Why does Canon and Nikon dominate?

Started Feb 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
Luke Kaven
Veteran MemberPosts: 5,281
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Re: Why does Canon and Nikon dominate?
In reply to Ubilam, Feb 18, 2013

Nikon and Canon, particularly Nikon, were the first to offer cameras of sufficient mechanical and optical quality to be adopted as the choice alternative to the dominant Leica models.  They catered to the Time/Life photographers of the day with good optics, and bodies that were built like tanks and would not quite even under the very harshest conditions.

The Nikon F was /the/ choice for professional 35mm photography from 1959 until 1972 when the F2 came out.  The F was a marvel of industrial design with its attractive design and extremely rugged build.  You can slam them around.  They are still working today.  They built an entire system around the camera, with interchangeable finders, screens, and a stunning array of high-performing lenses.  And those lenses are still working today as well.

Canon also built credible alternatives to the Leica, and some very fast and rugged lenses to go with it.  They did not build a professional SLR until about 1971 with the "F1", but when they did it was a good one.  They also built a system on interchangeable components, and a lot of pros, if they did not already have Nikon, used Canon.

For a long time, every magazine, newspaper, news service in the country had usually a stable of Nikon Fs, possibly some Canons.  Leica was a favorite of posh photojournalists, but often priced out of reach of working pros. The Leica was not an SLR, and it did not have things like through the lens metering for some time.  When the M5 came out in the early 70s, it did not suit people's idea of what a real Leica was supposed to be.  And it was expensive.

Olympus did not come out with a system camera until around 1973 with the OM1.  It was compact, well made, and a good system camera with good lenses.  But it did not enjoy the same widespread adoption as the Nikon and Canon pro models.  The OM1 was very well made, but you couldn't exactly toss it around, and it was as yet untested.  Olympus always did have a reputation for being a maverick with the Pen F, and had a very creative design team.

The professional market was driving the consumer market back then.  If you wanted an SLR, you lusted after a Nikon or maybe a Canon.  But that was it.  Zeiss kind of punted.  There were an array of cheapie SLRs with thread mount lenses.  The Pentax spotmatic did get very widespread adoption, but it wasn't really a system camera, just a nice camera.  The Minolta was a pretty nice camera, but it didn't have nearly the build of a Nikon.  You couldn't toss that around and hit the jungles of Vietnam with it.  The Nikon would just go and go until it was bashed up.

Konica built some very good cameras, but again, these were not for professional use, and they were not system cameras, just good cameras.

In the 1980s, Nikon and Canon retained their commitment to building pro spec cameras.  The F3, F4 were bought by everyone.  Canon kept up too, bringing up the EOS cameras.  They recognized that the professional market was still driving the amateur market by prestige.  They kept up the build quality on the high end, which enhanced the reputation of the low end.  They kept up the optical quality.  All of the photography magazines of the time reflected this.

Does this help at all?

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