Thanks, Mark. I was hoping you'd provide your learned assessment now that Canon has tipped its hand with the new M class. As you know we essentially agree. Your "wild card" predictions seems like it may be unrealistic. Given Canon's somewhat brutish defining of markets, I can't see them differentiating things that narrowly -- especially in what I think will be a diminishing segment.
Anyway, I'm trying to focus on forces that influence the market and will certainly define future markets. The M class, and most importantly their intimation that a more sophisticated model is imminent, clarify the assessment I've already made:
At this point, I see three pertinent indicators that will suggest future equipment iterations:
1. Video. As I've said in the past, I believe this is eventually going to leave still photography in the dust -- just as the "talkies" did with silent films. This is probably a 20-to-30 year transition, given that the world doesn't economically implode (as seems increasingly possible) and leave us all living a subsistence life during 50 or 100 years of "rebuilding." A child born today will probably see 99% video, and any "still" images he sees will be simply captures/outtakes of moving images. HD screens are proliferating and they have an enormous appetite. Leading edge photojournalists are already moving to video, and this will continue. The world of education is abandoning print, etc. and going digital, much of it video.
2. JPG world. Canon's current marketing emphasis for the M class is aimed here. These are the great mass of people using still images to enhance communications. Thirty years ago a teenage girl would call her girlfriend on a landline phone and say, "You'll never guess what I did last night!" Today, that teenager sends real time pictures to all her "friends." This is the cell phone/tablet generation and that social world demands visual communication, fast and easy and immediate. Image quality, such as a photographer understands it, has no role here.
3. RAW world. This is where I and most people, it seems, on this forum tend to live. We value the quality/beauty/art of a photograph and we're willing to work at it. These are people dependent on computer software. Shoot RAW to get as much detail as possible, then take it to Aperture/Lightroom/Photoshop, etc. to extract and manipulate to achieve a certain vision. I think this is the "diminishing segment" I mentioned earlier. Today it includes professional photographers, artists and committed amateurs. One deviation from this is sports and some pros who want an instant JPG with good enough IQ to sell realtime. I think Canon engineered that into the 5D3 as I see lots of talk about the high quality of jpg right out of the camera. Anyway, in my 20-to-30 year transition timeframe, I think there will be fewer and fewer people like us taking RAW images through software programs. I still do see people standing in front of easels applying paint to canvas along the side of the road, but no one is getting rich selling oils and brushes. A few from jpg world may migrate to RAW world, but not enough to sustain a real market segment. Sorry, they'll either be outcast artists or else just go to film school!
So, that suggests to me, pretty much what I said in my June 10 post. I'm willing to concede I may be a generation too soon on the 1DX, but that kind of camera won't last beyond one more iteration at best. The M class is Canon's acknowledgement that the future is mirrorless -- or as direct from lens to sensor as they can make it. The flappy mirror is doomed. One thing I don't know is if we old eyepiece gazers will just die out or if they will provide some kind of digital/optical display we can still see through the eyepiece. I, for one, can never see myself composing on a three-inch screen at the back of my camera.
For myself, I'm thoroughly enjoying the wonderful tools I have to create images today. While such technology is always in flux, I desperately hope the bankers and other such terrorists of our world don't ruin it for children being born today.
Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to speculate. It's always fun.