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June 5, 2006

Sony not innovative, not a threat

People are falling over "Sony's" finally-about-to-be-introduced Alpha digital SLR camera. They're making all sorts of wild assumptions about how Canon and/or Nikon are going to get their rear ends handed to them, how the quality will be astounding, how it will drive down the price of digital SLRs...

It's really quite interesting to watch.

I saw one person proclaim that Canon should be terrified, because the Sony Alpha is launching with a stable of lenses nearly as wide as Canon's. If they can have that many lenses ready for a brand new product, he argues, Sony's going to shake up the industry.

Except they're not going to shake up the industry because they're not new lenses, just as the Alpha is—for the most part—not a new camera. The lenses are Minolta's but with a new nameplate slapped on them. The Alpha body itself is a repackaged, rebadged, somewhat upgraded KonicaMinolta digital SLR. That would be, after all, what usually happens when you buy a manufacturer wholesale for millions of dollars: you're not going to throw out their entire product range and start from scratch.

If the Alpha drives down prices at all it will be for Sony customers, as Sony cameras have long been (as with most of Sony's product lines) overpriced and undercompetitive. With the introduction of a full-featured DSLR that is rumored to be selling for $999 with a kit lens, Sony will (or would in a sane universe) have to reprice their often-outrageous point-and-shoots.

But the rest of the industry? Don't hold your breath. All the Alpha's bringing to the table are KonicaMinolta's existing DSLR technologies, which didn't revolutionize the industry when they were actually new. Canon and Nikon have huge sums of money invested in their existing vibration reduction technologies; they're not going to suddenly do image stabilization in-camera. It's just yet another moving part in the body, as well, and many people are concerned (and rightly so) about it in spite of its novelty.

If the Alpha makes any dent in Canon and Nikon's business, it would be a minor price reduction in vibration reducing lenses. But even that's a long shot, as neither company is going to start losing professionals (who are willing to pay the prices as they are for time-tested, well-backed products) to Sony.

Posted by Colin at June 5, 2006 2:44 PM

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