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tirsdag 30. november 2010

What is Happening to Olympus's Ear to the Market?

What will Olympus do next ?

Do their won strategists think that the company can attract endless new customers to the muFT format, while watching the ordinary mortals, with less than top end E cameras, migrate with smiling faces to micro FT? Which fairy tale writer gave them this PR to spin?

Take 2: Disposses the E "hundred" owners and leave the top end with no grass roots recruitment to FT, making it an ever decreasing circle...this is the wicked stepmothers take on this supposed strategy.

Or will they hedge-their-bets and keep a foot in the sub pro level DSLR segment ?

What They Say Themselves

What Olympus have said in several interviews is that the current DSLR users in the 400-600 and 30 range will have an eventual "upgrade" route in a muFT camera which will 1) have a satisfactory EVF 2) take nearly all the legacy glass from FT.

In reality this could mean than low-and-behold, Olympus in 2012 Q4 launch the wonderful new......G1-like-hybrid....... er , sorry it may not be as good as the G1 and it will not be near the G2/GH2 in anything but the lenses.

We hundred users are paniking and saying "no way, PEN is a DOWNGRADE from a DSLR"

Marketing ? Eyes but not Ears

Olympus are not currently a market oriented company in their camera division it seems: they are innovation and product centred, and while setting themselves commendable quality goals against other manufacturers, the customer is somewhat lost in there. They have got very lucky with the idea of a retro-style muFT camera range in a compact size being accepted in the market, especially at the premium pricing they demand for it.

However earlier DSLR innovations like IS and sonic dust control, were never successful brand builders for Olympus. Perhaps the punters saw the features as "un proven gimmicks", they certainly did not achieve any core value creation in the wide market for the Olympus E brand.Or perhaps the punters just did not see Olympus!

It looks like the "hundred" range cameras are a copy strategy in tyring to compete on many price-value points with "CaNikon" rather than actually finding a fast expanding customer need and resulting happy niche or early explosive sector.

The style / size with DSLR quality in the current PEN series with its high price-pingosition, is a very exposed place: at the top end you have a new Fuji and Leica options, while you also compete with the GH2/G2 and the non view finder lumix mFT cameras. Now Sony and Samsung, while Canon are just around the corner with a system-compact. So far Olympus have been in a good place they can thirve in with PEN at 12 mpx, but soon they will be fighting it out on the "wallmart" or "dixons" shop floor on mpx number with the spotty "youffs" selling the system compact cameras at various outlets knowing >mpx=quality therefore sale!

Thinking of an Marketing Strategy?

Who is going to buy their FT hundred range camera?

Current upgraders?

In going muFT, we have slower lenses that are relatively more expensive. Not all the Zuiko FT will work well on the mirrorless little sister. Most of the glass will be darn chunky too of course, on the little PEN bodies. For 520 owners in particular, gone are the ergonomics , when looking at the PEN bodies so far.

For we upgraders on E300 to 600 cameras looking to buy in 2011 to 2013, PEN is a downgrade and as commented, the expectation of an EVF camera would be delivering something Panasonic did last year.

New Customers?

Well, for new-to-brand punters, Olympus will have all the other compact system cameras to compete with, maybe Nikon too will join the fun. And people looking for a DSLR at a hobby-ists budget, will want a good view finder for the size of camera. They will go APS-C and around there, with the split light and transparent mirror offering size benefits from Sony and Canon. Once again, Oly will not be able to compete with say a G3/ GH3 which may be on the market by then as an EVF "Hybrid" or bridge camera.

In the PENs' fast growing segment the quality of the "glass" will not be so very important for most users. Most zooms when set to portrait legnths will throw the background at f4 and some at f6 will have a nice bokeh at 80-120mm (135 format eq)

Olympus can't play catch up for the main market, coming out with a "G1" in 2012, and they won't get that many E hundred users, who are a small group anyway, moving to a PEN EVF. Given the likely hood and desirability of swapping to the smaller, slower mFT glass to replace their FT, then they will be buying the Nikon 7000 / Canon 450D model of the future.

Olympus are moving some PEN features and production line parallels into a new, high quality compact which will compete with the Canon Powershot G10 range, amongst others, at what used to be the top end of compact erm, compact-compacts before you go superzoom or system. Great. But why not just get some leverage from the 12mpx FT sensor chip and software and put it into the Uzi range to offer a single lens solution with a DSLR quality chip? I'd buy one over a PEN as a back up camera.

Okay, so tunring this on its head, not what CAMERA in 2012 but what CUSTOMER in 2012?

Obviously Olympus have had their eye on the asian markets. Here consumers have little experience with the sinlge lens reflex : in the 70s and 80s it was only a tiny proportion of many populations who could afford one, or saw the value in the hobby at that level, or were even permitted to own one! Now there are small percentages of affluent middle- and owning-classes, easy to dismiss when they are say 1%, but in the huge populations of Asia & China, that makes them large consumer segments and they tend to cluster around the major cities making them accessible, in contrast to the US and European markets with diffuse customers and channels.

In the west, we are lumbered with these photographic traditions which is why the big two still have no real EVF DSLR to offer: there is a whole TTL ( through-the-lens) expectation and quality being determined by a bulky mechanical mechanism. It must be 90% of users who wouldn't notice the difference if their next camera was EVF. Burdoned, however, we are by our histories and feel for quality.

So in the east, where people and clothing are smaller and there are more theives or security police looking at your 70-200mm on a DSLR, PENs educate the market. Whereas in the west, we have our baggage.

Meanwhile, generation "i" are too busy sending rubbishy images up to facebook from their mobiles in the incessent need for immediacy of social recognition to care about FT versus mFT. It is the thirty somethings and old timers who are probably the market for the next step from Oly. Photography for "i timers" is not the hobby, social media is.

So who among us, the baby-boomer's babies, are going to be in the market for a new, high quality, mid priced camera in 2011-13?

I dare say it is people who have either owned a film DSLR or two way back before compact 135 zooms came in, or those who have a current investment in a DSLR which is finally becoming obselete: all the folk with 5 to 8 megapixel D3000s etc etc. People with no real SLR experience, film or bytes, will probably become a decreasing source of demand for higher quality compacts and SLRs as a first time purchase.

If olympus are able to pre-empt the personal product life cycle and get in on a niche which is the tip of a wave of people upgrading in 2012, then they will be in a position to offer a midrange DSLR to match those needs alongside the PEN for lesser mortals.

...and of course, such a camera would be an UPGRADE for PEN users.......

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