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15th Oct 2009

DSLR State of Play Part 1 – Introduction

It’s been an interesting year in DSLR world, against a backdrop of a global recession, so here is a quick summary of where things stand. We’ll focus on the big three – Nikon, Canon and Sony – the “also-rans” (Olympus, Pentax etc) are still in play, but they represent less than 10% of the DSLR market combined, and are coming under serious pressure from Sony in particular. Certainly Pentax’s future is uncertain with Hoya making noises about Pentax either being sold or spun out on its own.

Sony has been the biggest winner over the past few years, gaining serious market share over Nikon and Canon by focusing solely on the consumer market with a very aggressive model release cycle. Since buying Minolta and partnering with Carl Zeiss, Sony currently appears to have a DSLR market share percentage in the high teens, significantly up from around 10% only a year or so ago. Over the past couple of years, Nikon got a bump with the release of the D3, D300 and then D90, but has been in a slide since. Nikon currently has a market share percentage in the mid thirties, down from the high thirties. Canon has had the biggest loss, dropping from a 40% market share a few years back to somewhere in the low-to-mid thirties today.

In discussing market share there is a very important consideration, and one which many industry commentators ignore: While cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II, Sony A900, Nikon D700 etc. grab most of the headlines, as a Nikon exec recently pointed out, over 90% of their sales actually come from sub $1,000 cameras (in Nikon’s case the D90 and below). Thus the reality of any market share discussion is vastly different from the perception most pundits and many ‘forum experts’ have. Also worth noting, is despite the “Full Frame Is The Future/Crop Sensors are Dead” comments on just about every blog and forum, Full Frame camera’s currently represent somewhere around 2-3% of sales for companies like Nikon – everyone likes talking about them/drooling over them, but the vast majority of DSLR users continue to use crop sensors, and we don’t see that changing any time soon. It also explains why Sony is making such massive in-roads into Canon and Nikon’s market share without the plethora of headline-grabbing high-end bodies.

Over the next few parts of this article we’ll take a more in depth look at where the big three stand today, and what we expect from them over the coming months. First up will be Nikon – watch this space.

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