Year in Review (Episode #4): The Dark Side of Full Frame
Already two months in 2011, what's with a new 2010 year-in-review episode? That is a very good question. And the answer is simple - nothing has changed since in the world of 35mm FF!
As you can see in the previous installments below, 2010 was a year full of new cameras and dropping prices. The number of interchangeable lens cameras and superzoom compacts increased noticeably, mirrorless broke out with three different systems (M43rds, Sony NEX/e-mount, Samsung NX). Medium format continued its renaissance with the release of the Pentax 645D and new cameras and backs from Hasselblad and Leaf/Mamiya.
Noticed something missing? Read the paragraph above again. What's missing? 35mm full frame digital cameras!!! That's right. Not a single new 35mm full frame digital camera was announced in 2010. Nada!
Strange you say? Strange I say too! Because there was another coincidence in 2010. The prices of the 35mm full frame DSLRs were pretty much the same, while just about every other digital camera segment, from tiny P&S to gigantic medium formats dropped in price.
And who makes most of the 35mm full frame digital cameras? It's a bizarre love triangle of Canon, Nikon and Sony, with Nikon and Sony having a sensorific relation of sorts. While the Alpha A900 and A850 were welcomed by MinoltAlpha fans waiting for a 35mmFF digital solution, they were not exactly doorbuster models like the Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D700. Yet the A900/A850 duo pretty much retained their prices, partially thanks to Sony's retail network price agreements with the major/reputable retailers. With their prices fixed, the Alpha duo essentially acted as price-gate-keepers for 35mm full frame, and created a captive audience - photographers who want/need/must-have 35mmFF digital cameras. With a stable floor price, a price-war between Canon and Nikon was unnecessary, so the 5DMk2 and D700 coasted through the year at their familiar prices. Well played, camera manufacturers, you have won this round!
This is not to say that this was some sort of a smoke and sake backroom deal, more likely this was perhaps a random coincidence in this crazy world of technology (there were two angry-looking Ninjas outside the window, I had to write the last part to make them go away ;-)
Previous Year-in-Review (2010) episodes
+ #1 Most Cameras by manufacturer in 2010
+ #2 Big in Japan (top sellers)
+ #3 Top 7 DSLR sellers among Readers (Amazon)
+ you don't have to read them in order; they are incoherent anyway :)