Smaller, better and cheaper – The future of M43?

Started Jul 13, 2011 | Discussions thread
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HappyVan Senior Member • Posts: 2,397
Smaller, better and cheaper – The future of M43?

In reply to Aleo ,,,

Smaller, better and cheaper – The future of M43?

The M43 fanboys have been pushing the 35mm/ 645 analogy because they hope that M43 is the new 35mm standard. This is false. Let's think carefully before we rush to a conclusion.

In the first place, 35mm supplanted big format because it was smaller, better AND cheaper.

It wasn't enough to be smaller/portable. Rangefinders were the first wave of 35mm. But, it was SLR that eventually triumphed by offered a wider range of photographic opportunities (BETTER).

You can fix telephoto lenses because of TTL. Eventually, SLR brands had their sophisticated portable flash system, and pushed AF ability to new levels. SLR could burn through a roll of film in seconds with motor drives.

With SLR, you can even emulate the tilt/shift ability of view cameras. So, film big format was dead except for those needing big prints. And, rangefinders became a refuge for older photographers.

Currently, we are seeing a dramatic surge of MILC as a bridge between compact cameras and DSLR. However, they will not be the new 'standard' for the foreseeable future because they are not better or cheaper than DSLR. And, there is no single standard for MILC!

This year, we may see 30mp FF cameras. So, every format (645, FF, APSC, MILC and compact cameras) have been improving strongly because of digital technology. It was different in the film era when 35mm kept improving while large format stagnated.

Therefore, we are likely to see A MORE FRAGMENTED MARKET as long as the relative strengths and weaknesses remain. It means that there will be a market for cellphones, $200 compacts, G12, XZ1, X100, Pentax Q, M43, NEX, APSC and FF. Each will have its strengths that appeal to a mix of users.

It is likely that as value increases at these price points, the average user can afford several systems. In the past, a DSLR user might have a compact camera. Today, a DSLR user can afford a compact PEN/GF/G/NEX and a couple of lenses. He might also have a G12/XZ1 for extreme portability.

Based on the existing technologies, it looks like MILC will increase in market share, but it doesn't mean that the sales volume of DSLR will drop. Winston Loo showed a projection from Pany that said MILC market share will increase but total market size will also increase.

So, Cankon isn't worried. There is no single MILC standard to challenge them. In fact, sales for the big two keep improving as the small DSLR brands fail and Cankon keeps improving value for their DSLR.

Recently, Nikon launched a series of $200 small and excellent primes. Fits well for small DSLR.

How will the market share between brands change? The big fight in 2011/2 will not be between MILC and DSLR. Rather, it will be a struggle between MILC brands, and between sensor sizes in particular.

NEX has APSC sensor and has 1/3 of Japan MILC market in just a year and with only three lenses. Oly has almost doubled their market share with $399 cameras. Can they make money at these prices?

Pentax is trying for 2.5x. What will be the sensor size of Fuji/Canon/Nikon? M43 is committed to 2x crop. Can they hold their ground against BETTER?

Finally, the key long term driver of market share is cost. 35mm cameras annihilated big format because the 35mm cost for film and processing was a fraction of big format.

In the digital age, production economies of scale are critical because of huge upfront investments. Obviously, Cankon have large advantage in economies of scale (CHEAPER). Sony sensors are very competitive because they have half the market share in ILC.

MILC can improve their CD AF dramatically by adding more electronics in the body and better motors in the lenses. This increases the cost of a MILC system versus DSLR. Why has Sigma/Tamron/Tokina not joined M43 or NEX?

Every MILC lens needs to be more expensive if you want to AF fast, but DSLR only needs to offer a few CDAF lenses for video users.

In the MILC industry, Pentax has picked a niche (P&S sensor and just 2 AF lenses) requiring low investments. Sony targeted P&S upgraders with a very limited number of lenses.

M43 (already struggling with sensor improvement) cannot offer a full range of lenses comparable to DSLR. So, they're hurrying downmarket which is already pretty crowded.

In conclusion, technological convergence means that the market becomes more competitive and fragmented with more interpretations of photography (and videography). It will be a struggle between brands more than between formats. Unless someone has a clear technological advantage, the future belongs to the brands that have the best execution (good design, sufficient investment, strongest market strategy, and lowest cost base).

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