I just want to bang my head against the wall and scream when I read comments following stories like this. It's as if only Neuro, Chuck and a handful of others actually read the stories.
Photonius had a decent analysis but then pulled a conclusion out of thin air that I'm still scratching my head over.
So, the only way to get a lot of people to buy new cameras is with a substantial innovation in sensor technology.
Was that intended as sarcasm or a joke?
no, just some unfinished thought left standing. I meant if you want to get existing owners to upgrade (and thus create a new purchase cycle, ( like in the past from 4 to 10 MPs or whatever), you really need some mouthwatering new features, e.g. a new sensor that is a serious jump over all current products, or some other neat feature that's not just a gimmick. Live view was a pretty neat feature when it came.
Of course sensors are very mature at this point, so it's difficult to see how that could improve a lot, but the dual pixels of the sensor in the 70D could be a precursor to a whole bunch of things.
Ha! Now I understand.
I was confused because your post was so thoughtful and rational and then all of a sudden it seemed like you took a peculiar turn. I certainly agree with the basic premise. Just his week I succumbed to a 5DIII. I hesitate to say an "upgrade" from the 7D, because I still love the 7D and intend to keep using it.
I debated long and hard between a 6D, waiting for the 7DII and pulling out, what for me was, all the stops and going for a 5DIII. Part of my justification was that it is so good I think it will satisfy me for years to come. I think a challenge facing all camera makers, but especially Canon and Nikon, is that their products are now so good that there is little reason for buyers to jump to the next generation.
So, I guess I agree with the premise that it will take some "mouth watering" new features to get many current owners to upgrade. Personally, I'm not sure that for full frame sensors there is much that can be done to entice current owners. I'm amazed at how well the 5DIII sells (check out Amazon's best selling DSLRs). It's incredible to me that a $3,000 camera is selling as well as $500 cameras. I've got to think that many of those buyers are like me – rationalizing it as a camera that will satisfy them for the next 10 years or so.
With APS-C I think there is still sufficient room for improvement to entice current owners to upgrade. If the 7DII makes some significant improvements in the sensor, I'll have a hard time resisting. But, I'll also want 5D quality autofocus and a few other goodies.
Frankly, I think another challenge all manufacturers face is not only that the technology has matured, but the customer base is aging out. I think it is going to be very hard for Canon and Nikon to attract younger buyers and I think some of the their recent models show they are pretty desperately trying anything they can think of, but don't seem to be having much success.
The best hope for Canon and Nikon (at least temporarily) may be an expanding world economy. If the economies in the currently underdeveloped world improve, they may get a temporary boost, as they have with China. Other than that, I'm guessing all manufacturers will have to learn to live with a market that is growing at a much slower pace than in the past several years.
Canon and Nikon may actually be the best positioned to adapt to the changing market, because until the explosion of digital technology, I'm pretty sure the growth in the film and SLR market was pretty modest.
customer base is aging out.
Yes, that's what I sort of was thinking of also with my point 3 - no newcomers. Older people grew up in an age without digital devices. Snapshots where taken with polariod, or Instamatics, later P&S cameras. A bit more serious users would have had to get an SLR. But the sensor was exchangeable (film - no upgrade incentive for the body), and once you had a decent body, it could last a long time. AF was a technological breakthrough, leading to be an upgrade cycle. So, the old-time SLR customer base is certainly one that can be catered to with dSLRs.
However, young people of the P&S variety (what would have been a polaroid/instamatic customer base etc. in the past) are satisfied with their smart phones now. I don't think most of these would ever have been customers of SLRs in the past either. The customer segment that sticks with smart phones nowadays might perhaps be larger than the comparable instamatic customer segment of the past, because of the following points:
The display devices and the internet. In the past, for high quality stuff, people would often use slides, to be projected and viewed, perhaps with friends. This is now superseded by monitors and TVs, which presently deliver much less resolution than what cameras deliver. Further, images are quickly spread via internet. So, on the one hand you don't need supergreat resolution, because most display devices don't handle it. Second, you can look now at so many good pictures on the internet, we are virtually flooded by it.
So, a newcomer might think "Do I really need a dSLR" to take yet another picture of a duck or the New York skyline - I'll never compete with what's out there, so I shoot mostly for memories, and the phone will do. So, overall, the incentive to step from a "good enough" to dSLR might be less than in the past, because of all the new technologies.
Seriously, for all the ones clamoring for a D800. How many high-tech landscape images do we need? 99.9 % of people view on monitors or tv, so 36 MPs is mostly overkill. Large prints? How many are really printed big and hung on the limited wall space there is? So, the final market for the full capabilities of a D800 is actually rather limited.
Expanding world economy.
Yes, this is a classic practice for hundreds of years, if your home market is saturated, expand. That's why there was this push for the global economy, to expand markets, to keep the growth model. Alas, who are you going to sell to next? The martians? So, an alternative (taken by e.g. Apple) is innovation - but there is only such much innovation until some technical limitation hits (e.g. how much can you still improve an iphone, it's a similar problem to dSLRs), which requires then a breakthrough again. For many portable devices a real bottleneck is the battery that is limiting, because that limits how much processing power you can stick into the device. Even in a dSLR, if you had more processing power, you could probably jack up many things, providing more precessing power for various features, including imaging processing, i.e. frame rate, automatic lens correction, diffraction reduction, noise reduction, etc.