26th January 2004, 03:13 PM
At Last, You Get a Chance To Design a Digital Camera
Taken from http://www.photoreporter.com/2003/10...way_it_is.html
Letís play a game that lets you dealers design a digital camera. No, no, no, not a point-and-shoot digcam. Thatís already been done nearly to economic death by the camera manufacturers. In the past five years or so, admittedly not starting from scratch, they have managed to load up P/S digicams with all the fripperies that took 35mm AF P/S designers nearly a quarter century to employósince the Konica C35AF of 1979. Virtually everything that was created for 35mm and APS has turned up in digital P/S, including tiny models that can fit in Altoid boxes to moderate-sized P/S digitals with the equivalent of 38-115mm or thereabout 35mm lenses, with a few zooms starting at the equivalent of 28mm.
The Minolta DiMAGE A1 digital P/S has shake reduction, similar to the vibration reduction (VR) in a Nikon 35mm P/S of many a year ago. The Nikon 35mm P/S was the very first vibration reduction camera. Alas, that VR laid a sales egg, thereby convincing Nikon that vibration reduction was a no-win feature. Mistakenly, Nikon sent VR into oblivion until the anti-shake feature was thoughtfully rescued by Canon for SLRs and called Image Stabilization (IS). What Canon did to Nikon with IS is also history, proving that if you abandon a good egg, thereís no telling what a fine omelet someone else can make with it later.
So, dealers, letís concentrate your design brains on the still nearly wide open and hopefully lucrative field of digital SLRs with all those nice interchangeable lenses and other moneymaking accessories. Letís assume you have full digital P/S and film SLR camera design and production capabilities, plus an ample series of 35mm lenses, but just have not yet produced a digital SLRólike Minolta, for example. If you had no such experience, it would probably take you three years or more to evolve a digital SLR. But with the capabilities at hand, creating a digital SLR could be done swiftly (which is what a high Minolta official did tell me could be done in that companyís case).
Start with the Marketers
First stop in planning should not be to consult with engineers. You must review the digital SLR field and figure out what the prices of digital SLRs will be at the time you might be ready to launch your camera. So you consult with your marketing experts. Itís certainly too late even to cobble something unfortunate together for next spring. But if your marketing department is clever they would already have thought about a possible introduction for last quarter 2004 with a fallback of spring 2005.
Would you throw caution to the wind and ask them whether a top-of-the-line digital SLR would be advisable to rival the multi-thousand dollar Canon, Kodak, Nikon, maybe with a full 24x36mm sensor? Perish forbid that you would try to break into this exclusive club of pro camera flagships.
Where is the real money going to be made in a digital SLR? Think. Where has it been made in 35mm SLRs and where is it being made now? You might then conclude the camera should be priced in the middle ranks. But how about the lowest level? Look at which 35mm SLRs are now still selling bestóthe Canon Rebels, Minolta Maxxums 3, 4, 5, Nikon N55, 65 and 75. You may reason that maybe at this level a digital SLR would have the best chance of succeeding.
Now comes the tough calculations part. Presume the megapixel race madness has abated and 6 megapixels has become a general standard for every good digital SLR other than the big, heavy pro ones. How much will such cameras as the Canon EOS Rebel D be selling for at the time you will be bringing out your digital SLR? Not having my own clever marketing department to help you, I might hazard a guess for you and figure the Rebel D with lens will be selling in late 2004 for about 20 to 30 percent less than now and that Canon will be locked with Nikonís D70 (what itís said to be called) in a fierce competitive battle around $800 (street price). That would let you slide underneath them at $700.
Take Out the Shake?
Hold on a minute. If Nikon and Minolta have both successfully built shake reduction (IS) into P/S cameras, why canít it be done for a digital SLR and why shouldnít you do it? While shake reduction may have been rejected when Nikon tried it and the jury is still out concerning Minoltaís success with it, surely Canon EOS owners have been delighted with IS lenses. And many photographers will admit it was the many IS lenses that caused them to buy into the Canon system.
But how much would a shake reduction system add to the cost, if it could be incorporated into a digital SLR? Could it be designed to retail for $100 more, so you could sell your SLR at the same price as the Digital Rebel without IS? Who says Canon or Nikon wonít produce a Rebel D with image stabilization themselves? Probably not, since they already have many IS lenses available. (And neither will Minolta, since I did spy a Minolta zoom with such a system.) If you did build shake reduction into your digital camera, would your company have enough promotion and ad dollars to promote it successfully?
Why Not Simplify?
Leaving you to ponder that critical decision, what else could you, as a digital SLR maker, offer buyers that no rival camera would have in 2004? How about simplified operation? Iíve received many letters from disgruntled digital P/S owners complaining bitterly about the confusingly different operating systems. An owner of two digital cameras (compact and medium-sized P/S) reported that each camera had a completely different operating system (as well as different types of memory cards). Piling operating insult on injury, he added it required eight button pushes to change one camera from auto flash to no flash.
How to simplify? You might start by examining your companyís most popular 35mm SLR and try to use not only nearly the same control placement but a similar operating system as well. Owners of your 35mm SLR would find it easier to operate your digital SLR than those of rival brands. How many pesky menus can you eliminate? How about an instruction book based on the simplicity of your 35mm SLR instruction book? Why not an ad promotion campaign based on adding the digital camera body to your 35mm SLR ownerís system instead of insisting only on the one-way big switch now in vogue?
Well, now time for you to get to work. But remember, if you donít have a best-selling digital SLR in late 2004 or early 2005, itís all your fault.