The full frame camera market is in an interesting state of flux at the moment. As I see it, Canon have five options for the 5D MkII replacement:
1) Keep the major specifications the same as the 5D MkII and use the 18MP unit from the 1D X.
Iâ€™m not sure that you could sell such a camera on the basis of better high ISO performance alone; thus Canon would have to reduce the price. This could work if:
a) they can realise production synergies with the 1D X and other models to reduce the cost of making the camera (thus maintaining their profit margin)
b) they can realise a price point where they can sell enough extra units to compensate for the lower profit margin.
2) Improve the major specifications over the 5D MkII and use the 18MP unit from the 1D X. Differentiate from the 1D X based upon frame rate/buffer size, body size and viewfinder (+ probably a few other â€˜proâ€™ orientated features such as Ethernet).
i.e. the D700 strategy. There are two dangers here:
i) Cannibalising 1D X sales in the same way that the D700 did to sales of the D3.
ii) Alienating the section of the market of 5D MkII buyers who value resolution over build quality, AF and shooting speed.
3) Take the 5D MkII and put a newly developed (for example) 36MP sensor in it.
Problem: Nikon takes a D700 and puts a 36MP sensor in it; Sony builds a 36MP A9X based on their A77â€™s features: the 5D MkIII looks like the poor relation.
4) Create a (for example) 36MP small body camera with improved AF, build quality and reasonable (4-6fps) shooting speed but keep the price near that of the 5D MkII.
a) Youâ€™ve basically just built a 1D Xs and are only charging 5d MkII money for it!
b) â€œIâ€™ve just bought a 1D X and now I feel ripped offâ€
5) Create a 36-40MP body and improve some of the specifications over the 5D MkII, compromising others.
a) It may be OK against the Sony, but might still look weak against the Nikon (so the price must be lower than the latter?).
b) People would always be speculating that the 1D Xs is on the way.
If this looks like an awkward situation for Canon, bear in mind that Nikon are in the same boat. In some ways it may be worse for them, as there would be uproar if they dropped any of the major specifications of the D700 for the D800.
Sonyâ€™s strategy will only work if they can persuade full frame users of the benefits of the SLT concept and thereâ€™s not much evidence so far that theyâ€™ve persuaded the APS-C market yet. Otherwise, they risk simply being the third choice brand all over again.
The real problem I see Canon having is that compaired to the 5D mk2 the market seems to have extended both upwards and downwards, with no 1Ds you have high end users after more megapixels and with the lower prices of the mk2 being so popular you now have a much larger cheaper market.
Balancing both of those with a single body seems like its going to be very difficult which makes me think there might be something to the rumours of a spilt in the 5D line. If they can produce a cost effective $2000ish FF body then the specs of the D800 become much less relivant at double the price. Then a high megapixel body could be targeted much more closely at its users likely needs, MP, Viewfinder and Buiid over FPS, high ISO and AF.