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.
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%).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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