2011 Camera Market Predictions

If you haven’t seen my 2010 predictions and results, you can click hereand get to that page. I suggest you do so before reading on.

2010 turned out to be a better year than everyone expected in camera sales. Many companies had a nice bump to their interchangeable lens camera sales (Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, Olympus) while others are still mostly hanging on (Pentax, Samsung, Sigma, etc.). Curiously, 2010 was not a full frame year. Nobody did much of anything other than come out with new FX lenses during the year. We got a lot of APS/DX and m4/3 action, but not a lot else. 2011 will be different. Really.

Some interesting things did get said or done in 2010 that need to be called out:

  • Olympus admitted that, other than the E-5, the old 4/3 DSLR is mostly dead. They’ll continue to make the lenses, but no one now expects any new 4/3 cameras. Olympus is now dedicated to m4/3. That means they’re missing high end and low end models and a lot of lenses. Overall, Olympus’s imaging business continued to decline in 2010.
  • Sony decided that flapping mirrors are passe and is moving to a lineup of mirrorless and pellicle mirrored cameras, despite the light loss it involves. This seems to be a little ahead of the curve to me, as EVF isn’t there yet and Sony hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with high ISO results (especially considering that the new Sony’s run hot at the sensor as it is ;~). But ahead of the curve is better than behind.
  • Nikon committed to using only Nikon-design sensors. That doesn’t mean that the sensors don’t have elements from other makers in them or that they stopped using Sony as a supplier, only that Nikon’s sensors appear to now be 100% exclusive to Nikon. When you compare a Nikon DX 14mp or 16mp camera to a competitor’s, any difference in image quality is now completely engineered by Nikon. The results so far look very promising, so Nikon is on to something.
  • The big boys (Canon, Nikon) still haven’t gone mirrorless. That’s unexpected given the clear sales trend happening in the high compact to low DSLR realm. They can’t continue to ignore mirrorless for long, though. Surprisingly, I’m not sure they fully “get it.” (More on that in a bit.)
  • Leica is back. The new(ish) owners and management of Leica made mostly all the right decisions and the company is back in the black and growing again. Of course, now that supply is meeting demand, the real question is can they follow that up with more good product decisions, or are we back to the “we’ll make lots of limited edition versions” again?
  • Panasonic was the first to take a stab at a camera with cellular phone (as opposed to vice versa) with the Lumix Phone. We’ll see more of this as the camera makers try to figure out how to protect the compact camera market, but I don’t see it succeeding any time soon. We’ve watched a lot of cell phone companies withering and dying when they missed the last turn (smart phones), and the camera companies just don’t have the marketing or carrier contacts to pull this off.

Once again I’m going to break the current two-year stretch (2010 results, 2011 destiny) down by company:

  • Canon: Canon missed a memo somewhere. The camera market is changing, but they seem stuck on executing on the old memo. Basically: more pixels, more video, same camera. Some things (autofocus comes to mind) are getting a little stale in the Canon world, while other companies seem to be pushing lots of new tech into their equipment (pellicle mirrors, new focus systems, new metering systems, etc.). This needs to change or the overall trend of Canon being nibbled to death will continue. I don’t see any evidence yet that Canon is going to change, though. 2010 was more of the same. Everyone will be looking to see if 2011 is more of more of the same.
  • Nikon: Pretty much everything they’ve touched since the D3 has turned out to be pretty darned good, with only the D3000 and D5000 lagging, and the D3100 has since fixed part of that. While the cameras have a bit of the “more pixels, more video” aspect that’s driving Canon, there’s a lot more happening under the covers that’s helping. We’re getting new tech in focus and metering systems, sensors that seem to have some secret low light sauce to them, and more. Nikon still is playing the “traditional DSLR” card 100%, but they’re simply doing a better job of the underpinnings than Canon seems to be doing. That’s gained them sales growth and market share so far. Unlike Canon, there are statements coming out of Nikon that seem to indicate that they realize that they need something other than “another DSLR with more pixels” in the coming year. But is the “other” camera really the right one? More in a bit.
  • Sony: 2010 was the year Sony took off on a tangent. NEX and Pellicle mirror cameras are definitely both a bit on the side of non-traditional DSLR plays. The inexpensive full frame thing failed, as did the dozens of low-end traditional-DSLRs-with-minor-differences thing. Somewhere in the organization Sony execs sent and responded to a different memo than the one Canon didn’t see. Sony’s is a high risk, high reward (or big failure) strategy. Ironically, the best NEX camera is the video model, the NEX-VG10. But Sony has a lot to work on still for stills, even if they get the A700 replacement out and maybe a new full frame sensor flagship: lenses. They need more lenses (NEX, APS, full frame, you name it). Without those lenses, the rest of the strategy will almost certainly fail to bring Sony up to the Nikon/Canon level. The NEX was a good idea, but we’re stuck at three lenses, two of them way too big for the camera (compare a Samsung NX100 kit with the NEX5 kit).
  • Olympus: Well, how about downsizing the downsize? 4/3? Dead. m4/3? Our future. Okay, I’ll buy that strategy, but it’s missing both the low and high end camera and a lot of lenses. It’s make or break time for Olympus in interchangeable lens cameras. Like Sony, they’re making a bet outside traditional DSLRs, and that’s high risk, high reward (or big failure). Unlike Sony, Olympus has a handful of lenses out, with more coming. Panasonic executing on the same mount doubles the lens available, so m4/3 looks more adaptable to a shooter’s needs than NEX does at the present time.
  • Panasonic: The sneaky engineers at Panasonic had a few things up their sleeve, and they’re showing up first in the GH2. They, too, have decided that it’s m4/3 or nothing (that’s three bets on red; anyone for black?). But Panasonic made one very major mistake in 2010: they responded to the GH1 firmware hacking by trying to stop it. Doh! Not. The. Right. Decision. The hacked GH1 was probably the best DSLR-based video camera on the market in 2010 (the much more expensive 5DII being a close second). The one thing you need to understand in tech is that when your customers tell you something important via things like hacks, you’d better listen. The Japanese companies are not very good at integrating customer information correctly back into engineering. Instead, they often do the opposite of what they should. If the GH2 turns out to be unhackable, that was a bad decision. Very bad. Go ahead and make your best and most important customers upset. Yeah, that works.
  • Pentax: Last year I wrote: continues to plug along the same path as before and continues to get the same results. Hmm. I don’t think I need to rewrite anything here ;~). Yeah, finally deciding to ship the 645D worldwide was a good idea, but shipping 100 or so high-end cameras to the US at the end of the year isn’t going to solve Pentax’s major problems. Now that Nikon’s not driving Sony’s sensor production, Pentax is going to be looking for sensors, too. My guess is that they’ll be the first Aptina customer. Hope that sensor performs.
  • Fujifilm: So some of the guys got together and prototyped a retro tribute camera in their spare time, yeah, that’s a viable strategy to save the camera division. Did they even use a Fujifilm sensor? Doesn’t anyone else see that Fujifilm is continuing to fade in almost every respect?
  • Leica: For most of 2010 Leica’s thing was trying to get production up to demand. Now that 2011 is arriving, that problem is solved. Now what? This is the year we see if Leica’s resurrection was real. Unfortunately, I’m betting that their year consists of introducing a few M and S mount lenses, plus an X2 with a different lens. That’s not enough to sustain them, IMHO.
  • Sigma: a revised SD-14 and DP1 and 2 pretty much were like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest: did anyone actually hear those announcements? These cameras needed more than the “things we should have done earlier” updates they got, but at least we got the SD1 announcement. The SD1 is intriguing, as the Foveon technology does have a few nice aspects to it, and having 15mp without an AA filter or Bayer demosaic should highlight one of those very nicely. I know it was Photokina and all, but the SD1 announcement felt too much like a “hey, we’re still relevant” cry than something a meaty product positioning.

Here’s my momentum chart for 2010:

Companies on the Rise Companies Falling Hard to Tell

More falling than rising, I see. The companies that are falling need to have a very good 2011, I think.

That’s my message for 2011: have a good year, and you’ll be fine; have a bad year, and you’re in critical condition at best (you may be dead). So who’s going to have a good year and who’s going to have a bad one? Well, let’s go to the predictions.

Some overall predictions:

  • Mirrorless video continues. Both Panasonic and Sony now have dedicated video cameras derived from their mirrorless camera systems. This trend will continue, with Samsung likely to be next in line. Of the video companies, Canon is conspicuously absent from this trend. The question is whether the still camera companies will cross over, too. Yes, they will. But they may not get there this year.
  • Larger sensors return. No full frame cameras in 2010, plenty of them in 2011. The question is whether we really need them or not (yes, I know 100,000 of you will immediately write me “I want a D700s or D700x”, but frankly, the current crop of full frame cameras from all makers is pretty darned good; if you’re not getting good results now, a newer camera isn’t going to help much).
  • Growth. The market is back to some modest growth overall. Even compact camera sales will see some growth this year. DSLRs? About 15% growth in unit volume is my guess. Much of that is upgrade cycle: the cameras coming out now (e.g. D7000 or K5) and into next year do represent a big enough leap for much of the installed base that they’ll take the leap. And the mirrorless expansion happening at the bottom end of the market will continue as no one has quite sorted it out right yet and people are still experimentally buying.
  • Dirty secrets. I think this may be the year that many of the little secrets the camera makers have been hiding will start coming out more into the open: alteration of raw files, manipulating gain factors, non-linear and error-prone ADCs, mismatching greens in Bayer filtration, and a host of other little things that some of us have known about for quite some time but which generally don’t get much press. Why now? Because at the levels we’re now getting to with sensors, people are starting to realize that some of the differences they’re seeing at pixel peeping and measurebating levels can’t be explained by “new sensor technology.” There’s a strong temptation by the camera companies to market “sensor advances” when it may be “processing changes” or changes to something other than the electronics in the sensor that are being made. Personally, I don’t much care how an advance comes, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my capturing optimal data. Today’s data and image processing is so much more sophisticated than yesterday’s, we’re getting some nice benefits in our photos. So, other than knowing what’s being done and why, I don’t care. There’s no great conspiracy involved here, despite some Internet cries to the contrary.
  • Smartcamera. Smartphones are ubiquitous and have cameras in them. Turn that around. We’ve seen two announcements now of cameras that have phones in them. This trend will continue as the camera companies start to realize that competent cameras in phones will eat up the sub-US$300 compact camera market. The camera companies think of the low-end compact cameras as “gateway drugs” to higher end products. Get someone hooked on a low-end camera, when they need new features or performance, they buy upwards, starting with the same brand (assuming you didn’t totally botch the low-end product experience ;~). But smartphones are changing that equation, so the camera companies are rushing to figure out how to get in there before companies like Apple and Microsoft and RIM and Google steal their customer. Unfortunately, the engineering is the easy part. Dealing with the wireless carriers will prove to be the undoing of this effort by the camera makers, I think. And every one of the camera companies would have to up their customer service levels incredibly to even stay in the same game as a company like Apple, which traditionally tops the categories it sells in.

For individual companies, we’ll start with Nikon:

  • A Big Up Year: overall sales and profits will rise continuously through the year, as Nikon is coming into the year with four winners (D3100, D7000, D3s, D3x) and three strong contenders that just need updating (D5000, D300s, D700). Add to that the new system (keep reading), the fact that this is a D4 year, and that Nikon’s sensors seem to thrive in low light these days even with pixel increases, and the year looks good.
  • D800: announced by end of March 2011.
    • D700-type body, new Nikon FX high resolution sensor fabbed by Sony
    • 18-24mp
    • 4-5fps
    • 1080P/24/25/30, 720P/24/25/30/60
    • 100% viewfinder
    • EN-EL15
    • MB-D12 grip
    • Yes, it’s still coming. At Nikon speed (didn’t anyone at Nikon ever watch Star Trek? Impulse Drive is the slow speed; we want engineering at Warp Speed ;~)
  • D400: announced late in the year (August or later). The real question is what changes from a D300s?
    • The D7000 16mp sensor, but with faster frame rates (both still and video)
    • A new focus sensor, likely a derivative of the D4’s
    • 1080P/24/25/30, 720P/24/25/30/60
    • Hard core pro body (more gasketing, possibly integrated grip)
    • Integrated GPS?
    • EN-EL15 battery?
    • Or, here’s the alternative rumor: 24mp Nikon/Sony DX (yes DX) sensor in the D300s body with the D7000 metering and autofocus. This alternative doesn’t make sense to me because it is literally at the limit of discernible resolution returns. Moreover, virtually all of Nikon’s DX lenses will come up short in resolution, meaning we’d need another cycle of DX lenses. Makes sense from the “we’ll make things that force them to buy again new” standpoint, but makes no sense at all when examined from a practical standpoint. Moreover, this would be the end of the line for DX as far as I’m concerned. Final note: if 24mp DX is the D400 alternative chosen, then the D800 probably won’t appear in 2011. Nikon would be very confused trying to market a high megapixel D400, D800, and D4 at the same time. Thus, I’m sticking with 16mp, more hard core pro, as outlined above.
  • D5100: a necessary update of the D5000, probably coming in the first quarter
    • 14mp Nikon sensor
    • D5000-like body and controls, but with the D3100 sensor
    • EN-EL14
  • D4: announced by August 2011
    • new Nikon 18mp sensor with at least D3-like capability, maybe better
    • completely new AF system
    • better metering system (upgraded from D7000)
    • Hard core video features (perhaps even 1080P/60)
    • Integrated GPS
    • USB 3.0
    • Updated UDMA specs
    • Big question: D4h and D4x, or D4 only? The high-megapixel FX sensor rumors swirling around Sony include a Nikon variant. The question is whether Nikon has moved up the pro “studio” camera to be introduced with the pro “performance” camera again (last time that happened was the D1h/D1x intro). I think the odds are good that they could, as the only real engineering difference is the sensor, and the sensor appears to be ready. Still, there’s a big potential pileup in terms of marketing differentiation if Nikon pulls out all the stops (D400, D800, D4h, D4x). I can’t see them doing more than three of those choices in one year, and even that is expecting them to be aggressive. I expect at most two high megapixel announcements (D4, D800).
  • Coolerpix: Yes, finally a larger sensor Coolpix. And it turns out to be the missing mirrorless camera the executives have been talking about. Should be launched by February, certainly within first four months of year.
    • Larger sensor, all Nikon, but it’s not as big as DX. That means:
    • New lens system (call it MX for now), which means a 28-105mm equivalent, a wide angle prime, a 50mm prime equivalent, a 70-300mm or 80-400mm equivalent, maybe a superzoom equivalent
    • Video capability as per D3100/D5100
    • EN-EL16
    • So why is Nikon saying they reinvented the camera? I have two predictions here: unique optional EVF display (head mount) and a modest amount of user programmability. Wow, I don’t believe I just wrote that. But yes, this is a camera you’re going to interact with differently than ever before. Unfortunately, that’s feeling a bit like the Coolpix with projector idea to me, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
    • This is not a m4/3, NEX, or NX competitor, as it turns out. Well, it is in the sense that it is a small, mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. But Nikon seems to be shooting low in the market. Compact camera consumer low. That means very small size, even with some big focal length ranges. But it also means a small sensor and everything that brings to the table. I have to really wonder if Nikon got this one right. The things I do know about it seem like they’re swinging at a user who doesn’t exist. Again, Coolpix projector feeling…
  • Nikkors: Some of the missing Nikkors are no longer missing. By the end of 2011, the remaining missing Nikkors will all be here:
    • A 80-400mm f/4-5.6 replacement, with AF-S and a new optical design.
    • A 70-200mm f/4 addition.
    • A long Micro-Nikkor: may not be 200mm. Nikon may try to kill two birds with one stone again by making it 180mm and faster than f/4.
    • 50mm f/1.2G. Why? I don’t know.
    • A 24-70mm replacement. I’m guessing 24-105mm f/2.8 VR, and announced with the D4. This is an aggressive prediction as I’ve specified it. But the main prediction is being unnoticed: 24-70mm replacement. I don’t think Nikon will sit on 24-70mm and just do something like add VR. I believe they’ll take the opportunity to push the specs a bit. You can read that any way you’d like (22-70mm, 24-85mm, or my 24-105mm).

I’m a little worried that Nikon also got pulled into the 3D craze. That Coolerpix could be 3D or have a 3D option. Certainly there will be a Coolpix of some sort that does 3D in 2011, otherwise Picturetown 3D and Nikon’s new 3D picture frame make no sense. But 3D, especially for stills, is a technology looking for users, not the other way around. I suppose this means we’ll have a Coolpix with built-in 3D projector, too ;~). Yeah, those will sell like hot potatoes. Not!

To summarize what I think Nikon’s interchangeable lens lineup will look like at the end of the year from top of the line to bottom:

D4 and D3x (though possibly D4h/D4x combo instead)
CP8000 (mirrorless)

Yes, this would mean that the D90, D300s, D700 go away. Yes, this would mean that the D3s sensor goes away. Yes, those are scary thoughts.

  • Fujifilm. The X100 will be a small nova in the photographic world. Gushed over initially when it finally appears but then the reality will hit and it’ll just be regarded as another interesting, but-too-expensive-for-what-it-really-is compact camera, much like the Leica X1. Yes, there will be an X200, probably announced before the reality sets in. Note that the compact camera lineup will be getting the same scrutiny by the buying public: interesting, but not enough. The promise of the F300EXR didn’t quite match the reality, either. Ditto for the follow-up models, so 2011 will see Fujifilm again lose compact camera market share.
  • Sony. Not too difficult to predict that the A700 replacement appears, though I think there are some surprises to those that haven’t been paying attention: pellicle mirror, more megapixels, GPS inside option, etc. Looking at the feature list on paper the camera looks like a Canon and Nikon killer. But it isn’t, it’s just another Sony (oh, I know I’m going to get beat up over that line). Competent, but a little unfocused in target user (and interface), and not quite at the same pixel peeping level as its competitors. Hey, what about the rumored 24mp APS sensor? Answer: how many lenses does Sony have that could resolve well on that? Four? Five? So putting a camera out with what is essentially the maximum for useful APS pixel count doesn’t seem like it would be a big winner given the other constraints (e.g. lenses). (One source does tell me that Sony has 4-5 Zeiss lenses planned for 2011 launch, including a 200mm f/2, so perhaps these will fill that void and give the 24mp users something to shoot with.) You don’t really want to put out a camera that might cause a majority of its users to start posting “it wasn’t worth it” messages all over the net. Still, the multiple “economy full frame” excursion that Sony went on seems to imply that they’ll throw just about anything at the wall to see if it sticks, so we probably will see a 24mp crop sensor camera from them, and it may be the A700 replacement. I’ll just go on record as saying that would be foolish. I don’t think it’s difficult to predict that Sony have at least two more NEX models by the end of the year and at least three more NEX lenses. What’s tougher to predict is what happens with full frame. I think we’ll see one more stab by Sony there, mainly because it was already in development before the upper management started questioning the large sensor payback. So which is it: full frame with video, or full frame with a pellicle mirror, or both? Given what I know about the sensor development, the video is a given. So my guess would be both. Meanwhile Sony, like Panasonic, will join the compact-camera-with-built-in-cellphone game (call it the Sony Erickson Cellular Alpha, or SECA for short).
  • Canon. A 1DsIV seems pretty certain, and I think it’ll be 32mp or more (remember, Canon’s still executing off the same “more pixels” memo). A 5DIII seems certain by the end of the year, though I don’t see it going the more pixel route. Instead, it’ll be focused on trying to lock down the video user. So do we get other DSLRs, too? Well, I’m perplexed about that. Where exactly do you go after the T2i, 60D, and 7D? More pixels takes you up to that APS useful max, and I’m not sure that the 18mp sensors are delivering all that much more in the first place. I’m not hearing a lot of Canon DSLR future info out of Japan other than the high end. No, I think Canon is at a crossroads with DSLRs. The old strategy is about to stop working. Note that I said that growth in 2011 is partly due to upgraders, but I don’t see the Canon crowd crowing at their upgrade opportunities. Some of Canon’s best design decisions, meanwhile, have been being made in their top compact cameras (S95, G12). Is it possible that they’ll figure that out and get the mirrorless religion based upon these designs? I have my doubts. I’m betting on an incremental T3i body as the lone new cropped sensor DSLR, with 60D and 7D follow-ups scheduled for 2012. Can you see why Canon’s slowly losing momentum?
  • Olympus. We should get three m4/3 bodies from Olympus in 2011, but we’ll probably get two: E-P3 and E-PL2. The latter will be the incremental improvement to the E-PL1 and attempt to try to keep them in the game at the low end of the mirrorless realm. Basically, that means a US$499 camera or less with lens at retail, which means that the main development drive is in engineering out costs, not making a better product. At the other end, Olympus needs a solid-as-a-brick, pro m4/3 body, and I’m guessing that Olympus will make that the E-P3 and keep the E-P2 in the lineup as the middle. There’s a possibility I’m wrong, and that they’ll update the E-P2 to the E-P3 and add a higher end, more pro model, but that seems like a lot of work for Oly in a short time. True, the 4/3 DSLR engineering teams aren’t doing anything any more, so that argues for the three-body introduction scenario. Okay, so I’ll take what I wrote back and say E-PL2, E-P3, and E-P5 will appear. Like Panasonic (see below), we’ll have the lower models continuing the current sensors (with modest updates) and the upper models upping the megapixel numbers. We already know that we’re getting a super telephoto zoom (~70-300mm variable aperture, or is it the 90-250mm f/2.8 in m4/3 garb? I want the latter, but it’ll probably be the former), a 50mm macro, an 8mm fisheye, and a 12mm wide angle lens in early 2011. I think we’ll only get one additional lens delivered in 2011, and that would be a pro-caliber mid-range zoom (14-45mm f/2.8?) with the high end body. But by the end of the year I suspect that we’ll have a new lens roadmap that shows us a couple more high specification m4/3 lenses (fixed aperture zooms), another prime (likely 25mm), and another consumer zoom of some sort. Two additional things came on my radar just after I wrote this: Olympus is trying to finish buying a cell phone seller (ITX Corp, a Japanese cell phone store chain which they currently own 82% of), and Olympus is exploring a larger sensor idea they’re internally calling Super4/3 (to replace the old 4/3). So the question is: will Olympus try pushing outward from their current compact and m4/3 core? My answer: yes.
  • Panasonic. The GH2 got launched late in the year, so the high end for Panasonic seems set for 2011. Meanwhile the G2 isn’t out of date, either. Thus, it’s the GF1 type camera that’s where the action will be. We’ll actually get two variants: a lower level replacement for the GF-1 (call it the GF-2 [actually announced a week after I wrote that line]) and a higher level supplement (call it the GP-2). The lower end continues the current 12mp sensors (updated slightly), the upper end gets the GH2 sensor. Lenses are tougher to figure. But I suspect that, like Olympus, by going upscale with a model Panasonic needs to do the same with lenses, so we’ll get something like a 14-45mm f/2.8 and a 45-100mm f/2.8 pairing, maybe in Leica garb. What we really need is a 10mm or 12mm prime, though. Panasonic seems to be hot on the wides, so I’m going to bet that we get something like that in the lineup announced in 2011, too. We already have good word that we’ll see a 25mm f/1.4 in the coming year from them. Panasonic is making decent cameras, but they need to get their marketing and sales up to a higher level. And all the “G’s” and “2’s” in their naming (GH-2, G2, G20, GF-2) aren’t helping. Talk about confusing the potential buyer.
  • Leica. The easy parts are these: at least two more S mount lenses, at least two more M mount lens revisions. A follow-up to the X1, basically the same camera with a different lens (call it the X2, probably with a 35mm f/2 lens [the rich man’s Sigma DP2]). I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a Leica variant of the GP-2, which basically gives Leica a modern interchangeable lens rangefinder-sized replacement, albeit a rebadged one. That would be a pretty good addition to their lineup, actually, but the real issue here is that Leica would need to get on the m4/3 lens bandwagon. Please! Pretty Please? A Leica prime line of 12mm, 14mm, 18mm, 25mm, 40mm would be so welcome by the m4/3 crowd it would be perpetually out of stock, even at Leica prices. But they won’t do it (sorry about that sudden cold shower). They’ll hold the fort: 2 M and 2 S lenses and an X2. Or maybe they’ll expand slightly: I’m not sure if the X2 is this or not, but Leica will expand, adding a full frame compact (fixed lens) during the year.
  • Samsung. I haven’t written about them much, but they’ve been quietly iterating trying to find a sweet spot that’ll give them some leverage. The NX100 may be the trick (I’ll have more to say about it soon). Samsung reminds me a bit of Panasonic on a several year tape delay: they started into DSLRs with a bit of a joint venture (Samsung:Pentax, Panasonic:Olympus), have a great deal of photographer-centric thinking in their designs, and are progressing towards their own system and style. But what Samsung still haven’t quite figured out is the “system” aspect of interchangeable lens cameras. Three lenses are not nearly enough, especially when they’re all low specification. Also, the Samsung sensors and digital processing aren’t exactly topping the charts in image quality, yet, either. But the NX10 is an attractive and usable camera. So we’ll see if Samsung figured that out themselves. If we see variations of the NX10 design and the right NX lenses announced in 2011, they get it. If not, well, they’re still stumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch (when it’s already at their fingertips). We will see a video camera with the NX mount in 2011, though. Samsung also needs to get their marketing and sales act together, too (at least here in the US; not sure how it is in Europe at the moment). I don’t have much in the way of other predictions for Samsung, as you can see, partly because they’re off the main Japanese design circuit where most of the rumors and rumblings I hear occur. But I think it clear they’ll have another NX body or two (NX200, NX20) and at least another lens there. Current rumor is that the next lens will be a fast telephoto.
  • Ricoh. Ricoh’s made it a bit easy on me: they’ve published their roadmap for 2011 already: 28mm equivalent wide angle should be shipping soon after I write this, the 24-70mm APS module will come next, and we’ll get a module with a lens mount of some sort. So the only real question is “what lens mount?” There are only two that make a lot of sense to me: M or m4/3. Anything else makes for lenses that are too big for the body. Okay, there’s an outside chance at C mount, but that’s so oddball, even Ricoh wouldn’t pursue that. Here’s the kicker: that 24-70mm APS module is going to rock the high-end compact world. Somehow Ricoh will have done what none of the traditional camera makers really achieved: a shirt pocket APS sensor camera. Yes, it’ll be a big shirt pocket, like the P7000 and G12 need, but here’s the thing: the GXR body is pretty darned good. So if a 24-70mm APS module with a retracting lens works as well as it should, this is the sleeper compact of the year. Who needs mirrorless?
  • Pentax. Full frame? Probably not, though if things pick up for them, that project might get quickly green-lighted. Mirrorless? Yes, though I don’t know any details yet. which will appear in the first quarter of 2011.

Finally, a word about my predictions. I write these to be provocative; to generate discussions about the health of the companies whose products we use and how they might best serve us in the future. When I write that I think a company or product line might not be long for the world, it’s not that I want that to happen. Personally, the more players we have, the more competition we have and the faster we get new technologies and innovations that will make our lives as photographers better. While I make a modest living off of documenting Nikon products, I don’t consider myself a Nikon fanboy. Nikon themselves don’t think I’m a fanboy ;~).

Okay, one more provocative prediction: interchangeable lens camera global market share guesses for 2011. The following numbers have been revised slightly from my original projection after looking at the most recent financial statements from the camera companies:

Canon 4.6m units 32%
Nikon 4.4m units 31%
Sony 1.5m units 11%
Olympus/Panasonic 2.2m units 15%
Pentax 800k units 6%
Other 700k units 5%
Totals 14.2m units  

This represents a slight loss of market share for Canon and Nikon, slight gains for several of the others, and the erosion effect of mirrorless.

About Nguyễn Viết Hiền

Passionate, Loyal
This entry was posted in Business Model, Digital Camera, Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

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