Withstanding Competitor Angst

One of the things that Canon's concerted RF launch will likely provoke is a bit of angst in Nikon and Sony users (probably Panasonic and others, too, but let's just stick to the three companies that mostly control the ILC market volume).

Using the metaphor I've used before, the big battleship has finally turned, and it's just fired a huge salvo from its big guns. Many crewmen on all the other fleets now have a sense of panic.

Okay, I'm going to go off on an odd tangent with that metaphor for a moment, bear with me. 

bythom wow

Since it first appeared, I've been playing an excellent MMO (massively multiplayer online) game called World of Warships Blitz (WoW). It features battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. You definitely don't want one of the big battleships in the game turning to bear its guns on you, as that can inflict incredible damage very quickly, maybe enough to sink you in one salvo if you've already sustained damage. 

So you'd think everyone would just play with battleships. Nope, because battleships have vulnerabilities as well strengths. A well-captained destroyer can do just that: destroy a battleship. That's because they're faster, nimbler, and damage the battleships badly with well-executed salvos of torpedos. 

And that's right where we are with the camera market. While the Canon battleship suddenly looks like it's going the right direction and is firing its big guns, I wouldn't worry about that too much if you're a Nikon or Sony user. Both those fleets will be firing some of their weapons later this month, and each has plenty to fire. 

Nothing has really changed from my earlier advice. Canon DSLR users should consider Canon mirrorless cameras. Nikon DSLR users should consider Nikon mirrorless cameras. Sony users should stick with their Sony cameras. That's because of things other than a big gun. Big guns aren't very useful if you don't have any ammunition, or are expensive if you need to buy new ammunition. (Think cameras as the gun, lenses as the ammunition. Good adapters, which all have, can make use of your existing lenses.)

The game being played by the big three in ILC is nuanced, much like WoW is. For instance, Canon has sent its DSLR users—other than perhaps the 1DX crowd—a mostly clear message that it's time for mirrorless. Nikon, on the other hand, is executing very nice DSLRs (D780, D6) as well as nice mirrorless (Z6, Z7, Z50, and more coming soon). Nikon troops don't have to make a change if they don't want to, as probably the best three DSLRs currently made are all Nikons (add the D850). Sony's been running around the seas rebuilding their ships over and over with new tech, all while outfitting the troops with lots of new ammunition. 

The game is afoot. Fully afoot. That's good news for all of us, as it means that Canon, Nikon, and Sony are all going to have to stay highly competitive now to hold their territory. 

For decades now I've watched ILC camera market shares change. But it generally doesn't change by a lot, and certainly not in a very short period. Canon and Nikon both have a large user base still with DSLRs, and this is the primary customer they're trying to entice. If they pick up some new-to-ILC buyers, great, but the biggest task for each is giving their DSLR base a clear choice for moving into the future, which is almost certainly mirrorless. 

So, today Canon did the right thing for all their DSLR users, sending some clear signals and making it less likely that the competitors can nibble away more territory from Canon. That shouldn't terrify any Nikon or Sony user. They should be looking at what their navy will add to their fleets next. 

To put this in DSLR terms. Nikon fired the first salvo with the D1, followed very quickly by the D1h, D1x, and D100. Nikon went high. Canon responded early on by going low, with consumer DSLRs initially. Did Nikon win this battle? Yes, but winning a battle is not winning the war. Canon eventually got their DSLR fleet in order and re-established their market lead, though not quite as securely as it had been at the end of the film SLR era. Nikon fired back with the D300, D3, D700, which for a time brought them back to the front.

Nothing's changed with mirrorless. We'll have this same back and forth, only with a stronger #3 this time, and the competition that it provokes is good for all of us, as products will simply get better. 

So, returning to the WoW metaphor: the developers of that game are constantly adding new ships with new parameters and gimmicks, basically trying to entice us gamers to buy the latest trinket. What I've found in that game—as well as with cameras—is it is better to lock onto a competent ship and master every nuance of it. Doing that has made it so that I'm the MVP out of the 14 players in each battle about 12% of the time (chance would say 7%). 

So, if you're a Nikon or Sony user thinking that "wow, I'm not going to be able to keep up with those Canon users, I should switch," I say stop thinking that. Instead, make sure that you're really using every aspect of your current gear properly and just wait for your fleet of choice to top itself before worrying about a new camera.



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