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Friday, September 21, 2018

Sony, Preseason is Over.

Sony, Preseason is Over.
September 2018, Carl Garrard

As I foresaw in early September, Photokina 2018 will go down as historic, and epic. I was saying this before all the YouTube channels fired up and realized the same thing. Officially Photokina isn't even here yet, but Canon and Nikon and now Panasonic/Sigma/Leica are all going to be competing against Sony in the full frame MILC market. How things change fast in a month for Sony. After having that spot in the market for five full years alone (come this Oct), suddenly that space will be very crowded. And not just crowded with mediocre players, we're talking the big dogs here. Sony had five years to grow their FF lineup, and it took them nearly that long to produce two cameras that finally are meeting pro requests and requirements they were asking for all along. So, has Sony used that time wisely to gain a five year head start, or is that head start not nearly as big as they might think it is? It's not a simple answer.


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First of all, Sony has made the mistake thinking that winning the market is nearly all about the product alone (camera/lenses), i.e. especially specifications, and making little victories on those specifications. Plus, Sony have moved painstakingly slow getting to the point they have according to many professional comments I've seen out there in the last five years. I think the near lack of any competition (none if you discount Leica) probably ended up hurting them more than helping. Why?

While Sony enjoyed the solo ownership of the FF mirrorless market for half a decade, it's obvious that Canon and Nikon were paying very close attention to what users want and need (this will become MUCH more obvious on their next product cycle, not so much the first). Even more, we now know that Panasonic and Leica (and Sigma) were also paying close attention. This announced consortium will show a good portion of their playbook, and very well may be the dark horse of all the entries into this market. Panasonic were first in mirrorless, respected the most for video, and combining those efforts with Leica and Sigma are going to put serious heat on all the competition. While this is not good for Sony, its good for consumers, so they say.

If anything, the competition amongst them may finally drive camera makers to address the last frontier of camera making- the user experience. Specifically, handling, ergonomics, and the overall joy of shooting with a device. Technology is now all there in spades, diminishing returns are the name of the game in this area going forward. Consumers want more focus on the enjoyment of using the cameras by organizing that technology into a body that is very user friendly. That is an area that Sony seems to struggle in.

So, what now? Sony, you need to turn your customers voices up to volume 11. Invest heavily into customer service, pro needs, and don't turn a single blind eye to them. If you don't create brand loyalty like the other big makers have, they will over take you. It's as simple as that. The regular season has started this year, preseason is over. It's time to play ball going forward and show that you can consistently be the market leader your announcement earlier this year claimed you to be.

Sony' team is  1 vs.3, and, those three are all highly skilled veteran players.

And don't forget, we haven't yet even heard of what Olympus or Pentax will be doing in the next year or so. Likely both makers needed to see what everyone would announce this year, before making an investment into any changes in their marketing strategy. They are the smaller companies that have to make very careful and calculated moves. Maybe the best move of all is not moving, since the markets they are currently in will have much less competition going forward.

Stay focused.

-Carl Garrard

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6 comments:

  1. A lot of amazing cameras are currently out & a lot more amazing ones are yet to come. We're going to see a lot of development in the next few years. I look forward to it.

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  2. Agreed!!! Thanks for the comment too!

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  3. I think Panasonic approach Oly first to make FF mirrorless, but Oly decides to wait and see. Thats why there is no new announcement from Oly this coming Photokina.

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  4. Elpaciko, interesting thoughts :). Sorta along the line my thinking, where Ricoh/Pentax and Olympus want to wait this PK out to see what the market will end up like. Too much competition in one area isn't good! It will be crowded enough now.. lol

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  5. Thanks for the post and taking the time to provide an interesting perspective. I agree with your thoughts regarding next steps, but I struggle with the preseason analogy as a method of reflection. I’m not sure it’s accurate in this case if it’s paired to a ‘had 5 years and only did ... ’ type of perspective. That assumes the league was developed ... some may say it was not. The technologies didn’t exist in affordable methods or integration yet; processors, EVFs, sensor tech ... they (not alone, but led or were among leaders) built much of that. It’s a standard case of first to market vs. fast follower business model. The others are (trying to be) fast followers. They haven’t passed Sony in capabilities, yet, (we can list and show strengths either way, but I mean writ large) which some may argue is indicative of how far Sony got (fast followers can leap frog — they didn’t, *yet* ... they may soon).

    I do think it’s good for the market; competition will drive more innovation. It may drive some decrease in costs. I also agree with Sony needing to build out loyalty so critical in this market, and lead turn UI innovation.

    Thanks again.

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  6. Hi JHR,

    As you you said, building out loyalty is key. I'm not sure Sony knows how important that is yet, and I say "Sony" broad sweeping and generally, I know employees there that do in fact get it. But the whole company needs to be on board with that mentality and not view their photographic products as merely products as Sony tend to do in all their other business lines. Like it or not, Photography is more personal than that, even when its professional. Reliability, support, go a long way. As the Canon model shows.

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