Why APS-C might make sense for manufacturers

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kolyy Senior Member • Posts: 1,402
Why APS-C might make sense for manufacturers
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Predictions, that large manufacturers will abandon the APS-C format and concentrate purely on FF seem to appear regularly throughout the internet. For example, when Sony recently announced its manufacturing problems, a lot of people in the comments seemed to equate that with the abandoning of APS-C. Similarly, the recent DPReview TV episode on forecasts for 2022 predicts the demise of M-mount and expects a super-cheap FF camera from Canon instead, while also stating that Nikon's APS-C on Z-mount "will stick around for a while", just because they are invested in it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5MPJywy0rI

I never really understood the logic behind such pessimism, when historically APS-C massively outsold FF. The best argument that I have recently seen stated that as manufacturing FF sensors/cameras got cheaper, investing in APS-C makes no sense for the manufacturers:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/65837717

I will argue that what such predictions completely miss is a very important factor and that is the need for efficient market segmentation. With most businesses it's necessary to differentiate products for customers willing to purchase at different price points. I'll give a simple example - let's say we have customers which are not willing to pay more than $1000 for a camera, but there are also others who can pay $2000. The manufacturers obviously need two products at two price points, one to sell something for the budget-conscious customers and a premium one that the second group could choose. Now the crucial point here is:

A camera for $1000 must be seen as good enough by customers who won't pay more than that, but not good enough by those who are willing to pay more.

The second point is important, otherwise the richer customers would simply opt for the cheaper product, which would effectively be a lost sale. What I want to argue is that the sensor format is a very good differentiator, which is hard to replace by something else. First, sensor size difference is easy to understand and market (as a potential for better image quality). But there is another factor and that is the connected lens system. A limited, but fairly complete budget system of lenses may be easily seen as good enough by the first group, but not good enough by the second. A smaller sensor can also allow a good differentiation based on the size of the camera and lenses. So while a small system based around a Canon M6ii, Sony A6400 or Nikon Z50 might be easily percieved as a good enough all-around system by a beginner or a budget conscious hobbyist, it will typically not be sufficient for a working professional or serious enthusiast.

Could this easy segmentation be simply replaced by a budget FF camera? Such a camera would need to be sufficiently differentiated by different means than sensor size and lenses, in other words crippled. But this crippling can't be crippling just for crippling's sake, it must efficiently implement the premise above - the result must be acceptable for customers on low budget, but unattractive to those willing to pay more. And I don't think it's that easy.

Let's have a look at what we had for cheap FF recently - Sony typically sells its old cameras at the low end (e.g. A7II), while Canon (RP) and Nikon (Z5) released new models, but reusing older technology to cripple the products in some areas (video, AF, burst speeds). Now I think it's easy to see that these cameras might not be deemed sufficient for a significant proportion of customers (e.g. for shooting video or moving subjects), but still good enough for some of those willing to invest more, e.g. even an outdated A7II could be seen as good enough for a landscape shooter, who only needs it as a platform for his lenses. A Z5 is clearly almost as good as a Z6 for a lot of people. In summary, i don't see how cameras like these at even lower prices can efficiently replace the budget APS-C systems we have now without losing a lot of sales from potential customers (both types).

Now I don't have any idea what will the manufacturer really do, maybe I am completely wrong. It might be that the number of customers on budget is so low now, that it does not make sense to develop dedicated products for them. But I doubt it, while the consumers clearly left with their smartphones, I still don't see how all people more seriously interested in photography/videography could have rich budgets. And the lens systems are essentially done (though Canon is in a bad place with its RF-M dichotomy). In any case, I will be happy to hear any critique or opinions.

 kolyy's gear list:kolyy's gear list
Canon G9 X II Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 Sony a7C
Nikon Z50 Nikon Z6
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