Sony has announced the Alpha 100 with a list price of 999.00. ($899 in body only configuration) Not bad for a 10MP dSLR, especially when you consider that less than a decade ago, you would have had to spend about 25 grand for a dSLR. And that camera would have less than 1MP resolution. Oh yeah. It would also only shoot in black & white. So Sony has really done well, breaking the 1000 dollar mark with a 10MP camera. But suggested prices are just that — suggested. How long do you figure the A100 will actually command that sum?
The same week Sony introduced the A100, I caught some of the fliers for the local electronics sales outlets. You could grab a Nikon D50 for $699.00, while the Canon Digital Rebel was available for $850.00. A week later the Rebel was reducedeven further to 800.00. Granted, both of these cameras are about to be replaced with newer models, but those prices indicate that the A100 might be facing some stiff price competition. All right, show of hands. How many expect to pre-order an A100 at $999.00? How many expect that the street price will be dramatically lower in a very short while?
It is a fact of life — digital cameras rarely sell for the MSRP. It is so competitive in this sector, that retailers often slash their margins to get sales, hoping to make up the difference on volume and accessories.
Which leaves prospective buyers with the choice of jumping in with both feet — or waiting to see if and when the price may fall. While the price will undoubtedly fall — those who wait for the ultimate deal often never get around to buying the product — they are always looking for a lower price. Or they hear a rumor that something better might be coming soon, so they wait. And they wait. And they never actually get the item they want.
So what will happen to the price of the A100? Sony missed the big father’s day push — either because they didn’t consider it important or (more likely) because the A100 simply wasn’t ready. Father’s day was the reason that the Nikon and Canon prices were reduced, and you might see the prices rise again slightly — but only slightly now that the electronic stores have completed their father’s day promotions.
Actually Sony did have some dSLRs out there in time for father’s day — they are called the Maxxum 7D and Maxxum 5D. Sony probably didn’t get any revenue from the close-out of the old Konica-Minolta dSLRs, but every one sold paves the way for future Sony lens purchases as well as future Sony bodies and accessories. At the same time, every Canon or Nikon dSLR sold to a first time buyer probably eliminates that buyer as a future Sony dSLR customer — permanently. So it was important to have those Maxxums out their carrying the flame for Sony.
But the inventory of new Maxxum cameras is quickly drying up as retailers close them out in preparation for the A100. Soon the only A-mount dSLR that will be available for purchase will be the A100.
This is where is gets interesting. With no low-price dSLRs under the A100, Sony’s new camera may start to look very overpriced. Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, and others will offer dSLRs that sell for far less than $999.00. Obviously, Sony will have to cut the price in someway — either by lowering margins to dealers or offering a rebate to consumers.
Even more troubling is a recent interview withSamuel Andreo, director of photographic products for Sony Spain. Andreo says Sony has no plans to offer another dSLR until 2007. If that is true, then what are Sony’s plans for the Christmas selling season? True it is almost six months a way, but by then there probably won’t be any new Maxxums left to provide a low-cost A-mount option. Everyone one else will have some sort of low cost option — at least well shy of $999.00. There will also be more competitors in the medium high-end space that the A100 will be selling in.
Once again. every non A-mount body sold represents a permanent loss for Sony. The only way to prevent the A100 from losing market share will be to reduce the price in some way. So just how much will the A100 be selling for a six months?