Digital SLRs Market Overview

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The D-SLR market continues to grow strongly, driven by the arrival of models offering significant incentives to upgrade while also largely weathering the rise and rise of the compact system cameras.

Just when it might be expected that D-SLR sales would start to plateau, along comes a new generation of models which re-stimulate the market. Right now, it’s the arrival of more affordable models with 35mm-sized sensors Canon’s EOS 6D, Nikon’s D600 and Sony’s A99 which have immediate appeal to a wide range of potential users from enthusiasts through photography students to pros looking for more affordable second or third back-up bodies. Just what these models mean to the high-end D-SLRs with ‘APS-C’ size sensors remains to be seen, but right now the bigger sensor is the big deal.

Description: Sony’s A99 and Nikon’s D600

Sony’s A99 and Nikon’s D600

Of course, it’s already well-established in the professional sector, where the latest generation of top-end models have, once again, moved the goal posts in terms of what can be expected from a 35mm-style D-SLR. Imaging performance, shooting speeds and overall capabilities are again advanced by Canon’s EOS-1D X and both the Nikon D4 and D800/800E. The latter, in particular, has completely rewritten the rule book as far as imaging performance is concerned; so much so that many comparison tests have been made with digital medium format camera systems given it remains the only ‘small format’ D-SLR with 30+ megapixels of resolution. It’s also worth noting that with both the D4 and the D800 (plus, it has to be said, the D600), Nikon has greatly improved the video capabilities of its higher-end D-SLRs, challenging the dominance of Canon’s EOS 5D series in this sector.

Description: Nikon’s D600

Nikon’s D600

Into this houthouse steps Sony with its SLT-A99 which marks the brand’s return to the professional sector after the discontinuation of the much under rated A900. Sony understands the D-SLR market today much better than it did a few years ago although there was very little wrong with the A900 and the A99 is a much better conceived and executed camera. It employs the company’s ‘Single Lens Translucent’ fixed mirror design, which gives it a key point of difference compared to Canon and Nikon but which, more importantly, delivers a number of key performance benefits. Most notable among these is the maintaining of phase-difference detection autofocusing with both live view and when recording video. The A99 is different from the EOS 6D and the D600 in that is primarily designed as a pro-level camera and is featured accordingly, rather than the repackaging of a 35mm-sized sensor in a more affordable camera. The A99 is more expensive than either the 6D or D600, but not by a huge amount. Backed by a growing system of Zeiss-designed lenses, the A99 is Sony’s best attempt yet at making some inroads into the professional sector.

Description: Sony’s A99

Sony’s A99

In still remains that most professional photographers are only contemplating a compact system camera as an adjunct to their D-ALR kits and not as an alternative. In reality, there still only remains one pro-level CSC Fujifilm’s X-Pro 1 although both the Sony NEX-7 and Olypus’s E-MS are capable of fulfilling the demands of these users. Olympus is flagging the possibility of a pro-level OM-D camera, as is Canon, which finally joined the sector with its EOS M. there is no question that a higher-specced Canon CSC would find plenty of buyers from among the vast numbers of Canon EOS D-SLR users.

As we predicted in our mid-year update, 2012 did indeed shape up to be a bumper year for the D-SLR, but 2013 is looking even brighter, as the many recent new arrivals serve to further emphasise the many benefits of this design configuration. They confirm that, for many applications in professional imaging, the D-SLR is still by far the best camera for the job. Durability, ergonomics, operational efficiencies, lens systems and accessories all contribute to an unparalleled combination of capabilities, flexibility and performance.


It’s becoming more of a challenge to give you an idea of comparative prices and essential element of a directory like this. Both Canon Australia and Nikon Australia no longer publish recommended retail prices as a disincentive for retailers to then immediately undercut them or buyers to decide it was cheaper to purchase from an overseas-based online seller.

Of course, there still is a recommended retail price which is supplied to retailers when they purchase products from Canon or Nikon, but we and consequently you don’t know what it is. This means you won’t really know whether you’re being overcharged or getting a bargain until you’ve done a comprehensive survey of the prices being quoted online or by on-street retailers. We are doing the same thing, of course, in order to publish a price that you can work from… we’re calling this the ‘estimated street price’, but it could be skewed by suppliers discounting aggressively in the hope that volumes will make up for the lack of profit per unit.

With all due respect, Canon Australia’s logic here is deeply flawed and will only end up causing confusion among consumers. There has to be a starting point theoretically the actual value of the product plus a realistic profit margin and if some retailers choose to sell at much lower prices (perhaps even at a loss) then that’s their problem. T’was ever thus. The difference between local and overseas pricing is also a problem that won’t go away just because a distributor decides not to publish RPPs. If the price difference is significant enough then some purchasers will be tempted to take the risk so the challenge is to make the risk less acceptable… or, to take a more positive stance, make it more attractive to buy from an Australia supplier. This is already happening with professional-level equipment via the service and support programs run by both Canon and Nikon. The latter has also introduced a two-year warranty for all products purchased from an authorized Australian outlet which, current consumer product laws notwithstanding, is something that can be considered to have real value. Where possible, distributors will have to closely examine why there is a large difference between the local and overseas prices and adjust the former accordingly. However, the unique dynamics of the Australian market mean that sometimes it simply won’t be possible to match overseas pricing without creating losses in the system. As we’ve noted in the past, it would a tragedy if the Australian photography market ended up being so devalued it becomes little more than a warehousing operation shifting boxes. If we, as consumers, want more than this, we may have to be prepared to pay a little more.

In some cases, the prices published here are still RPPs, but where they aren’t, we’ve worked out an average from everything we could find online or in retailer catalogues, averaged out to become the ‘estimated street price’.

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