Product Discontinuation

We may be entering an age of accelerated product discontinuation as camera sales continue to be hammered by economic and societal factors. Where does this all lead?

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-800

For most camera owners their photographic gear constitutes ‘luxury goods’ since they don’t need cameras to generate their livelihood. As such the purchase of cameras and lenses is completely discretionary for many people. Economic downturns eat into the sales of luxury goods. Cameras are no exceptions. Stackline recently cited cameras as the third fastest declining E-commerce product categories (down 64%).

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 77mm, efov 208mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1400

As many readers of this blog can attest, it can be disconcerting when camera gear that we own gets discontinued by a manufacturer. In July 2020 it will be two years since the Nikon 1 line met this fate.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 224mm, efov 604mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-5600

As the camera industry continues to deal with market pressures more and more products will be discontinued. Most recently Nikon announced the discontinuation of the AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED VR II lens. This type of occurrence is nothing new. All one has to do is do a web search by a specific manufacturer to see the impacts of product discontinuation.

NIKON 1 V3 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 228.9mm, ISO 1600, 1/800, f/5.6

Product discontinuation is a natural phenomenon brought on by technological advancements with newer products and the realities of product profitability. The old needs to make way for the new, and products not contributing to the financial health of a company need to be cut.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 124mm, efov 333mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO-280

I’ve removed old articles about market statistics from this website as they were no longer relevant. Suffice to say that it was recognized a number of years ago that product rationalization would occur and likely increase in the future. To a large extent managing a product portfolio is an exercise in survival of the fittest.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 208 mm, efov 561.6 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250

As we look forward I think there are some fairly clear paths ahead. Companies with both DSLR and mirrorless products will need to eventually make a decision about which technology to support. The costs to manufacture and market multiple product formats will make less and less economic sense as camera market volumes continue to fall.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 224 mm, efov 605 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000

Companies will need to study their market research and look to the future. It is likely that we will see fewer product lines and more companies sticking to their core competencies and points of differentiation. Time will tell whether being a broad market competitor will win out over being a maker of niche market products.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-6400

Competition will be fierce as companies sort out their market position and corresponding product portfolios. At some point product discontinuation may ramp up as organizations discover they cannot realize an appropriate ROI from various products.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000

This leaves camera buyers perched in what appears to be a precarious position. Should we buy that new camera or lens? Would it make sense to wait? What new products are on the horizon? Will those new products actually see the light of day even though they’ve been announced? Should I hang on to my discontinued camera gear? What happens if it needs service? Pertinent questions abound.

Oyster catcher in flight, Tairua New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 220 mm, efov 594 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-500

There is no clear answer for most of us. Things seem a bit dark and undefined at the moment. There’s little comfort in suspecting that things will only be more confusing in the near future. COVID-19 will no doubt have a significant effect on a wide range of businesses. Camera manufacturers are already seeing massive declines in current sales volumes.

Young chick near Haruru Falls, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-100

We can decide to dwell on the negative, or look forward to the future. Just because a camera or lens, or even a complete camera system is discontinued doesn’t make it worthless today. All of the things about that gear that appealed to us and warranted our investment in the past, still exist today.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikkor 70-200 f/4 with FT-1 adapter @ 200 mm, efov 540 mm, f/4, 1/200 ISO-160

Our older camera equipment is still capable of producing beautiful images. Seasoned camera gear is like an old friend. Comfortable and understood. So, when local restrictions are lifted, pick it up and enjoy the wonder that is photography!

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko 1.4X teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6 1/1600, ISO-125

Many of us will decide to purchase some new gear, just like I did in 2019 when I bought some Olympus equipment. There is no point in trying to second guess what the future will hold. None of us really knows what is in store and whether that camera body or lens we desire will be around in the future. The sustainability of individual camera manufacturers is not guaranteed either. Those are corporate decisions that are beyond our control.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/5000 sec, ISO-1800

So, if we are thinking about buying any new camera gear we need to think about what we love about photography. What motivates us to pick up a camera and go out creating images. What moves our creative passions. What creates the most genuine feelings of awe and excitement in us when we practice the art of photography.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO-3200

I’m a senior citizen. I have more years behind me than I do ahead. Perhaps that makes buying camera gear an easier decision. Or, at least the questions I asked myself are more focused at my core. That’s what I found last year when I bought my Olympus camera gear.

“If this is the last camera equipment purchase I’ll ever make what gear best aligns with my values and my goals in life?”

“What gear makes me feel like a child at heart and helps fill me with wonder about the world around me?”

“What equipment will best help me explore my photographic passions and creativity while I am still able to do so?”

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm f/7.1, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 2.4 metres

The answers to those questions will be different for each of us. There is no right answer that will come from a camera review, a YouTube video, or from studying and comparing camera specifications.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X with M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko M20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-1250, subject distance 39.6 metres

The answer for each of us is found within. It is found by understanding how photography touches us and contributes to our human existence. How it facilitates our need to communicate visually.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, subject distance 8 metres

Each of us take flight every morning. Like product discontinuation… personal discontinuation is inevitable. For many of us our photographs will constitute an important legacy for those we leave behind.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 6.3 metres

They will remember us in many ways. Our photographs will be one of the ways that our spirit and experiences will live on in the hearts of others.

During these challenging times we all need to stay safe and healthy by staying home and practicing physical distancing. We also need to live each day we have to its fullest.

Our photographs document our lives. Our interests. Our loved ones. Our passions. Let’s make sure to capture those moments for ourselves and for others.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134 mm, efov 268 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 3.4 metres

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Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-900

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2 thoughts on “Product Discontinuation”

  1. Tom,

    I share your thoughts and sentiments. We can only speculate what will happen in a Covid-19-fraught world. Photography will persist most likely but the market is certain to contract. Even professionals who derive part or whole of their income from photography are contemplating on moving on to other work, if the recent Lensrental survey will serve as a basis. Income from photo assignments/gigs/work has already dipped in recent years; with the effect of this worldwide pandemic, the market will continue to change and evolve.

    In any case, the foremost thing in our collective heads is to try and survive. If we emerge from this alive, that’s when we’ll figure out how to morph ourselves to the changed conditions.

    P.S. Love all the images. Gentle reminder that humankind better be kind to other global citizens. If we’re not careful, they will outlive us for all the smartness we think we possess.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Oggie!

      COVID-19 has been very tough on a wide range of businesses, with photographers and videographers taking a significant hit. How many will be able to recover and resume their businesses once restrictions are relaxed remains to be seen. I suspect many will need to move on to other endeavors.

      As your comment points out, the income for photographers and videographers has been under pressure for some time. And, as camera sales continue to fall, related revenue streams in terms of photo seminars, training etc. drop along with it. As does the small commission that some photographers get from their Affiliate relationships.

      I don’t think we’ll see any meaningful recovery for photographers/videographers until 2021. How many will still be left standing by that time is anyone’s guess.

      Tom

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