The Silent Spring

Here we are about to start summer and...mostly what we hear is crickets.

No doubt the pandemic-induced supply chain issues—coupled with a fire at a critical electronics plant in Japan—is causing problems. Add a container shortage and price increases with shipping (Nikon is currently airlifting all items from Thailand to the US), and it's easy to see that the camera companies are under a bit of pressure. It doesn't help that demand for cameras is increasing again above the pandemic year levels. 

We've already seen the results: fewer product intros, delayed product intros, lack of supply on key cameras in certain markets, limiting the area a product is sold to fewer regions, fewer items on sale, and the sales that do happen are often less aggressive than they've been in the past or only on previous generation gear. 

Something you might not have seen is that the Japanese camera news and information sites have taken to writing more about rumors than in the past. In a few cases I've even seen a full circle occur: Japanese site rumor picked up by US site rumor, re-picked up by Japanese sites. 

The camera industry economic engine is sputtering and needs a tune up. 

At the same time, we've got some really compelling mirrorless products on the market—when they're in stock—and that's only increasing even at the slower release pace we're currently in. The Canon R5/R6, Nikon Z6II/Z7II, and Sony A7C/A1 all are garnering plenty of attention and buyers at the moment. The Fujifilm GFX100S also can be said to be in that elite high-end group, though not at the same unit volume. 

Of course, how many of us buy US$2000+ cameras? Not as many as you think. The bulk of the unit volume in the market is still more in the US$1000 and under range, which means more entry-level cameras and cameras with compromises. This is causing the camera makers a further dilemma: if they only have X parts, they really want to use those first in the upper-end cameras that are selling out each month, and then the remainder in their lower-end models. But there's not enough of those parts to spread them around well, it seems.  

This summer is a good time to make sure that you're using your current cameras at their full ability, and that you know what it is that you'd want in your next camera. A camera a few years old still makes compelling images if you're paying attention to details. It's also probably a good time to examine your workflow and make sure that you've got a solid and state-of-the-art post processing ability that will survive more pixels and more computing needs (though parts shortages are impacting computers and accessories, too). 

I'm expecting the late part of this year to be the point where things start to get back more on a normal pace: more new products, more lens introductions, products in stock, and come the holiday season: aggressive sales. Take a breather and spend the time between now and then to assess where you are, what you need, and what you'll do next.

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