Food for thought: Is the A100 Sony’s low-end dSLR?
When Sony first announced their intention to offer a dSLR system, almost everyone seemed to think they would start off with a couple of camera bodies — one low-end model and a much more expensive pro body. Even after the full specs of the A100 were announced, many observers counted on Sony quickly adding at least one more dSLR in the near future — at least before the end of 2006.
In an earlier post, I mentioned the quesabesde.com
interview with Samuel Andreo, director of photographic products for Sony Spain. Mr. Andreo states very clearly that the A100 will remain the only Sony dSLR until sometime in 2007. Some hopefulls have suggested this is a Sony ploy to hide the fact that other goodies will be coming soon, but to me, Mr. Andreo’s remarks have a solid ring of truth to them. I don’t expect another Sony dSLR for at least a year from now. After all, the A100 isn’t even shipping yet!
When the A100 was announced, a lot of people seemed to think this was a mid-range offering. It didn’t have the features and specs of the mystical Maxxum 9D that many Minolta lovers were praying for. But with 10MP, anti-shake and anti dust features, the A100 is a step above the feature set of the low-end offerings from Nikon and Canon. Because of this, most people seem to expect Sony to introduce a lower-end cousin to the A100 in the future. Many have even dubbed it the A50 — even though Sony has never said anything about the name of this new offering — or that there would be a lower-end model.
In thinking this over, I’m racking my brain to come up with an idea of what sort of animal the A50 might be. It seems to me that Sony doesn’t have much maneuvering room to offer an A50 — or any other low-end model.
You see, while the A100 has a better feature set than the Nikon D50 or the Canon Digital Rebel, the A100 is actually priced at the same level. Sure, only an idiot would pay full-price for a D50 or a Digital Rebel, but these cameras carry a list price similar to the A100. Everyone expects that after the initial introduction, that the A100 will be trading for about the same amount as the introductory cameras from the other major dSLR makers.
So what is Sony going to do for an encore? Maybe an 8MP model? That, in my mind would be crazy. To be a true low-end model, the A50 would have to sell for at least $200 less than the A100. While Joe Consumer might be conned into thinking that a 10MP dSLR is vastly superior to an 8MP, most true photographers would realize that unless they are making giant prints they could get the great results with the A50 allowing the A50 to cannibalize sales of the A100.
So maybe a 6MP model. Once again this doesn’t make much sense. If you owned a camera company, would you introduce a new 6MP dSLR in 2007? Who would it be aimed at? Last Sunday’s sales flyers included a promo for the local electronics giant. The flyer featured five point and shoot digital cameras — all of which featured at least 6MP and sold for between $200 and $300. The top model featured 7.2MP, image stablization and a 12X zoom — for less than $300.
Now. you don’t have to tell me that a dSLR with a larger sensor, optical through-the-lens viewfinder and interchangable lenses is a far better camera than any point-and-shoot model. Still, when Joe Consumer wanders in to the mega-mall to look at cameras, the only thing he considers is mega-pixels. When the sales-person shows him a 6MP dSLR and tries to explain the benefits, Joe sort of closes his ears after he hears the words six mega-pixels. The $200 fit-the-pocket, auto-everything P and S camera he saw in the store window has 6MP. Heck, he saw online that at least one cell-phone company is introducing a 10MP camera-phone. Why would he spend all that cash on dSLR with only 6MP?
Of course, I’m just another guy on the street — for all I know, Sony may be planning a fleet of 6 and 7 mega-pixel cameras for 2007. Still I doubt it. I will continue this reasoning in my next post. See you then.