Yes, both Canon and Nikon recently cut their sales forecast as camera users are tired of buying nearly identical camera updates and more and more people switch to phones. But let’s not forget, Canon still estimates a massive $3.6 billion operating profit for the year. Nikon’s situation is worse with a 41% drop in operating profit to $222 million, mainly due to depressed overseas sales for pricey DSLRs. They make money, however the golden days are gone and their situation seems a bit like Apple’s in the 90s. The company went downhill when Steve Jobs left in 1985 as Apple just kept rereleasing the same device with a minor modification. It was Jobs again who turned around Apple’s fortunes with designer products that appealed to a larger segment of the population. People to this day are willing to pay a premium “Apple tax.” Now what does this mean for Canon and Nikon? Yes, they both lack vision and leadership. Can they still reverse course?
Computer are no cameras, even in these digital times with cameras driven by processors and technology. We’re willing to upgrade to a faster computer that looks nearly the same as the old one. Because a faster computer makes life easier and increases productivity. Most upgraded cameras, however, don’t make that much of a difference. Let’s be honest, many camera upgrades are pure giving in to gear lust.
Now Nikon made a shrewd move with the retro Df. Preorders might be below expectations, as Nikon Rumors reports. But this camera was never intended in the first place to compete with a D800 and the likes. The Df brings non-Nikonians into the Nikon flock; collectors, lovers of mechanical gear, people with enough money and last but not least the occasional Nikonian who can’t resist.
The D800 is a completely different beast. The Df is a transition camera, a designer product with a marketing value; a value-adding camera no other Nikon camera ever had. Love the concept or hate it, but it sure is as groundbreaking as the marketing mechanics behind it. For once Nikon thinks outside the box. It’s basically what Jobs did when he returned to Apple. We’ll have to see about the next Df iterations, but the Df has to be understood as part of Nikon’s assurance earlier this year to, yes, reinvent photography:
“We want to create a product that will change the concept of cameras,” said Nikon president Makoto Kimura. “It could be a non-camera consumer product.”
The Nikon Df doesn’t change the concept of cameras, but it’s a first step in the right direction while the major quality Canon pleases its users with at the moment is the lack of new products and therefore upgrades. Canon doesn’t give photographers even the choice to upgrade. Innovation-wise and in terms of thinking ahead the world’s camera leader seems at a standstill while Sony, Fujifilm and in a why Olympus push ahead and create. The 70D‘s Dual Pixel was the last real innovation since some time. Whether Canon’s EOS M or its DSLRs that are often announced a few weeks after similar Nikon cameras with near identical names, Canon seems to have become a massive colossus with huge muscles and little brain. Or they just observe and lie in wait?
People don’t need yet more pixels and even higher sensitivity. They want something that just works and is a pleasure to use. Make cameras that are cameras. No compressed computers, but well built tools that are a pleasure to look at, hold and shoot with.
Release a rangefinder, go medium format, do something. The time of milking passionate photographers with incremental same-sameness is over for good. That’s why your sales drop like a stone from the sky.
Make cameras that people want to use. A camera you want to pick up every day just to feel alive. Leica? They’re still standing because they found their niche. Leicas are overpriced to the point they’re a status symbol rather than a serious tool. There’s no way you can afford redundancy with that system — it’s just too expensive, but unfortunately necessary since they’re not exactly the most reliable cameras either. Leica is going to milk the rich dry for as long as they can. But that’s Leica. We’re talking Canon and Nikon, the people’s camera makers.
Don’t pair down features to meet price points with state-of-the-art cameras obsolete a few months down the road. If you can build a better camera now, then build a better camera now.
And for the sake of us photographers and your employees that don’t want to lose their jobs, bring passion and joy back into photography. I don’t want a cold precision tool. I want a camera that’s a pleasure to use.
Just an idea: full-frame, world’s first mirrorless with a big bright optical viewfinder (must be doable), metal body, classic design, manual controls, made in Japan. Build this thing and you can’t produce enough of it.
The fact that no camera maker thinks of the obvious might lead to suspicions they’re intentionally manipulating the market. It worked for so long. Old wine in new skins. Now photography and cameras drift apart. When the only thing that really changes is the model’s number, then don’t blame your own downfall on smartphones and users’ ignorance.