Sony and the Canikon problem
How to increase market share.
As an Sony Advocate Photographer which I really enjoy being and I really like the cameras that Sony have been making. I have a few points that I think Sony needs to address before it can move into number one or two in the camera market. I loved my A900 its viewfinder was and still is one of the best that I have ever used on a DSLR or SLR camera, I love using the A99 it makes working getting the exposure accurate so much easier than just about any other camera I know and if it was only smaller I would use it for most things which is why I am so interested in the new A7 and A7r cameras. Sony just has to get the lens out for this system as fast as they can and having lens in a system that will not be released for a year is not going to help them make sales on this camera system as they are releasing a new system which I suspect will ultimately see them focus more on the former Nex range than the A-mount cameras. They have not said so but it is obvious to me unless they use the reach that they have with their professional video network to support pro photographers with hire and support for their professional camera equipment. they would also need to be first to market with the sensors in cameras and not giving them to Nikon or other camera makers fora while before releasing them in their own cameras. A camera company that wants to be number one needs to be able to attract the dreams and ambitions of the people who are buying cameras. I speak to a lot of photography students and the main reason they buy Nikon and Canon is that this is what the pro’s use so if they want to be a serious photographer then they had better buy these brands as they can then slowly buy lens that can be used across generations of cameras. Once someone buys into a system they tend not to change unless their is a compelling reason to do so. In other words the camera system has to offer them something that they are not getting from their existing camera system. This can be as simple as professional support, reputation, lens range, camera features etc. Lets look at this list a little more:
Professional support would be easy for a large company like Sony to bolt onto an existing network of video support centres and it would need each centre to have hire lens available foe those exotic lens that most photographers do not own but occasionally need. This is the strength of Canon and Nikon as you can rent any number of lens from a wide range of places, which aids the availability exotic lens for photographers. Most photographers these days unless they have regular need for the exotic lens do not own them they rent them it helps to keep their costs down and it is something that I would highly recommend as keeping costs down is good business sense.
Reputation is much harder to develop this comes form years of producing equipment that works for photographers needs and Sony is actually doing really nice cameras but for some photographers they do not like electronic viewfinders and Sony has jumped whole heartedly into these and will continue down this road now so it is a feature that a lot of older pros do not like yet newbies can see in an instant how this can help them in making the images as it becomes one less thing to worry about (did I get my exposure right and with a live histogram in the viewfinder one does). Reputation is about perception and this means getting these cameras into the hands of working pros and then shouting about this form the roof tops. I would start a blog/website that features the work of pros using the cameras successfully, pro photographers from around the world telling their stories and helping these pros to actively engage with the photographic community.
Lens range develop a lens range that hits the points that people need at a range of price points. this means looking at how people use lens and design them to meet these needs not how it has been done before but take risks at both the cheap and expensive ends of the lens lines. All lens need to have a distance for focusing marked on the lens barrel get this back onto the lens just because Nikon and Canon took it off the cheaper lens does not mean that Sony should follow this practice. This is a big mistake as when I show new students how to prefocus they love it as it feels like something that a pro uses (which is something that a lot do and some don’t it all depends on how they work). But it is a simple feature that needs to be on a camera and not to expensive to have marked on a lens barrel. Hyper focal scale on fixed lens so you can as a photographer see what this is we can excuse it on zooms as we can always download hyper focal distance calculator for our smart phones when using these lens.
Camera features why do we need so many of them, make the camera a tool for making images not a computer to do everything else. Direct controls for specific things help but what is it that photographers want to do? make images as fast and as simply as possible with the ability to use semi automatic i.e. Aperture priority and shutter priority then when the camera does not get the exposure a quick change to manual to override the camera controls to set the aperture and shutter speeds how the photographer needs them for their image. Get this right and the camera becomes simple and easy to use. Get it wrong and it becomes a barrier to making successful images and most cameras these days make the process of making images way to complex, all of this gets in the way of making images.
Yet I give one thing to Sony in the area of feature creep they have implemented the video aspect of their DSLR cameras better than Canon or Nikon, I have loaned my A99 to a filmmaker who has come back raving about the cameras abilities with video. Saying things that were highly complimentary about the video implementation on the A99. I personally am not the person to judge video on any camera as I do not make films. I contemplate making instructional videos but still have not got around to really trying to make them.
Sony A99 Now I did not like the electronic finder when I first got it then I discovered two things about it that I now love.
1) I can have focus peaking which makes manual focus easier and faster especially for portraits as everyone has catch light in their eyes and I can use this to focus with.
2) The ability to have a live histogram in the viewfinder means that I can see what is happening to my exposure at all times while I am making images with available light (not so great with flash as this does not then apply), which means that I have practical and useful information about my exposure in camera while working on making images, which is a real world advantage when working on location in changeable lighting situations.
The new A7r looks like it will be something that I want to try out partly because it has the microlens that will let me use older lens on the camera. I have been using Nex-7 with a Leica 40mm and 35mm lens for a while now as I like the ability to preset my focus distance when working with this camera that the Sony lens do not let me do and this is still going to be the case with the new lens for the A7r camera. I already have a Novaflex Nex- to Leica M adaptor or you could get the Metabones Nex e-mount to Leica m lens adaptor so I am looking forward to trying it out.
Why is it important to have more than two players in the camera business, I think it is vital if we want t o innovative products to have companies that want to compete as it keeps everyones minds focused on making developments and improvement that would not happen in a monopoly market place. Which is why it is important that we have more players and that they can all make money in the marketplace.