Last time we looked at all the reasons why a 6MP dSLR makes no sense for Sony in 2007. The ringer in this scenario, however, is that Sony isn’t producing dSLRs in a vacuum. Any Alpha dSLR that Sony produces will face heavy competition, not only from Nikon and Canon, but from a host of smaller brands anxious to carve a slice of the digital SLR market for themselves. Because of this, Sony can’t ignore the marketplace and do what makes the most sense. They will have to position camera models to capture market-share.
Pentax has just introduced some new 6MP digital SLRs and Nikon is slated to replace their D50 with a new model either in late 2006 or early 2007. Canon is also said to laying aside the Digital Rebel for a new introductory model.
If Nikon is planning a new 6MP model for 2007, then maybe Sony will offer something to counter it and the new Pentax offerings. Once again, the question is will Nikon actually offer a low-priced 6MP replacement for the D50? Think about it. The 6MP D50 has a list price of 999.00 — the same as the 10MP Alpha A100, although the D50 lacks the A100’s anti-shake and dust-resistance. It doesn’t seem that the replacement for the D50 could be priced higher than the old model, not if it keeps the 6MP sensor — it would look very overpriced compared to the A100. So the replacement for the D50 either needs to have a higher pixel-count or have a lower list price than the current D50.
Either way, Sony has the distinct advantage of knowing just what Nikon is planning. They don’t need to guess or hire industrial spies. All they have to do is check what sensors Nikon has ordered for 2007. As long as Nikon continues to purchase sensors from Sony, then Sony will know far in advance what Nikon is planning –at least as far as the sensor and pixel count is concerned.
Once again, I know next to nothing about camera manufacturing, but it seems inconceivable that any camera company would plan a new model without first ensuring that the sensor they intend to use will be available. Thus, Nikon has to be sure that Sony can produce the sensors they need before they announce a new camera. If they wait until the last minute, there might be a shortage of sensors — or worse, Sony might discontinue making the desired sensor. It would be fool hardy for Nikon or Pentax to design and plan a new model unless they have confirmed that Sony can make the desired sensors in the quantity they need. These makers may even have to place a firm order to make sure the sensors will be produced when the need them. So Sony knows what Nikon and Pentax are planning well in advance of the release of new hardware.
If Nikon does produce a new 6MP model, Sony may have to counter with their own. If Nikon goes with a higher pixel-count sensor in their introductory model, there is s a good chance Sony may retain the A100 as their intro model.
Canon, of course, doesn’t buy dSLR size sensors from Sony, so they could have a few surprises when they replace the Rebel. But the Rebel is already an 8MP camera. Would Canon really replace that with a lower pixel-count unit?
Any way you slice it, it looks like 2007 might be a very interesting year for dSLR offerings. It is a great time to be a digital photographer!
Until next time, stay focused. — Tom