarter of total SLR sales this year.

Sony (in the third spot), Olympus (near dead), and Panasonic (trying to prove it can make electric razors, bread makers and digital cameras) all had something to prove, sparking innovation and risk taking. Nikon and Canon, on the other hand, had huge investments in their existing product lines and thus haven’t rushed in to this space. Nikon is expected to announce a super small (even smaller than micro-4/3 sensor) system soon and Canon is said to be working on their entry. Time will certainly tell whether they can catch up to Sony and the others, but even if they introduce highly compelling offerings, they will still need to chase Sony in terms of the translucent technology.

For many, the notion of a smaller and lighter interchangeable lens system that sacrifices nothing in terms of image quality is a highly compelling proposition. It’s one I certainly endorse. For others, having the small/light option with an ability to add components that result in a camera system that is functionally equivalent (give or take) to an SLR is equally compelling. Such modularity is intriguing and promising.

It will be fascinating to watch and see whether Sony’s leap is a temporary one and whether their innovations and bold moves have merely awakened a few sleeping giants named Nikon and Canon… or whether they have created a large and sustainable market advantage. Either way, Sony has shaken things up in the photography world.

And we all win.

Posted by Rey

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3 Responses to More on Sony and why you should care

  1. Very informative article, Rey…. thanks for sharing. I have used Olympus DSLR’s since they first hit the market & have always found their quality & reliablity to be exceptional. How sad to think they are ‘near dead’.
    However…! a good thing to know in regards to future purchasing….

  2. Rey says:

    Janet –

    Clarification. Olympus WAS near dead. Their development of the 4/3 sensor was a stirring last ditch effort. Panasonic largely dropped out and Olympus has let their exceptional line of 4/3 cameras languish in favor or their wildly popular micro 4/3 line. 4/3 lives on in micro 4/3. That’s great for Olympus as it’s breathed new life into them. Not so great news for their 4/3 fans, particularly those with large investments in glass.

    Olympus is said to be developing a successor to the excellent E30. It will be interesting to see what they do. As a relatively small company, I believe they are better served adding to their great micro 4/3 line-up which has helped them to become a leader in the mirrorless segment.

    Thanks,

    Rey

  3. Pingback: Daily Photo Phix: A View of the Zoo, Part 1 | 2 Guys Photo

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