Here’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek version of my advice to the camera companies for the coming year, along with a Naughty or Nice label for how each company did this past year:
- Every Camera Maker (Naughty) — DCF, EXIF, and all the standards upon which you’ve been relying are 30-year old thinking in a world where 5-years is considered ancient. Who will be the first to realize that they can disrupt the camera market by moving past 8.3 filenames and all the other nonsense that creates horrendous workflow? Don’t let it be Amazon, Apple, Google, or Microsoft. You want to be the dog that’s doing the wagging, not the tail that’s wagged. So here’s your resolution for the year: It’s time for DCF 3.0, and it should be a modern, forward-looking standard. Remember, even Microsoft gets it right with the 3.0 release ;~).
- Canon (full frame and mirrorless Naughty, 7DII Nice) — Time to show that you’re serious about either mirrorless or a better small DSLR than the SL1. Yes, a few people still buy behemoth DSLRs (5DIII, 7DII, 1Dx), but that’s not enough to live off of in the future. Despite all the naysayers, I actually like your recent commercials emphasizing images and videos taken with your cameras. That’s a start, but now you have to link why a Canon camera is the one that does that better than the rest. And image sensors? You’re behind the state of the art in base dynamic range. It would be nice to hear about a Canon sensor that’s actually ahead of the curve again. But seriously, all these things say the same thing: why is Canon the choice people should make? Answer that, and you’ve got a healthy future. Fail to, and you might find yourself in the office machine division. New Year’s resolutions? Better sensors for all products, the perfect small enthusiast camera (which may be mirrorless), and solid updates for the rest of the lineup.
- Fujifilm (Nice) — Simple: keep making and iterating the top end, and drop the low end. Realistically, all your sales are X30, X100, and X-T1, with a sprinkling of X-Pro1 and X-E2. Maybe you should just shoot for “best compact,” “best rangefinder,” and “best DSLR (mirrorless variety).” It’s a hobby business for you anyway, so having a full line of products is just an ego thing, or maybe a make-work thing for your extra staff. Your short-term goals are simple: X40, X200, X-T2, X-Pro2 and more good lenses.
- Leica (Mostly Nice) — Which ball is worth juggling the most? You’ve got Panasonic-derived compacts; your own future ideas in the X, S, and T; and you’re milking the past with the M. Which is the real Leica? Yes, I know Porsche started making SUVs, but there’s still a pretty consistent continuity across their vehicles, I just buy the one I need. Okay, I don’t need a Porsche. The one I want. With Leica, I’m not so sure because everything seems so different. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that Leica is pushing boundaries well beyond where they used to roam. But it’s not all feeling like it’s coming from the same company or even targeting the same type of customer. So for the coming year, you folks at Leica need to start tying things together a little better. At Photokina 2016 it would be nice to see the M, X, S, and T seem more like they are in the same family. So your New Year’s resolution is to figure out how to do that this year so that you’re ready to show it the following year.
- Nikon (FX Nice, DX/CX/Coolpix Naughty) — Move faster. That’s it. That’s my entire New Year’s resolution for you: move faster. Move faster to fill in the lens gaps, move faster to update lenses, move faster to improve the focus system, move faster to fix Coolpix, move faster to improve customer service, move faster to fix and improve the Nikon 1, move faster towards radio-controlled flash…you get the drift. Pedal to the metal, guys. That is not an invitation to do things half-a**ed or lower quality. It means that you were caught in a market turn with one heck of a lot of things less than satisfactory, and you need to catch up and fix those things. Rapidly. Moreover, you need to move faster to whatever’s after the DSLR. You should be leading the DCF 3.0 charge, amongst other things. After all, most of your sales are cameras. Shouldn’t you define what the future of them will be? And do so faster than your competitors? Sony is making you look slow. In fact, you’re looking like GM instead of Honda (or name your favorite somewhat more nimble car maker). Move faster. That’s all I ask.
- Olympus (Mostly Nice) — Yes, I have only two words for you, too: dig in. To a large degree, you’re already doing it. You’ve dropped the compact cameras, you’ve slowed the Pen updates, and you’re basically in an OMD-with-Pro-lens world now. In other words, you realize that you’re just not going to be a growth company when it comes to cameras. You’re not going to be a consumer company when it comes to cameras, either. You’re going to be a small, make-only-great-stuff camera company or you’re going to not be a camera company at all. So hunker down and do great things. But please, oh please, can one of those great things be a total rethink on your menu system and item naming?
- Panasonic (Nice) — Like Olympus, “dig in” should be your mantra. But I’m wondering just a little bit about where and how you’re digging. The LX-100, GM5, and GH4 are all interesting and great cameras, but they are three different types of designs (Retro, Modern Compact derived, DSLR-like). I want to be able to go from one to the other and have them work the same. And I have the same question about lenses: where exactly are you going? So your New Year’s Resolution is simple: define who Panasonic is in still cameras, and let us know.
- Pentax (Naughty) — Okay, I get it. First your bosses yelled at you because you were falling behind and losing money. Then your new bosses yelled at you because you were falling behind and losing money. Then your newer bosses yelled at you…oh wait, they seem to be mostly ignoring you at the moment, though you’re falling behind and losing money. If I had put US$100 a year into Pentax investment for the past 20 years, I’d have less than nothing. Indeed, you’d have to come up with some outrageous success to even pay me back my original investment (e.g. you’ve had negative ROI for two decades). Your resolution ought to be “find another career.” But I assume you’re going to stick with the boat you’re on until you’re sure just how much water is over your head. Still, the only legitimate New Year’s Resolution for you is: try something different.
- Ricoh (Very Naughty) — You bought Pentax, but after several years you still have both Ricoh and Pentax-branded cameras with no clear reason why (Ricoh=consumer, Pentax=ILC is not a good branding decision, IMHO). Either the Pentax stuff needs a Ricoh label out front, or everything should be Pentax. It would be acceptable to have a smaller “from Ricoh” or “a Ricoh Company” under the Pentax name. The fact that you haven’t resolved this simple thing in a way that makes it simpler to sell and distribute your product at this point indicates you simply are incompetent and have been unable to actually get your internal efforts and what you bought to work with them together properly. Good thing Pentax is no bigger than a rounding error on your financial statements most of the time. Your New Year’s Resolution? Rationalize your camera stuff, your designs, your logo/brand, your everything, and do it yesterday. Otherwise, you’ll never move on. Fortunately for you, Nikon hasn’t yet started moving faster ;~).
- Samsung (Nice) — NX1, nice. A really good effort. But I see a lot of rough edges you need to clean up, including your marketing of it. I’ve always liked your cameras, and your lenses have been pretty darned good, too. The problem is simple: why are you in this business? Are you really going to stick around (and definitely not do another NX Galaxy)? Your New Year’s Resolution: make Samsung matter to photographers.
- Sony (Nice) — The mirrorless stuff is coming together relatively nicely now, getting you back to about the old KonicaMinoltaSony market share for DSLRs (ouch). When you bought KM you told us you’d be #2 within a couple of years. Most of those years since we’ve been worried if you could hold #3. Okay, you’ve proven you can. Now what? I think you’ve got too many pots on the stove. You seem to be trying to cook a really big meal for more eaters than are going to show up. The core of your lineup that is resonating is RX and mirrorless (E and FE). Yet even there we’re seeing that you’re not able to stir some of the pots fast enough. The RX1 seems old at this point and never got the love the RX100 did. The E lens pipeline seems shut down. We now need II versions of two A7 models to believe that you’re truly serious about them. Yet we’re hearing rumors of A9’s and A7000’s. Lots of pots cooking. Not all of them boiling. And you’re adding new dishes. Your New Year’s Resolution: get a smaller, more efficient kitchen going, and make sure the meal we customers want to eat is going to actually be ready when we want to consume it.
Thought I wouldn’t get around to you readers and your resolutions for the year? You don’t know Thom ;~). In order of importance:
- Spend more time shooting than considering what to buy.
- Spend more time evaluating what you’ve shot and coming up with technique changes to improve your future results.
- Take another look at your workflow and see if there are things you can do or software you can use to make it simpler, faster, or more effective.
- Evaluate what equipment you have and get rid of what you really don’t need and/or aren’t using.