Trends in the photoindustry for 2018
Do you want to buy a new camera or new lenses after Christmas? Then you should enter here in a discussion and see, whether it might be worth for you to wait a little bit before wasting your money on the wrong equipment.
I want to use the time at the end of the year to reflect about what the photo industry achieved until now and what I do think will be the trends for the year 2018. Feel free to post your own ideas in this thread.
1. What happened over the last 5 years?
We had a turbulent time over the past 5 years. The sensor technology advanced so much, that even the smallest camera was able to achieve “good enough” results for the masses. I am not only talking about P&S. Even smartphones gave many people good enough results.
We reached a kind of “plateau” in sensor technology around 2012 until 2017. See also the discussions about sensor sizes:
and whether sensor size matters:
and how big/heavy the different systems are:
As I reported from Photokina 2016, it was obvious, that the industry tried there new ways of differentiation, just because the image quality was so close to each other and even with the cheapest product in the product line “good enough”. So they tried to improve on usability, user experience and “look”.
These improvements were good for the users. But it has a flipside. The whole change in industry came at the price of increasing prices to compensate for the lower unit sales of each camera brand, because many old customers simply did not need any more something better than their smartphones. Sales plumbed dramatically.
At the same time, mirrorless cameras improved dramatically in areas like viewfinder resolution, battery consumption, viewfinder refresh rate and blackout time, autofocus etc.. Also available lens choice improved dramatically (Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus etc.). So the disadvantages of MLU compared to DSLRS disappeared one by one with its current peak at the new Sony A7RIII and the effort Canon put into their MLU-APS-C system.
We see Olympus and Panasonic to target more seriously the professional market, which is normally covered by Nikon and Canon in the past. Not only with bodies like the Olympus EM1MkII or Lumix G9 or Lumix GH5. Also with new “Pro lenses” with F1.2 apertures and weather sealing.
And we have Hasselblad and Fuji which offer now Medium Format at a price level, nobody would have hoped for a couple of years ago.
2. What will happen in 2018?
In 2016 we saw probably the last efforts in high-specialized DSLR products, i.e. a DSLR for sport photographers, another DSLR from the same brand for nature photographers etc.
With the new Sony A7RIII and the new Nikon D850, both products of 2017, we see now cameras, which are able to cover all areas of photography with no shortcomings at all.
I see this as a trend indicator for 2018. The different brands cannot afford anymore to split in a shrinking market their sales volume in too many products, which do not differentiate enough. So Nikon will have to stop for example the old strategy of its 3xxx and 5xxx line.
We also see that all brands try to sell more of the more expensive products. Or even easier, they simply raise the prices
So expect fewer models of each brand to be released each year, but often with more “all-around-capabilities” at higher prices. The exception might be 2018 as a one-time effect.
Why this exception in 2018? I do think that 2018 will be the year in which we will see a dramatic “product release wave” of Canon and Nikon to enter the MLU market more seriously. With both, APS-C and fullframe models. They will shift their efforts from DSLR to MLU and DSLR will be kept alive without investing a lot until demand dies. Like Sony did it in the past.
Photokina, the biggest photo fair worldwide, will be in September 2018 in Germany. Other fairs like the CP+ will be in March 2018. So this is the best year to announce new products. They cannot afford to wait longer. Especially Nikon lost already too much market share by doing and communication nothing regarding MLU.
So I expect from Canon and Nikon MLU announcements which may make it for you a better strategy to wait before you buy a DSLR or a DSLR-lens. If you do not absolutely need a lens or a body right now, you will only lose money in the long run, if you buy now.
What about the other brands? If you are looking for Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Hasselblad etc., which all offer already MLUs, you are on the safe side. Check any kind of promotions and the typical rumor sides to be up-to date about new models. But the lens mount will not change and this is the most important part if you invest in a system.
3. Brand specific
It is obvious that Fuji needs soon to replace its X-t2 and X-Pro2 in 2018. Rumors say that there will be even another body called H1 with IBIS.
Olympus has also some bodies that need a replacement. Basically all bodies with a 16MP sensor need to be upgraded by Olympus to at least 20MP sensors. Maybe they will have in the future less models. Or they do it the “Fuji way”: 4x the same inside, only the design of the body changes. This is good for both, brand and customer. It keeps costs down and still the user can pick the model he likes the most.
Panasonic showed that they really have plans to kick the industry in the b…. The GH5 is class leading in Video for all video camera below 10.000 USD. But it costs only a fraction of that price. The upcoming Lumix G9 is the Nikon D500 killer. I handled it already and was very impressed. A GH5s in in the rumor mill to be announced in January. Seems to be the same strategy like Sony with its A7s.
But Panasonic will also address the enthusiast market in 2018. They would be dumb not to do that. So expect a GX8 and GX80/85 successor. I do not know whether they will offer again DSLR shape cameras beside the G9/GH5. There is no need for this. This makes it only unnecessary big. They have now the G9 for that. They would differentiate more with a “rangefinder style” body.
My dream is of course a successor of the GM5. But since the total numbers of different models have to go down in a shrinking market, it will be unlikely. Except again, they make also the “Fuji strategy”.
Same as for Olympus, I expect the new 20MP MFT sensor the new standard in all Panasonic models, if not even more.
Panasonic is for me the biggest winner in 2018, except Nikon would be able to launch very competitive MLU products at VERY competitive prices. Not these dream prices of the Nikon 1 system
So we are at Nikon. I do not understand Nikon. I guess nobody does. Nikon proved with its Nikon 1 system, that they are able (before Sony, Fuji et allii) to implement an excellent AF system in a tiny MLU system. Great optics in that system (but too heavy). It should be for them very easy to offer a APS-C and FF MLU system with a new lens mount, that blows Sony, Fuji et alii away. But it seems they need to loose even more market share to make their come-back appear even more dramatic
For me it is obvious, that they have to introduce a new lens mount for all their MLU systems to maximize the benefit of an MLU system. Except for the Nikon 1 system, which has already its own lensmount. Do not worry, there will excellent adapters from Nikon available which are compatible with AF and metering. They had that already with the Adapter FT-1 for the Nikon 1 system for all Nikon DSLR-lenses.
Canon. They are in a good position. They offer already MLUs for APSC sensors. They will add FF MLUs.
Sony. They will do what they always do. Hopefully it works also for us . My guess is a replacement of the A7 and A7s.
Hasselblad. That is tricky. If I would be responsible, I would try to offer in the long run more products in the X1D range, but cheaper. Offer less pixel if that is possible and helps to reduce costs. Try to get the enthusiast as your customer. This is where the money can be earned in the future. The X1D is IMHO a great camera. But Hasselblad is a small company and I have no inside knowledge whether they are able to offer many different products at the same time. Bear in mind they also have the H and the V system. So 3 systems for which you always have to be up to date is not that easy.
We can expect lenses as communicated in their roadmap. But a “little brother” for the X1D? Who knows…
Pentax. This is also very difficult. The last products have been either very specialized (K1) or simply same same but different. Marketing/ communication seems to be absent. So what shall we think about this attitude? I do not expect anything exciting from them in 2018 unfortunately.
But please make at least a REAL Ricoh GR successor!
So what do you think? I would be interested in your opinion about the trends for 2018.