As 2013 comes to a close, the situation in the imaging industry is one of mild turmoil. As things currently stand, the industry can be divided into four segments.
2. Mirrorless cameras
3. Smartphone cameras
4. Compact digital cameras
The D-SLR field is still fairly stable and shows promise especially in emerging markets like India where even in tepid years, demand has grown at more than 10%. Lighter and smaller D-SLRs are the call of the day.
Mirrorless cameras have taken nearly 50% of the Japanese market. However, their share is meagre in major markets like the US. In emerging markets, the main players for some reason, have opted not to market the mirrorless range aggressively.
Smartphone cameras have been the success story of 2013. Demand for Smartphones has increased exponentially. Profit margins on Smartphones are very healthy and marketing budgets substantial.
Smartphone companies have put in a lot of money to try and wean away compact camera buyers to Smartphones. The cameras in Smartphones have also seen substantial improvements. However, even today, they are nowhere near the quality available from D-SLRs and mirrorless cameras.
Compact digital cameras have taken a big knock during the year. The decline in the market for low-end compact digital cameras has been substantial thereby endangering the existence of smaller players like Casio and GE.
Let us examine where the major players stand.
Nikon has been very alert in updating its SLR range to make it contemporary and to increase the gap with competition. However, the quick replacement of the D600 has raised a lot of eyebrows and the story is all over the Internet. Smudges in pictures due to oil leakages from the shutter is alleged to be a major problem with the D600. Nikon has also replaced the D5200 with the D5300 in just about a year mainly with a view to incorporate Wi-Fi in their SLR range. Nikon’s efforts in the mirrorless market have been feeble and so far have not met with much success. Performance in the compact market has been average and in line with the decline in the industry.
Canon has launched three D-SLRs in 2013 including the EOS 100D, 70D and 700D. (The 6D had been announced late last year). Canon’s performance in the D-SLR market has been consistent and they claim that they have now taken over leadership position in the Indian market from Nikon. As far as mirrorless cameras are concerned, Canon has been rather quiet. The EOS M introduced last year met with little success and there is no sign of a successor. Canon’s range of compact digital cameras continues to be strong and at the higher-end is fairly formidable. Sony has had an exciting year. Apart from some refreshed models in the D-SLR segment, Sony has for the first time, produced a full-frame mirrorless camera thereby setting the cat amongst the pigeons. The new A300 from Sony will certainly change the future for Sony’s mirrorless cameras.
Sony continues to be an average performer in digital compact cameras and in recent times has impressively refurbished its Smartphone range where it hopes to make a stronger impression than before. The Q10 and the Q100 are definite indications of things to come. If Sony focuses aggressively on the mirrorless sector, it can very well assume leadership.
Olympus has had a subdued year in the aftermath of its own corporate struggles which spilled over to 2013. Clearly, Olympus has once again said good-bye to SLR cameras. The company will now focus on mirrorless cameras and the new OMD-EM-1 shows a lot of promise. Olympus’ range of compact cameras has now dwindled considerably.
Samsung has had a wonderful 2013. It assumed world leadership of the Smartphone market and the S4 zoom Smartphone was clearly a market leader. Samsung also became the first company in the world to introduce the Android operating system in an interchangeable lens camera, the NX Galaxy. With its huge technological strength and massive marketing budget, Samsung is cetainly a company to watch out for in the imaging industry.
Panasonic has had a relatively quiet 2013. Its mirrorless cameras now represent a formidable range and the lenses accompanying them have been appreciated for their high optical quality. The compact camera market for Panasonic has also seen a decline in line with the rest of the compact camera market. Panasonic’s efforts in imaging in the Indian market have been very modest as far as distribution and marketing are concerned. However, the potential is very much there. The Panasonic range of Smartphones in India are unique only to the Indian market.
Pentax-Ricoh entered the Indian market rather quietly in 2013. Pentax SLRs and Ricoh high-end digital compact cameras still have many admirers across the world. The new K-3 D-SLR from Pentax is a formidable camera and with its launch Pentax has thrown the gauntlet and registered its presence as a major D-SLR player.
2014 promises a better market in India and further interesting technological breakthroughs. We cannot wait…
H. S. Billimoria