Sony's on the right track
Sony's on the right track
Dec 21, 2012
May not be the optimal path for current users but I think they are doing the right thing for their survival.
Here's where I think they are:
1. Small DSLR marketshare
2. Growing small mirrorless share
3. Critical notice and reward for risk-taking and new body-centric technologies and design (Nex, RX1, A99)
4. Strong supplier of cutting-edge sensor technology
5. Not great with developing lenses and getting a good lens ecosystem in place for a wide range of potential buyers.
I think they are conceding they will not be able to compete in the traditional DSLR market and make up enough ground fast enough. They may have made this call a few years ago.
Where they excel is body-centric innovations and optimizations and willingness to incorporate these into multiple lines. Shrinking form factors with high quality output (RX1, RX100), physical user interfaces (tri-navi), assist technologies (range limiter and silent controller on A99, focus peaking) are all recent examples of this.
Where they are weakest is developing lens systems and addressing the eco-system as a whole. They don't do much in house and they have tried to work around this with adapters and partnerships. This makes sense to me as their heritage is primarily consumer electronics.
If, as rumors suggest, they are pursuing a high MP FF sensor direction, that could mean they are trying something quite bold that plays to their existing strengths and downplays their weaknesses.
A high MP FF sensor that can shoot in a relatively high MP crop mode would mean that users can choose any lens in the system whether it's a FF or DT lens and get something useful. Effectively, they have the opportunity therefore to minimize the FF vs. crop question for potential buyers.
This is a strategy that could work for them because they seem pretty adept at innovating in the camera bodies - more so than the other companies. And there's a longer gestation period to evolve lenses, so it also allows them to refresh models more quickly to spur purchases and growth.
They are going where their competitors will be hesitant to follow. This puts them into the fight with companies like Panasonic which is a fight they can take on with more confidence.
It also sets them up to get into it with companies like Samsung and any emerging computer-driven photographic competitors. But again, this is a fight they may feel more confident about and that suits their company better.
Where they would continue to struggle is trying to take market-share (particularly high end market-share) away from the incumbents who can offer more mature traditional products at more affordable prices to an audience who really value those qualities over new innovations (see the infinite conversations of OVF vs. EVF)
There's a lot of potential in what they're doing. This transition period will upset a lot of existing customers but they are looking for new pastures and new customers. And a lot of them.