It is interesting to consider camera product compatibility and differentiation, as sometimes these factors can work at cross purposes. There are photographers who feel that OMDS should make its proprietary computational photography technologies compatible with lenses from other manufacturers. And, that OMDS should expand the compatibility of these technologies further down its own product line to include less expensive lenses.
Some other photographers are upset that Canon appears to be ready to bar third party lens manufacturers from using its new camera mount and suing them if they attempt to reverse engineer the design. Some folks wonder if this could eventually lead to third party lens manufacturers disappearing down the road.
From my perspective I see two fundamental issues at play in this discussion. The first is photographers wanting to acquire the latest technologies as inexpensively as possible, and having as many compatible lens options as possible. The second issue is the ability of camera manufacturers to differentiate their products, and sell enough gear at acceptable margins to be profitable and survive in a highly competitive industry. These two issues can become conflicted.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added as visual breaks.
Companies will cooperate whenever it makes logical sense for them to do so. As various brands struggle to survive in an increasingly cutthroat camera market there may not be too much motivation to share technology that may hurt a specific company’s opportunity to differentiate its products and expand its share of wallet with its users.
Some photographers feel that the camera manufacturers should band together and pool their purchases of sensors in an attempt to lower some of their manufacturing costs. I suppose the assumption they are making is that those same manufacturers would pass the cost savings on to end users rather than take the savings to increase contribution margins. Thinking that camera manufacturers would pass along those savings is likely a Pollyannaish wish.
The camera market peaked in 2012 and has been in a pretty steady decline ever since. Declining camera volumes, even if purchasing power could be combined, still represent a very small percentage of the global image sensor volume. Smartphones dwarf the camera market in terms of sensor volume.
I don’t see any potential for substantial cost savings even if the various camera manufacturers tried to combine their sensor purchases. There are simply too many sensor sizes and differences in resolution to combine purchases in a meaningful way. It’s my view is that some kind of industry wide camera manufacturer sensor buying group is a non-starter.
Let’s consider lens compatibility and the business aspects that could be considered in terms of expanding the compatibility of proprietary computational technologies to off brand lenses, or to less expensive product offerings.
When I decided to buy Olympus M4/3 camera gear I specifically chose M.Zuiko PRO lenses as it was logical that Olympus would only make its leading edge computational photography technology compatible with its own, higher end lenses. It also made sense to me that a higher level of performance and innovation would come with an increased investment requirement. In short, you get what you pay for.
There is precious little margin in entry level camera bodies and lenses so I couldn’t see any logic in Olympus making various computational photography features compatible with inexpensive lenses. This would only serve to cannibalize higher end lenses that represent the bulk of the company’s revenue and margin potential.
There is no upside for OMDS to make its computational photography technologies compatible with M4/3 lenses from other manufacturers. This defeats the entire strategy of achieving product differentiation with cameras, with the intention of increasing share of wallet with a company’s consumers.
In the not too distant future I wouldn’t be surprised if most camera companies exited the ‘entry level’ camera market, and left this first entry step into photography to smartphone manufacturers. There are billions more photographs being created annually than ever before thanks to the proliferation of smartphone photography.
Rather than try to compete with Smartphones, camera manufacturers would be much better served directing their marketing to converting even a small percentage of Smartphone photographers each year into ownership of interchangeable lens camera systems. This could be done by positioning interchangeable lens cameras as products geared for ‘serious’ photographers who want to improve their craft.
Canon’s latest move of not allowing third party lens manufacturers to copy their latest lens mount is something that I think we will see from other camera companies in the future.
I never understood why camera manufacturers licensed the use of their lens mounts to third party manufacturers… other than the fact that behind the scenes a number of ‘name brand’ lenses are actually being produced by these same third party manufacturers and have been for many years. These behind the scenes manufacturing agreements have long been carefully guarded by the companies involved. It is also possible that some of the camera manufacturers have an ownership position in some of the third party lens manufacturers.
As an owner of Olympus/OMDS products I wouldn’t want the proprietary computational photography capabilities of my cameras/lenses being made available to other M4/3 manufacturers. That doesn’t help my preferred brand grow its sales and margins, or contribute to its longer term survival.
OMDS will grow and prosper in direct relation to how effectively it can differentiate itself in the market and is able to command a larger ‘share of wallet’ with its customers. I support OMDS not making its computational photography technologies compatible with off brand lenses, or expanding compatibility with its lower end M.Zuiko lenses. Allowing those kinds of actions strikes me as illogical and counterproductive to OMDS brand growth and financial health.
There will always be photographers who have unrealistic wants. Getting the best quality and the latest technologies at bargain basement prices is not realistically going to happen. There is a simple truth in business… you get what you pay for.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were captured at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory using an Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. This is the 1,229 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
How you can help keep this site advertising free
My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated.
Our eBooks include Images of Ireland, New Zealand Tip-to-Tip, Nikon 1: The Little Camera That Could, Desert & Mountain Memories, Images of Greece, Nova Scotia Photography Tour, and a business leadership parable… Balancing Eggs.
If you click on the Donate button below you will find that there are three donation options: $7.50, $10.00 and $20.00. All are in Canadian funds. Plus, you can choose a different amount if you want. You can also increase your donation amount to help offset our costs associated with accepting your donation through PayPal. An ongoing, monthly contribution to support our work can also be done through the PayPal Donate button below.
You can make your donation through your PayPal account, or by using a number of credit card options.
As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store. Be sure to use my discount code when you make your purchase.
Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.
Article and images are Copyright 2022 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!