It’s no secret that Sony has been making strides in the camera world. Expanding their ever growing lineup of pocket sized camera, the Cybershots and their DSLR and Hybrids with the Alpha and NEX series, Sony has gone to hold the worlds second largest camera market share while closing in on Canon for the number one spot. Now respect camera writer and Nikon fan, Thom Hogan is giving his input on the DSLR race and his got some strong words for Canon and Nikon while praising Sony.
Sony: most interesting strategies (yes plural) of the bunch. On the Alpha side went for very different technologies (e.g. pellicle mirror), which took awhile to get settled, but has clear benefits long-term. Also has been shoring up and improving dealer network here in the US, giving them a potentially significant advantage over the other players, above. Has been aggressive on price with the Alphas (some of which is happening with the dealer), and appears to be about to get more aggressive. Meanwhile, they’ve made NEX into a potentially serious mount (it currently extends from a low-end mirrorless model to a highly professional video camera). Too bad they don’t have the lenses to back it up yet. Status: making progress on all fronts, and Canon and Nikon need to be especially wary of this competitor. Forecast: one weakness is still not having all the right lenses. This blunted sales of both the full frame Alphas as well as NEX models. Even the Alpha is missing a few key lenses if it wants to tackle the high-end Canons and Nikons well. Rumors show progress on this front, but it needs to happen faster. Other weakness is in marketing. The dual strategy makes a strong cohesive “why Sony cameras matter” message very necessary.
Thom goes on to point out that Nikon and Canon continue to “pursue their old strategies: entry to pro DSLR lineups, iterated regularly, moved upscale in features and performance with each generation.” When you step back and look at my tech companies and tech sectors, he couldn’t be more right. Not many tech companies are willing or able to break the mold, instead offering an improved model the year after and the year after that. In some ways, you cannot blame them as the strategy is a safe bet for the company and investors but then you look at Sony in this case and see that they are willing to take some risks and bend some rules which is starting to pay off. Still, no one can seem to do it better then Apple.
I hate to keep using Apple as an example, but they’ve been the best available one in high tech for a long time now: strong product definition that creates new categories and quickly dominates them; effective and ubiquitous advertising and marketing; best-in-business customer support (not a very high bar); consistency in design and message; creation of ecosystems around their products. Now take that list and see how many camera companies manage any of those things. No wonder DSLR sales have peaked. No end in sight for the roller coaster ride, though we’re coming up on a big drop.
This is my exact sentiment and one that I’ve pointed out on multiple times on the site. Sony is in the perfect position to offer a cohesive product offering for the consumer, seeing how the company offers a product in almost every category and market. However, due to the size of them, the company seems to be working with multiple agencies which offers a broken down vision of the company and not a straight forward message. Throw into the mix that Sony doesn’t have a large stockpile of cash in their reservers and you can start to get a better picture why the company doesn’t advertise as much as it should. However, if the company can get their act together and start battling the likes of Apple, Nikon, and Microsoft with better advertising, Sony is really poised to gain a considerable market share in both the DSLR segment and others.