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Photoxels Report on Digital Imaging
Report on Digital Imaging
April 22, 2003 Reports
by the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) and Infotrends
confirm that digital cameras has almost safely
landed across the Chasm: "At the end of 2002
approximately 23 million U.S. householdsnearly
20 percentowned digital cameras. During
the life cycle of a technology, a new product
is often considered to have reached the early
majority or the mass market after
achieving 22 percent penetration." more
Is the digital imaging revolution here yet?
a couple of months, the first sure signs of Spring
will appear in the buds on the trees. The weather
will get warmer, and we will start hearing the
squabbling chirps of birds in the morning again.
Just as the return of Spring comes announced by
subtle signs, the adoption of new technology by
the mass market also comes with its own signs.
Chasm and Digital Cameras
Geoffrey Moore of the Chasm
Group popularized the Chasm Theory. In his
classic books, Crossing
the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, Moore explains
the adoption curve of new technology. The idea
has its roots in a model called the Technology
Adoption Life Cycle. At the introduction of a
new technology -- in our case, the digital cameras
and digital imaging technology -- only a handful
of enthusiastic consumers at first adopt it: these
are the early adopters or innovators or Technology
Technology Enthusiasts are willing to buy new
technology for technology's sake, i.e. even when
it is not mature yet and costs a bundle. They
love being the first to own the latest and are
willing to find ways around the deficiencies.
In digital camera forums, Technology Enthusiasts
are fiercely loyal to their digital camera of
choice and bristle at any hint of criticism about
their camera. They find ways around its deficiencies
and are the less objective among the crowd. Asking
advice from a Technology Enthusiast is the greatest
mistake a new consumer can make because the advice
is rarely balanced.
the Visionaries see how adopting this new
technology can give them an edge over their competitors.
They are willing to change the way they do things
to get that advantage. These are our professional
photographers who can quickly figure out the cost
savings of using digital instead of film. They
are willing to invest in the latest professional
models costing in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Only the best will do. After all, their livelihood
depend on their equipment. You will rarely, if
ever, find them in digital camera forums. They
are just too busy using their equipment
as opposed to talking about them.
there is The Chasm. If a new technology
becomes popular enough, Visionaries start to lose
interest (because as it becomes mainstream, it
loses its competitive edge), but the mainstream
is not yet willing to adopt it. If they do, they
choose the market leader, relegating all other
competitors into the chasm, never to become a
leading market force. If there is no clear market
leader, the mainstream may never adopt the new
technology, and the latter dies in the chasm.
This is fortunately not the case for digital cameras
and digital imaging. The mainstream has seen the
incredible value of this new technology and has
started adopting it en masse. We see this phenomenon
everyday in digital camera forums in questions
asking which digital camera a newbie should buy.
They don't want to get bored with technical details
-- just tell me who the market leader is,
The market leader(s) cross the chasm and enter
The Bowling Alley. Here, they target one
main market segment first (the lead bowling pin)
with the strategy of expanding their market afterwards
(the other bowling pins). In the consumer digital
camera market, digital camera manufacturers that
have successfully crossed the chasm are Canon,
Fujifilm, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus and Sony. Their
digital cameras are the best and selecting between
one or the other keep consumers awake all night
trying to figure out the advantages of one over
the other. In the professional digital camera
market, digital camera manufacturers that have
successfully crossed the chasm are Canon and Nikon.
Competition is fierce, and reputations are at
Other camera manufacturers that are poised above
the chasm are Konica, Leica, Panasonic, Pentax,
and Toshiba. Sometimes, it looks like they may
just cross the chasm, but it is too early to tell
if they will. Other manufacturers sell digital
cameras that are more comfortably filed under
the 'toy' category than that of serious digital
cameras. In fact, today, almost any one can put
the electronics together, slap a plastic lens
on, and sell a 'digital camera.' Consumers, beware!
that even though some manufacturers may not make
it across the chasm, the technology itself has!
In other words, digital imaging technology is
here to stay -- it has successfully made it across
the chasm and adoption by the mainstream has started.
camera manufacturers that have made it across
the chasm can expect a windfall as the mainstream
adopt their digital cameras en masse. They will
soon be inside The Tornado, reaping the
reward of their effort to be innovative, original
and quality conscious.
is why we see Olympus moving its hugely popular
line of Stylus cameras into the digital age. The
message to its Stylus owners are clear and loud:
'You loved our Stylus film cameras, you'll love
our Stylus digital cameras!' We can expect to
see more and more camera manufacturers abandon
their film cameras to concentrate on their digital
offerings. We can expect to see standards battle
rage on as camera manufacturers fight over which
storage media standard, which lens standard, which
image sensor standard -- if any -- becomes mainstream.
If there is a storage media standard, the de facto
winner is CompactFlash (CF). However, not all
the market leaders use CF. While Canon and Nikon
use CF, Fujifilm and Olympus digital cameras use
the xd-Picture Card (xD) and/or SmartMedia (SM)
card; Minolta uses SecureDigital (SD); and Sony
uses its proprietary MemoryStick (MS) storage
media cards. It is interesting to note that the
other digital camera manufacturers poised over
the chasm mostly use the SD standard. Since the
professional dSLRs all use CF, it is logical to
say that CF is the de facto standard.
lure of the other storage media cards is that
they are smaller, sometimes much smaller, than
CF, thus allowing digital cameras to be smaller.
This is an important factor as a new trend toward
cameras (such as the Sony U20 and Pentax Optio
S) is starting to become popular among an important
segment of the point-and-shoot market.
Sony's MS earlier this year faced a crucial survival
test when it was superceded by the new MemoryStick
Pro (MS Pro). As of writing, the MS Pro is incompatible
with all of Sony's existing digital cameras,
except the F717 Cyber-shot. The MS had disappointingly
maxed out at 128MB for a long time -- and fans
continued to purchase its digital cameras when
Sony promised larger storage sizes. When it at
last came out with the incompatible MS Pro, it
suffered a backlash from consumers, with many
vowing never to trust Sony again. It was not so
much that the MS Pro was incompatible with the
existing digital cameras but more that Sony gave
the impression for a long time that larger storage
media was coming for those existing cameras.
Consumers have a right to know about the incompatibility
issue much earlier, and many feel there is an
element of deception in Sony's marketing strategy.
Though Sony should be able to absorb the loss
of some disgruntled fans, it was certainly a gaffe
that could have cost its reputation. The MS Pro
comes in 256MB, 512MB and 1GB sizes, and Sony
has already announced replacements for its existing
digital camera models.
Image Sensor and Lens Standards
Cameras never had a lens standard. Nikon, Canon
and the other camera manufacturers all had their
own lens standard with third-party manufacturers
providing cheaper models for corresponding brand
name models. Digital cameras, with their image
sensors that are smaller than the 36x24 mm film
size, optimally require lenses made for their
smaller size. There is an opportunity to standardize
image sensor size and thus lens mount. This would
be an incredible development and mean that consumers
could at last buy camera bodies and lenses from
that effect, Olympus proposed its Four-Thirds
System (4/3 System) as a standard. The 4/3
System makes a whole lot of sense, but, as usual,
it is easier for the countries in the United Nations
to agree with one another than to get camera manufacturers
to agree on a standard. We have yet to see the
4/3 System in any existing or announced digital
camera, not even one from Olympus.
introduced a full-frame CMOS image sensor (full-frame
as in 36x24 mm) in its top of the line EOS 1DS
professional digital camera. The use of a full-frame
image sensor means that any Canon lens can be
used with the 1DS. Now, professional photographers
who had invested heavily in Canon lenses could
switch to digital and reuse their expensive Canon
lenses. Canon is in the bowling alley and has
successfully hit the first pin.
Nikon, on the other hand, has yet to announce
a similar full-frame entry for its professional
models. In fact, all announcements from Nikon
give the impression that it has decided to stay
with its smaller image sensor, and develop specialized
lenses for it. Smaller lenses mean smaller digital
cameras, which consumers seem to prefer, so there
is logic behind Nikon's madness. However, as far
as the professional digital camera market segment
is concerned, they are not going to be happy having
to part with their expensive investment in Nikon
is also in the bowling alley, but it is obviously
going for a strike; it wants to hit all the pins
at once. Whether Canon's or Nikon's strategy is
better remains to be seen. Canon has obviously
taken the advantage, and Nikon risks alienating
its current 35mm film camera professional users
by not introducing a full-frame image sensor digital
camera targeted to them. If they have to switch
lenses, why should they stay with Nikon? If Nikon
does not show loyalty to them, should they? Nikon's
strategy, unlike Canon's, in fact allows its professional
users to choose to not stay with it when
they switch to using digital cameras. It is indeed
a very dangerous strategy that Nikon is pursuing.
summarize: Yes, the digital imaging revolution
has arrived and adoption by the masses has started.
Canon and Nikon are the two market leaders, but
surprises from the other camera manufacturers
cannot be discounted. Watch out especially for
Fujifilm, Minolta, Olympus and Sony. In storage
media cards, CompactFlash (CF) is the de facto
standard for the professional digital cameras,
but in consumer digital cameras, the other storage
media cards will proliferate since consumers do
not seem to have any loyalty for one or the other
(as long as they are affordable). Standard in
image sensor size is dead on arrival, and a standard
lens mount is therefore a dream that will not
come true. Canon's strategy in the professional
digital camera market segment seems to be on target;
Nikon's strategy in this market is fraught with
danger. Down one notch, in the prosumer market
segment, Nikon's strategy seems to be the correct
one since smaller lenses mean smaller and lighter
digital cameras, which consumers seem to prefer.
you have any comments about this report, we will
be glad to receive your feedback.
cameras, with their image sensors that are smaller
than the 36x24 mm film size, optimally require
lenses made for their smaller size. There is an
opportunity to standardize image sensor size and
thus lens mount."
sensor size or film format size has nothing to
do with the design of the lens mount. Or, the
thought process here has not been completed.
makes no sense as the film format size is a standard
among all 35mm cameras. Lens mounts were different
because each camera manufacturer "had a better
there is/have been Nikon based cameras from Kodak.
The new Kodak is full-frame based on the N-80.
So Nikon is in the position of having someone
else do the R&D and they still make money
selling the body to Kodak & more lenses.
even smarter than Canon's approach.
-- Steve (Feb 24, 2003)
Correct, I should have explained myself better.
It is the 4/3 System that is proposing a standard
in both image sensor size AND lens mount. One
does not necessarily derives from the other.
you may wish to correct this line in your report:
"Fujifilm and Olympus digital cameras use the
xd-Picture Card (xD) and/or SmartMedia (SM) card."
FujiFilm uses CFII/Microdrive in the consumer
s602 camera, which was released early 2002.
-- Chris Wolff (Feb 24, 2003)
You are absolutely correct! As you will have
noticed, on Photoxels we currently cover only
consumer digital cameras and so I missed the prosumer
specs of the S602.
All the consumer digital cameras from Fujifilm
use either the xD-Picture Card or SM, with the
newer models standardizing on the xD-Picture Card.
The Fujifilm S2 Pro is based on a Nikon body and
uses SM/CF II.