Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sony Is Looking Good Again

Earlier this year, I posted an article about Sony being a huge disappointment. I'm not completely eating my words with that, but I'm at least eating a few.

What I doubted Sony was doing is precisely what they are trying to do. They're going about it in a way that I never expected, though.

Effectively, Sony is abandoning their NEX series of cameras. You'll still be able to buy them, and Sony will still make cheap lenses for the APS-C cameras, but all future development will be in the higher end Full-Frame gear. This is disappointing because that means using larger lenses than you would otherwise need on your always-going-to-be-awesome NEX-7 and NEX-6.

It also means they are abandoning their SLR, oh, excuse me, SLT camera business in favor of mirrorless. Even though Sony never said this directly, their strategy is to focus on FF mirrorless and develop everything around that. Mirrors? Gone. Crop sensors? Gone. Sony is denying this, of course. They claim that they are still dedicated to their extant camera lines. They say more products are coming.

I would imagine that their "dedication" to continuing development of their Alpha SLR lenses is nothing more than a PR stunt just as Olympus' "dedication" to their SLR line of Zuiko lenses was PR garbage. They are saying that purely to keep the market from collapsing, because when it is apparent that Sony has abandonded all of their extant systems in favor of a mirrorless system tilted toward Full-Frame, photogs will start to abandon the SLR system in droves and used lens prices will plummet. And since lens prices are partially determined by their value on the used market, if the used market collapses, so collapses the new market.

I don't think photographers will be much fooled, though. They sure as hell haven't been fooled by Olympus. Used prices for the Zuiko lenses is around 50% or less of retail. Sony's Alpha lenses are destined for the same fate. Sony knows this and has simply made the decision that their market share of the traditional market is small enough that its loss is insignificant in comparison to the gains possible from entry into the next great frontier of photographic development.

Because make no mistake, the RX100 was destined to be a success, as was the RX1, the RX10 will also be a huge success, and this new A-series of cameras will be a huge money maker for Sony. Huge. The businessperson in me cannot fault their decision, but the consumer in me is pissed. Lots of dedicated photogs bought into Sony's NEX and SLR camera lines, and now they are left out in the cold.

Yes, yes, Sony is providing adapters so the lenses these people own will not go entirely waste, but being accommodated is a world away from being catered to.

This step also opens the door for Sony to do the same fucking infuriating crap that Nikon and Canon pull: selling things for ridiculously high prices. Remember the five-hundred dollar optical viewfinder for the RX1? Yeah. Expect more of that. Remember how Sony's Zeiss-branded lenses were stupidly overpriced for crap optics? Yeah. Expect more of that.

But Sony has done one thing very well, they are abandoning enthusiast-level APS-C cameras, but they are dropping the price of their FF gear. I don't know whether Sony always planned this or Canon and Nikon's sub-$2,000 cameras forced them to price their cameras lower than they wanted, I suspect a bit of both, but it doesn't matter. The end result is the same: a dynamite product that will sell like the dickens.

As with so many things recently, I look to both Sigma and Tamron, who have both made huge strides in their lens quality over the past five years. They are no longer the "discount" choice, they are now a genuine choice in their own right. As long as lenses like the Sigma 18-35mm keep being made, APS-C will live on. And as long as the two keep improving, I'll buy Sony's cameras, and then never buy one of their lenses.

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