Monday, November 26, 2007

VIDI: Where are we going?

Our Sunday faux-editiorial is actually published on Monday this time :) There was a temporal distortion that caused that, I assure you!

This is probably something that I should have saved for an "end of year" type post, but I just couldn't hold it off. As the title suggests "where are we going?"

The camera prices continue to drop, and the number of "advanced" non-DSLR cameras continue to diminish. New features have been introduced (face detection, smile shutter, 720p, image stabilization in compacts, etc) but none of these features are big enough to cause a rebooting of the price structure.

Why is rebooting the price structure important? Because it allows the manufacturers to cash in and perhaps as a side-effect offer a ground-breaking feature (if the accountants and marketing bosses permit it). We have seen this happen with DVD players. Once they dropped in price to a few dozen dollars, the upconverting dvd players rebooted the price to $200. But then the upconverting dvd players started dropping in price, at which point the two-headed monster of BluRay and HD-DVD came in to "save" (read: mess up) the day. This has brought disc player prices back to the prices of the first days of DVD (and beyond in some cases).

Is there something like that on the horizon for digital cameras? Are any features that you (as a photographer or casual user) would find important enough to pay twice the current prices? I don't see any, but then again, I don't have access to the ongoing R&D happening at the various manufacturers.

But there are some small sub-segments of the market where a reboot is possible. Take the hybrid camera/camcorders for example. Sanyo has been able to boost up the prices of their "HD" (high definition video) hybrids. Or take the Ricoh GRD. Because its a unique camera with no actual competition they are able to ask for $700 for their brand new GRD II. And I imagine that if (or when) the Sigma DP-1 gets released, it will be able to ask a high price.

Another possibility perhaps is rebooting the prices of mid-range DSLRs to $2000+ by offering "affordable" 35mm full frame models. The Canon 5D is almost there, but that's mainly because of price deterioration over time. The allure and practical benefits of a 35mm full frame DSLR are tempting to a number of photographers, although not everyone thinks so. But even if this does indeed happen, it will still be a small segment of the market.

Is there anything else that could happen. Different things were tried, such as wireless, and GPS that had very little impact. Do you see anything that could potentially reboot the camera prices in the general market??? The floor is yours (in the Comments section right below).

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