DIGITAL SLRs

Following the delays and disruptions caused by natural disasters last year, Japan s camera makers are still making up for lost time so our mid-year survey of D-SLRs contains plenty of newcomers in all sectors. There s been some suggestion that the D-SLR category —especially the entry-level and midrange sectors —could be under threat from the continued rise in the popularity of compact system cameras (CSC)s or interchangeable lens compact cameras. There have certainly been some interesting new arrivals in CSCs, notably Fujifilm s X-Pro, the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony NEX-7. Certainly the X-Pro1 and NEX-7 challenge the idea that CSCs are mostly purchased to supplement rather than replace a D-SLR kit, although it can also be argued that these cameras are more the 21st century equivalent of the rangefinder camera than an alternative to a reflex system. For instance, it will be hard to make a long telephoto available for the X-Pro1 just as it is for Leica s M9. However, the most convincing argument to support the ongoing vitality and vibrancy of the D-SLR is the number of new models announced in the first half of 2012 —three each from Canon and Nikon, one from Pentax and two from Sony. OK, so the EOS-1 D X was actually announced back in 2011, but it s only just becoming available now so it counts as first-half 2012 release. All four brands are promising that there s more to come, especially as this is a Photokina year so a number of announcements can be expected in the run up to mid-September. Additionally, it s not difficult to pin-point the current models which are now due for replacement-the EOS 7D, D300S and D3X spring immediately to mind (although Nikon may consider the D800 to be the logical successor to the D300S... we shall see). Sony will almost certainly replace the much-underrated A900 with a pro-level SLT-series boasting a 35mm-sized sensor before too long. It s also a safe bet that we ll see more new D-SLR models from Pentax with the possibility of one being badged Ricoh which was one of the main reasons for the latter s takeover of the former. Consequently, 2012 is shaping up to be a bumper year for the D-SLR, and recent arrivals such as the D4, D800and EOS 5D Mark III simply re-iterate why the category has a bright future. The D800 —particularly the E version —is creating its own headlines as it sets new standards for imaging performance via its remarkable 36.8 megapixels sensor, but all these new higher-end models 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. DIGITAL SLRsPRICES It s becoming more of a challenge to give you an idea of comparative prices which is an essential element of a directory like this. For example, Canon Australia recently decided it would no longer publish recommended retail prices as a disincentive for retailers to then immediately undercut them or for 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 Australia, 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 going to call 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 RRPs. 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 authorised 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 be a tragedy if the Australian photography market ended up being so devalued it s reduced to being 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 most cases, the prices published here are still RRPs, but where they aren t we ve worked out an average from everything we could find online or in catalogues and this is quoted as an estimated street price .

Comments are closed.