Thought it would be fun to start a thread about the possibility that we are entering an era of mergers and corporate closings in 35mm/compact photography companies. Business analysts frequently say there are too many players in these markets and a shakeout is inevitable, but it has not really happened yet.
Some general questions:
So are the analysts right? Who might buy whom, and for what reasons? Who will go down swinging because they have no technology or patents worth selling? What companies are best positioned to weather the tough times over the next several years? What data can help us forecast their futures?
Some more specific questions:
Are Canon, Nikon, and Sony swamping the market with too many SLR body choices, forcing competitors out? (Perhaps relevant here: "Too Many Choices," Consumer Reports, March 2014.)
Is there any photo company Canon should buy? If so, why?
What might become of offerings from Olympus, Pentax/Ricoh, Sigma, Panasonic, Leica, Zeiss, Samsung, etc...?
Please share data, analysis, and your reflections on this!
Hmm, interesting, if highly speculative and complex topic!
I'd have to go digging for a while to solidify my own opinions before I offered any in depth opinions.
That said, regarding the question of who Canon should buy, and why.
I don't think Canon should buy any other "camera" companies. I don't think they will, either. Why? It doesn't fit Canon's MO. Canon built their name and reputation on the notion of completely controlling the process, top to bottom, end to end. Buying another brand and relabeling it as their own...that would kind of break the Canon guarantee of in-house design.
What I think would be most beneficial for Canon from a technological and market perspective would be for them to buy some existing sensor fabs. Ones that already do 300mm wafer fabrication and are already capable of manufacturing full frame sensors on those larger wafers. For as many players as there are in the camera market, there are even more players in the sensor market. Canon needs a leg up on the sensor technology front. They could probably eventually develop all the sensor technology on their own, hell they probably already have a lot of it...they just don't seem to have the current fab capacity to employ all their sensor tech on larger formats yet (at least, so we assume...still not sure how they made the 70D sensor wit hit's DPAF.)
Sony just bought a Renesas 300mm fab. When I read that news last month, I had wished Canon had purchased it. Renesas doesn't generally seem to manufacture image sensors, however they have had the fab capacity for it for some time. Canon could have greatly benefited from a ready-made fab capable of producing FF sensors on 300mm wafers.
I don't think that such a move would change the total number of players in the digital camera market much. To be honest, I'm not really sure there is much that will change the current state of the market. Some companies have had their struggles, but all of them have been very competitive. Especially in recent years, on the optical front, smaller companies like Sigma and Tamron have really started making a name for themselves. Their lenses have ticked up a notch on the quality and capability fronts, and are starting to become highly competitive with brand name lenses.
The diversity of competition is really actually quite healthy for the market, and ultimately only means better things for consumers. As a consumer myself, I would be honestly quite sad to see consolidation. Consolidation would mean a reduction in the competitive playing field, a disruption in the offerings and timetables of whoever merges, possibly a reduction in product diversity in the future, etc. I'm very much against such a move. At least, not amongst any of the brands you listed and a few others: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax/Richo, Panasonic, Samsung, Leica, Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron, Samyang/Rokinon/Bower. These companies all seem to be healthy or at least healthy enough, and the competition between them is economically very sound and healthy. If there are more niche or background brands that aren't as well known to the public at large in the world market, it would be those companies that could stand to be absorbed by one of the above.