I've done some research on this myself and posted it elsewhere. Here's a cut and paste of it.
Well digging around on Thom's site some more for old stats and predictions, I think I know what happened. First here's some old stats that I dug up on Google.
2006: Canon 46.7, Nikon 33
2007: Canon 42.7, Nikon 40
Couldn't find any for 2008 and 2009, but I know that Nikon was having good times here and was either dead even with Canon or ahead, hence being a little surprised at seeing them drop all the way to below 30% for 2010. buuuut....
from Thom's 2009 predictions
Since I'm a Nikon expert and follower, I guess I need to explain that last comment a bit more. Nikon hit a high of 40% DSLR market share sometime in early 2008, but by their own admission they haven't really tried to consolidate or expand on that. Their current projection for their fiscal year is that they'll finish with a 37% share. Nikon's core is in the very serious shooter market, and I think that long term they're willing to concede a bit of share at the low end to retain strength in the middle to top. Historically, Nikon's SLR or DSLR shares have mostly ranged from lows in the low to mid 20's up to high's in the 40's. A 30% share, while a drop from their best position in DSLRs, is okay for them as long as it is produced by a high percentage of high-margin DSLRs in the high-amateur to professional markets. Nikon is not a Sony, Canon, Panasonic, or Samsung: it just doesn't have the leverage that the wide range of consumer and industrial products that the others use to advantage. Indeed, more than half of Nikon's revenues come simply from cameras, which is why they have to protect the serious shooter market where the margins are higher. The danger for Nikon is to be Leica-ized: a producer of only high end, low volume, high quality products. There's not enough significant and sustainable growth, volume, or leverage in such a position should they be reduced to it.
And from 2010 predictions
Canon: they began losing significant market share in several areas (to be clear, not overall share, but share in several key segments), so they know they need to do something. But they're so Nikon focused (with a side of Sony) that they think that they have to use the old tactics to wrest it back (more megapixels, lower noise). Canon seems preoccupied with competing with the Nikon D3, D3x, and D300 at the moment. But I'm not sure that's the root of their loss of market share. Correct. They're being nibbled at the low end and middle according to market research; they've also already lost much of the high end as they have no real answer to the D3s or D3x.
So basically Nikon has attacked the high-end market with ferocity and done a pretty good job of it stealing market share from Canon in that segment, but at the expense of losing overall volume and market share in the other/lower segments. Higher margin on that stuff, so like Thom says, since the camera biz is the only business Nikon is making money in at the moment, it's been important to them to "own" the higher end of that market where all the margin is, and that they could do that with a lesser overall market share and still be happy.
Makes a lot of sense. Explains why pretty much ALL of the glass Nikon has come out with in the past year or so is very high end
and very pricey
glass for the professional shooters. Because that's the portion of the market they need to own to stay in business. 24/1.4, 35/1.4, 24-120/4VR, 85/1.4G, 28-300VR, etc. Almost all of that is priced in the four-figure range in USD.
What I've been wondering lately is if Nikon really was trying to position themselves as a very high end 'luxury' type of camera brand, with all of this super pricey and high-end gear. Because they've had the D40 style bodies out and that's pretty much their entire low-end range now, and I've been puzzled why they've come out with virtually nothing
as far as reasonably priced 'upgrade' lenses to support those cameras. The 35/1.8DX has pretty much been it. We know a 50/1.8G is coming now at hopefully a somewhat reasonable price, but yes, as of today you still can't even get an autofocusing 50mm lens for the D40/D5100 class bodies for less than
$500 now :eek:, which is pretty crazy considering that class of camera bodies has been around for 4 years now, and all you need is the $100 50/1.8II for any camera body in "C" land. It's as if Nikon just hasn't really cared, or hasn't been paying attention, or have been putting all of their efforts elsewhere for the past few years, which seems to be he case.
So will Nikon be "Leica-ized" as Thom feared they might? :confused:
Unless they give some attention to the lower end of the market STAT, that could happen I think. Nikon is a really tough sell vs the Canon entry level products at the moment simply due to the huge lens compatibility issues and virtually zero attention from Nikon here for the past few years that's actually been aimed at this lower end segment. Maybe the new 50/1.8G is the first of things to come there?
So basically, at least in theory based on the evidence, Nikon has been trying to own as much of the high-end market as they can which is lower volume, but higher margin, and hence still decent financial results with a lower market share. Meanwhile they haven't followed up with enough lens support for their lower level offerings making them much less attractive. I know a guy who had a Nikon D3000, and when he saw how much he would have to pay for an autofocusing 50mm lens (the top-end 1.4G for $450+), he said to heck with that and switched to a Canon T1i where he wouldn't have to get ripped off like that and could just buy the 50/1.8 II for $100.