1789 was a year of revolution. It was a year when men and women seeking for freedom finally unleashed their roar. 1868 was a year of revolution. It was a year when Japan, the first geographical Asian country, opened its doors to the western world, therefore dramatically changed the modern history of Mankind. 1987 was also a year of revolution. It was a year when Canon ultimately abandoned her original FD system to embark on an unexplored journey for the quest of faster, quieter and more accurate focusing system – the Electro-Focus.
It was scorned by veterans: slow, noisy and out of focused. But that atmosphere did not prevent a group of photographers from moving to the greener pasture. They are the sports photographers. Their opinions, bias and likings would dramatically change the photographic world in years to come, and indeed, they had. In the belief that the new system will allow all her users to grab that victory kick from Pelé, sports photographers swayed. They swirled to the Canon camp, and Nikon never had the chance to invite them back.
The reason is simple. The change from Canon was revolutionary. When photographers changed to Canon, the news agencies followed suit. When one camera is bought, a system will be built up. After 1987, even though Nikon has also produced AF with comparable power, the change is non-reversible. When a system is at stake, everyone will think thrice. Change is no longer an easy matter.
In 2006, Konica Minolta announced its withdrawal from the throat-cutting photographic sector, selling all its assets to electronic giant, Sony. Under the eyes of Canon, Nikon, and various other dominating companies, Konica Minolta performed a magic. It was so amazing that it was a perfect recipe to another revolutionary idea. The strategy was to stick an image stabilizer to the camera sensor, and probably patented it.
This is no small move. With this, Sony made her first bang into the market, terrifying all her competitors. This is because not only is Sony rich, which means she can transfer large amount of funds from all her other business sectors, her strategy is A-bomb equivalent. An amateur photographer may probably be fully aware of the various gimmicks introduced by the photographic companies: High ISO, dust-cleaner, anti-reflective coating… Among one of these gimmicks, which has real functions, is the “Image Stabilization” function.
Canon has the “IS” lenses, Nikon has the “VR” lenses, and Sigma has the “OS” equivalent. In simplicity, this function negates the effect of handshake from photographers, thus reducing the chance of creating a blurred image. The method to do this is by incorporating the complex mechanism into each and every lens, thereby producing an “anti-shake” lens. This is great. Photographers no longer need to follow strictly to the “1 over focal-length” rule to decide shutter speed. A picture can now be taken at 100mm with a speed of 1/6 second. This is previously unthinkable and now it is achieved.
Of course, everything has its price. An added function like this can often double the cost of lens. For example, a Canon EF 70-200mm F/4L can cost $550 while her IS capable twin costs $1100. This is the market value of the anti-shake function. So the consumers are now given a tough choice to make.
Then along the way came Sony, whispering to the market about her new idea. It stirred a whirlpool. With Sony, you can now enjoy the benefits of anti-vibration on all lenses without exception because the very mechanism is fitted snugly in the body. With half the money, Sony users get to use the function. We are talking about thousands of dollars of difference here and Sony instantly sweeps the “new-entry” market.
If this blow alone is not enough to threaten Canon and Nikon’s supremacy, Sony has yet another strategy. It has been a few years since DSLRs become more affordable to average users. More people are now buying a digital SLR to take a picture of a city at night with the built-in flash popped up, hoping to brighten up the scene. Veterans again scoff at them, but Sony cherishes their support. In this time and age, buyers are less concerned with the iota difference in image contrast and sharpness. They are direct. They just want to know if their set-up will ensure a “good and clear” picture. If not, what can be bought to solve the problem? The easy answer is to equip the camera with an anti-shake mechanism. Now the buyer asks which one works and which is cheaper. Sony stands out and says it does the job with only half the money. Deal.
Sony may not share the same reputation as Canon or Nikon, but it definitely has the support of one group of photography dudes, the new comers. They want to look professional, but they want it reasonably cheap too. Sony’s camera system fits this goal. The photographic market is no longer comprised solely by true professionals, greenhorns and serious amateurs are expanding their representations with considerable speed. With this trend in head, it is not hard to see why Sony will unlikely fail, if not flourish.
Further more, Sony is not poor. As one of the biggest multi-national corporation in the world, intra-departmental transfer of humongous funding is expected. Meanwhile, Sony has also inherited the full knowledge and essence of Konica Minolta. This intangible asset helped Sony to automatically assume the market of the “Minolta Population”.
Ultimately, the photographic business realm has already gone through another revolution. Disregarding the aristocratic Leica and other premature companies, the market will very soon be facing a tri-polar competition, with Sony raging a new commercial warfare. For sure, consumers will now be offered more choices and an informed decision is needed more than any other time, for when a camera is bought, camp-hopping is just not an option.