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PolarStarArts

Camera Manufacturer Dead Pool

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Step up folks, step right up and place your bets on which camera maker will live long enough to be in business five years from now...

Here are the camera makers I think are the most endangered, in order of risk:
 

  • Canon
  • Olympus
  • Panasonic
  • Pentax

Least endangered:

  • Fuji
  • Nikon

Most likely to be in business five years from now:

  • Google
  • Samsung
  • Apple

Why do I think Canon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax are most endangered?

For starters, Canon is most at risk because it has rested on its laurels for far too long and relied on its deep and vast lens ecosystem to save the day. They've had a major loss in profits recently, and shareholders are starting to look at whether investing in Canon still makes sense. Their camera lines are predicated on excessive segmentation and incrementalism and don't offer what pros and consumers are after. They refuse to implement 4K properly, thinking they can force buyers to pay pro-grade prices for minimal 4K capabilities, while other makers are offering decent 4K capability for far less money.

Olympus is also at risk because it keeps clinging to the Micro Four-Thirds system, which accounts for only a minority of the camera and lens market. Few pros use the M43 system. It's fine for consumers who don't mind low resolution, compromised dynamic range, mediocre AF, relatively poor low-light capabilities, noisy images above 1600 ISO, and like to pay top dollar for cameras and lenses. The cost of the lenses for Panasonic and Olympus, by the way, are due to both companies opting to have high-end lens makers build their lenses rather than doing the job in-house.

For instance, their flagship camera, the OM-D E-M1x, is configured and marketed as a 'pro' camera, but the body alone is $3899. Add on say, an Olympus 12-200mm PRO for another $1200 or so and you're looking at a total system cost of $5K for a system that doesn't deliver pro-quality images. That's a poor value proposition, in my eyes.

Panasonic: See my comments for Olympus above. They've been clinging to M43 for too long as well. Sure, they've brought out cameras with new 20MP sensors, but the increased resolution won't make up for the basic deficiencies of M43 sensors or the antiquated CDAF focus systems they use. The bright spot on the horizon for Panasonic is the introduction of their new full-frame cameras and lenses. Here's hoping further development in the full frame area will result in Panasonic releasing either an affordable full-frame camera, or a line of APS-C cameras that consumers can afford and will offer a good value proposition.

Pentax: They make some good cameras, but the video they shoot leaves much to be desired, and they are expensive. Pentax have not innovated much either and they've achieved so little market penetration that hardly anyone knows they exist. And to think they once made 35mm SLRs and medium-format film cameras that were pretty much ubiquitous. And their parent company, Ricoh, is pretty much invisible despite recently bringing out a new camera model.

As to the least endangered:

Fuji make solid cameras, even if they're not barn-burners in terms of innovation. They can shoot solid 4K video. All they need now is to bring out a camera and lens system that can handle fast-moving sports and wildlife. Fuji also don't resort to the same kind of endless segmentation and incrementalism that Canon have. Their model lines are simple and understandable.

Most of their lenses are reasonably priced, and the value proposition offered by Fuji is good overall.

Nikon: Their Z6 and Z7 mirrorless full-frame cameras are solid, if a little pricy (but even still, they cost less than comparable Canon or Sony systems). You can use some older Nikon lenses without sensor cropping or other major compromises. Unlike Canon, who are trying to force their customers to buy pricy new RF-mount lenses.

They seem to have a good base for bringing out a new APS-C mirrorless camera.

While Google, Apple and Samsung are not camera makers, they are advancing rapidly in the field of computational photography. If they can bring out a new technology that puts mobile phone cameras on par with, or superior to anything extant within the traditional camera space, then they could potentially sweep all of the existing camera makers into the dustbin, at least where lower-end, consumer-grade and semi-pro cameras are concerned.

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

Asking which of these companies will be in business in five years vs which of these companies will be in the camera business in five years are very different questions.  Nikon is primarily a camera company and will live or die based on performance of their camera business.  Fuji’s camera business is probably a tiny sliver of their overall business as it is for Panasonic.  The later two could probably cease camera operations tomorrow and their stock price might go up in response.  Nikon might go bankrupt in response.  

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I think Nikon is at risk altogether, existential crisis going on.

Canon will be greatly diminished and more focussed on business to business sales, or other markets entirely like medical and network cams.

Panasonic are doing the right thing long term.

Sony are quite diverse.

Fuji is doing superbly.

Olympus and Pentax probably will withdraw from market but I dearly hope not.

That's my perception of the big 7.

I think there will be newcomers.

Especially from China if DJI uses Hasselblad brand on more mirrorless cameras and not just medium format. They have already started branding drone cams Hasselblad so clearly the medium format brand isn't sacred.

Market is wide open for others to join if the main companies continue to fall back.

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Purely as camera manufacturers, for me;

1: Pentax because I sometimes forget they exist anyway.

2: Olympus because they only play M4/3. Oops.

i think the rest of the big boys will simply accept the market share is smaller and act accordingly. Or die.

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Nikon I can see being bought out by Sony and probably run as a sub-brand at some point, as they have strengths that would compliment each other quite nicely.

Canon... well, you honestly have to wonder if they'd be better off dropping their camera line and becoming a third-party lens manufacturer, as the latter have honestly been a hell of a lot more impressive than the former.

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26 minutes ago, David Bowgett said:

Nikon I can see being bought out by Sony and probably run as a sub-brand at some point, as they have strengths that would compliment each other quite nicely.

Canon... well, you honestly have to wonder if they'd be better off dropping their camera line and becoming a third-party lens manufacturer, as the latter have honestly been a hell of a lot more impressive than the former.

Yeah if they do not innovate, as the competition improves, eventually their sales will probably get so bad that they will end up dropping their camera line. Their lenses are fantastic, but with canon’s lack of innovation and underwhelming performance, combined with other manufacturers catching up with if not beating them at their own game (color, dpaf, ergonomics) then people will mostly likely stop buying them I’m favor of a Fuji, Sony, etc. 

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Canon will be around in five years... I don’t see them dropping out of the consumer market. They may simplify their offerings. They might have to stop leaving out desired features. The new Eos R Pro and 1DXMK3 will speak to weather Canon has learned anything about the new camera market.

Sony will be around, but might withdraw from being a smartphone manufacturer. Let’s hope the A7S4 (skipping 3 I assume?) will deliver something innovative and fresh.

Nikon... RIP. Too little, too late. How’s that raw output going? Did they already run out of cash for further development?

Olympus... dead and buried... they just don’t know it yet.

Pentax? Didn’t they go out of business in the 1980’s? They are the walking dead. 

Panasonic will survive but will need to modify their thinking. Clearly the new FF cameras are not selling as well as they would have liked. I also feel the new S1H would have lost some of its luster once it finally is released. Too many competitors will have equal or better specs by that time.

Fuji is thinking outside of the box. I’m confident they will make the cut beyond the 5 year mark. I’m excited to see that the X1H Mk2 will bring.

Camera sales are down for most of the major players...? Sony included. Those that will survive are those that can evolve.

A few that had no mention:

Sigma, let’s hope they are a new rising star.

Leica... is jewelry. They will be around for sometime to come.

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I'm predicting a high-end prosumer cinema camera from DJI in the next 5 years. MFT is in danger but hard to tell. I think Panasonic for sure has at least one more GH camera up their sleeve. IF they push the limit like they did with the GH5 it will keep MFT alive. I think Olympus builds the best quality bodies in the industry with interesting features. They will need and should leverage it.

8 hours ago, PolarStarArts said:

compromised dynamic range, mediocre AF, relatively poor low-light capabilities, noisy images above 1600 ISO

Thats a broad brush stroke there. Lots of popular full frame cameras *cough* canon *cough* have worst dynamic range than some MFT gear. Olympus has great AF in their MFT cameras that rivals the best of the full frame offerings.

Bottom line is we are spoiled for choice like never before. 

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They are ALL doomed as far as cameras as we know them right now.     MIGHT be a bit more than five years though.

In ten to fifteen years, I would not be surprised if the biggest imaging company was one that does not currently exist.

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15 years would be Really pushing it.Just think about 15 more new models of Smartphones. I bet we could not imagine what that would be. I think in 5 years 30% of them will be out of business in the camera market. 16K 360 cameras will rule the roost by then. Most of them will be made by Chinese owned company's.

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On 7/28/2019 at 1:31 PM, Andrew Reid said:

Market is wide open for others to join if the main companies continue to fall back.

I could see Black Magic entering the fray with one or two stills-oriented cameras that can shoot video as well.

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57 minutes ago, PolarStarArts said:

I could see Black Magic entering the fray with one or two stills-oriented cameras that can shoot video as well.

That would be a mistake. The market for stills is excellent as it is. You have megapixels, you have speed, great AF for cheap. Video is the battlefield.

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Companies that are as specialised in a field as Blackmagic are don't usually take that big leap to a different one, but I could see them putting better stills capabilities on the future Pocket cameras, certainly... Or hopefully, a new concept which is a bit more inspired and featured packed than the Pocket 4K was.

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On 7/29/2019 at 2:15 AM, PolarStarArts said:

Most likely to be in business five years from now:

  • Samsung


Samsung was in the mirrorless business, but then left it at what is arguably the most disappointing timing possible for all of us here! 😞

Just after they had released the very excellent Samsung NX1 and NX500

On 7/29/2019 at 2:15 AM, PolarStarArts said:

Olympus is also at risk because it keeps clinging to the Micro Four-Thirds system, which accounts for only a minority of the camera and lens market. Few pros use the M43 system. It's fine for consumers who don't mind low resolution, compromised dynamic range, mediocre AF, relatively poor low-light capabilities, noisy images above 1600 ISO, and like to pay top dollar for cameras and lenses.


Plenty of Pros used MFT as either their main or secondary system. 
(especially in the videography world! Tonnes of videography shooters with a GH series cameras)

And I'd argue that for many amateurs then MFT is an excellent choice to consider, as most people don't want to carry around a whole backpack of photography gear! 

A very small bag for the camera and a couple of extra lenses is perfect to go with instead. And MFT has already far exceeded past APS-C DSLR performance (even on par with older FF DSLRs). For instance 16MP or 20MP is already far more than most people need for sharing to social media, or even for printing out family/holiday snaps. 

I'd happily recommend say for instance an Olympus OM-D E-M5  with a zoom and a couple of MFT primes plus a couple more adapted lenses, could be a great starting kit and great value as well. 

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A Devil's Advocate might even argue that Olympus has better prospects than Panasonic, as unlike Panasonic then Olympus isn't thinly spreading their scarce resources across multiple mounts. 

 

On 7/29/2019 at 3:44 AM, darrellcraig said:

Asking which of these companies will be in business in five years vs which of these companies will be in the camera business in five years are very different questions.  Nikon is primarily a camera company and will live or die based on performance of their camera business.  Fuji’s camera business is probably a tiny sliver of their overall business as it is for Panasonic.  The later two could probably cease camera operations tomorrow and their stock price might go up in response.  Nikon might go bankrupt in response.  


Yes exactly, Nikon will hang grimly onto their camera business by tooth or nail until the bitter end. 
I think Nikon stands one of the best chances of thriving into the next generation of the mirrorless era, but even if they do not, they'll still be one of the last to exit the business. As to exit the business will spell doom to them!

Fuji / Canon / Pentax / etc all have a chance (but a slim and unlikely chance in my opinion, but still, a chance far far great than Nikon would!) they might just on a whim give up on cameras completely. Just like Samsung did! (and Samsung perhaps had a stronger case than many others to stick with cameras, as an area to showcase, test, and promote camera technology for then later on in their vast smartphone productions)
 

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fujifilm/fujifilm-aims-to-be-world-no-3-in-cameras-idUSTRE7631CG20110704

Quote

OMIYA, Japan (Reuters) - Japan’s Fujifilm aims to become the world’s fourth largest camera maker by next March and the No. 3 manufacturer two years later, overtaking first rival Samsung and then Nikon, a senior company executive said.

Well it looks like Fuji got that right, and overtook Samsung! 
(a pity about Sony overtaking both of them...)

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On 7/29/2019 at 6:15 AM, thebrothersthre3 said:

Hasn't Pentax been a niche camera company for a while though. 


Yes they've been a niche player for so many many years, even with people constantly predicting they're going "die any day now"

It half makes me think that perhaps they're perfectly happy where they are, they're making a little profit, and just chugging along from year to year. 

There will always be niche players. 

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im ticked off with nikon, I bought the nikon v1 when it came only to have nikon bale out on that system awhile ago. brands like go on about user loyalty and blah blah blah but i cant see how they have done me and others any favours. I'm glad it wasn't a car, imagine trying to get parts for that in 12 months at least with a  camera i can toss it without too much remorse when it breaks.

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14 hours ago, PolarStarArts said:

I could see Black Magic entering the fray with one or two stills-oriented cameras that can shoot video as well.

They better work on auto-focus then. I think the still market is too crowded and hardware wise way more complicated (weather sealing, ergonomics, battery life, etc).

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