« on: December 02, 2013, 04:12:22 PM »
Reading some of the excellent commentary here, especial Jon Rista's take on the amount of headroom that remains in ISO improvements (I don't for a second pretend to understand terms like quantum efficiency, so I have to take his word for it)...re-reading some columns by Nikonista Thom Hogan...and seeing that Fuji is announcing another new, free firmware upgrade for the X-Pro-1, got me thinking about the future of DSLR upgrades.
I recall Canon's commitment when it released the original F1 that they would not release a new model for at least a decade. Their purpose was to demonstrate to professional photographers that they were committed to their pro-level SLR and that photographers could purchase the camera knowing it would be fully supported.
For most of the past decade, gear enthusiasts have been spoiled by the remarkable and near continuous improvements in DSLRs. But, those improvements are increasingly coming at the margins. Higher megapixels, increased dynamic range, high and low ISO improvements, while nice, are generally needed only under very specific conditions for very specific purposes.
Any honest assessment would acknowledge that for 90-95% of subjects and conditions, the cheapest entry-level Canon and Nikon will produce results that under real world conditions will be indistinguishable from the flagship models.
Fuji has followed a path with their X-Pro-1 of releasing firmware updates to keep the camera current and boost customer satisfaction and loyalty. (To be fair, Canon did much the same thing when it released it's major firmware upgrade of the 7D – extending the practical life of the camera and effectively giving customers a free "7D.20" version of the original.)
So, having said all that, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the upgrade cycle for the 5DIII to 5DIV will equal or exceed the cycle between the 7D and 7DII and that we are entering an era in which upgrades will be fewer and further between.
At the same time, I am going to suggest/hope that Canon and Nikon will offer more significant firmware upgrades during the interim.
This will certainly require some adjustments to their business model, but in a sense they are simply going back to the model that both companies followed successfully for decades. That's one reason why I believe Nikon and Canon are better positioned for long-term success than companies like Sony, which got into the digital camera market during the boom era and do not have the institutional memory or experience to easily adopt to longer development cycles and more modest sales growth.
I see Canon as particularly well-positioned for this change. They have aggressively developed products for new markets, especially the booming cinema market where growth is fed by the seemingly unquenchable thirst of the internet for new video content. Their recent emphasis on security cameras also shows they are prepared to move into another fast growing emerging market. I am less convinced that Nikon is equally well-positioned, but then I don't follow them as closely as I do Canon.
So what's the point?
In part to feed off the idea of "10 years from now" and in part to get people out of the rut of trading insults over dynamic range and other esoteric subjects that do not sell cameras and do not matter to the vast majority of photographers.
What is your prediction? Will we see fewer upgrades in the future? Will we see more substantial firmware upgrades? Given that Canon and Nikon need to continue to sell products, do you think they will become more aggressive at selling lenses, strobes and other peripherals? Will you spend less money on photography in the future, or will you just spend it differently and how?