Should Camera Makers Fear The Changing Market?
So.... the camera market boat is getting a pretty good shake up this last month, and while the changes may seem sporadic, here and there, I think there a big underlying scheme that is starting a paradigm change in the Camera industry (no, not 4/3 :).
Not a week ago Sigma announced a lens mount conversion service. This joins a new/old strobe from Phottix, the Mitros. Which was a Canon only Strobe until recently and now has a Nikon flavor (and Sony coming soon). I would say that it could be a 99.99% replacement to the Nikon/Canon flagships the SB910 and 600EX-RT.
I think that those two independent events mark a transition in the camera industry and will force camera makers to rethink their strategies. Here is why:
It's Never Easy To Switch Systems
If you look at the single onetime expense of a photographer it is probably the camera, lighting and glass. A pro body with several pro lenses and 1 or two hot shoe strobes can easily set you back a good $15,000 to $20,000. Actually, you don't even need to make this expense at a single trip to the store. This expense can accumulate over the years as you get more lenses and more lighting and a second body and so on...
Then comes a day when you need something that your system does not provide. Maybe you owned a Canon and need CLS (in the first days when Canon did not have the equivalent features yet) or Maybe you are a diehard Nikonian but really want RAW video, and you start thinking about switching systems.
For the sake of this post, I am going to assume a pro body, 5 lenses, and 2 strobes. Let's look at the cost of switching a system.
This is the usual path:
- A - you start doing the math and get a hard attack
- B - you sell your body and lenses at about 60%-65% of what you paid for them. (with the estimation above this is about 8K-10K greenies)
- C - you get a new system with all the bells and whistles that you wanted for a new 20,000 greenies.
I estimate that switching systems a few years after you've started photographing will set you back a small car.
Sigma's Global System
Sigma introduced a service where they will change you lens mount for $80-250 providing it is one of their new Sigma Global Vision lenses. Currently the line has only 5 DSLR lenses (and 3 mirrorless lenses), but the line will probably grow.
I would also be surprised if Tamron did not follow suit and initiated a similar service, so the lens selection will be pretty decent in a few years.
Now, waaaaay back 3rd party lenses were considered of lesser quality to the Nikkor and Cannon original lenses. This does not seems to be the case anymore. 3rd Party lenses are now getting superb reviews (both Sigma and Tamron) and are driving innovation into the lens market (see the first 1.87 zoom lens - the 18-35mm F1.8 from Sigma for example), and are taking over the high-end lens market.
Mitros and LumoPro
Here are three strobes that don't give a squat about the system they run with. The LumoPro180 is manual so it's use is the same, no matter the camera system. They also boost similar power rating, similar remote control options (CLS, eTTL) and similar or better (or worst) warranty.
The Phottix Mitros has flavors for both Nikon and Canon that come in two separate boxes. I have no internal info on this, but if I had to make an educated guess, the mechanics, electronics and optics are similar between the two and system selection is done by firmware upgrades or firmware flags.
I would also guess that there is a pretty short line of sight between the situation now, and a possible future where Phottix either suggests a "conversion service" or enables in-strobe / USB system-firmware upgrade.
[There is a pretty good write up on strobes, OEM and 3rd parties on Strobist, though from a more technical aspect]
So now, your five lenses are $1,000 tops (estimating $200 per lens) and the strobe is a shipment or USB wire away. That kinda changes the picture of switching systems doesn't it?
If I was a major camera maker I'd be putting my thinking cap on and seeng what can keep/turn over users in my direction.
What Will Camera Makers Do Now?
That is a good question, and as usual there are several paths the industry can take. Either way I can see them resisting to this change.
Another option is to fight 3rd party lenses with compatibility updates - making each new camera only compatible with its makers lenses and leaving 3rd parties to find the a new hack with each new camera announced.
The third option (and my preferred one) is for camera makers to get back in the race and start creating some innovation.
So with the future of camera systems seems less relevant than ever, what are your thoughts?
image (CC) by Philipp Lücke