Saturday Shout: Can Sony Compete in the DSLR Market?

April 22, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Saturday Shout | 41 Comments | |

Saturday ShoutEarlier this week Sony unveiled the new brand name for their up-coming DSLR camera range, which will be launched in the Summer of 2006. Dubbed “Alpha”, the name continues the tradition inherited from Konica Minolta, whose DSLRs were called the same thing in Japan for over 20 years before the company’s decision to pull out of the camera market. The new Sony Alpha DSLRS will be based on the existing Alpha / Maxxum / Dynax lens mount, which is good news for current Konica Minolta DSLR owners. But how much of an impact do you think Sony will have on the wider DSLR market, where Canon and Nikon retain the lion’s share? Can Sony make a bigger impression than Konica Minolta ever did, and challenge the major players, or will they be competing with the likes of Pentax and Samsung instead? Who do you think Sony’s first DSLR will be aimed at - will it be en entry-level model, prosumer or professional? Shout out now…

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#1 Jim Garvie

Sony certainly has the technology to be a player in the DSLR marketplace. And they have a natural migration path from non-DSLR consumer cameras they currently sell. And they sell a lot of them.

I doubt they'll be a serious player in the prosumer or professional marketplace because, despite the Sony/Konica/Minolta optical marriage, the big players will continue to be Canon and Nikon who not only have the optics, they also have outstanding digital technology.

But Sony should play a major role at the DSLR entry level. They have economies-of-scale that should allow them to put a pretty competent product in the marketplace at a very competitive price.

At the moment, I don't see any one company that can compete with Canon/Nikon at the top of the professional DSLR heap. As long as they continue to lead the market in technology and continue to refine their lenses to keep up with the resolution advances in chips and processors.

Jim Garvie
CPM Photography
Orlando Florida

2:44 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#2 Graham Hind

The problem for Sony is they have lost their way. Don't know about the USA, but here in the UK the No1 quality TV was a Sony. Sony came up with the Walkman and dominated the market. Sony meant quality. Sony are still there, but they are rarely if every No1. Their cameras have been interesting and some good but not great.
It is going to take a lot of first-class engineering and very good marketing for Sony to make a real impact with a DSLR.

4:02 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#3 Donovan Rieger

I agree that Sony will not be sucessful in the professional DSLR market. But I think they can make it with the enthusiast photographer and at the entry level. Like Canon, they make their own sensors, both types, and that will give them a definitie edge. A lot of people out there have K-M mount lenses and they should feel more comfortable going digital with Sony than they did with K-M and all its financial problems. I hope they don't mess up the excellent physical design of the 7D.

4:04 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#4 tom

never been a big sony fan, more a jvc guy, but can't deny sony's style andinnovative prowess, their results may be interesting

4:51 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#5 Luis Llantada Infante

I'm sure Sony will play a very important role in the DSLR. Sony has always proved that its cameras are of the best. I own five of them and I will remain loyal to Sony for his quality, innovation and leading role.
The first bridge camera with 8 megapixel was the Sony DSC-828, the first bridge with 10 megapixel was again a Sony, the DSC-R1.
The Sony DSC-T1 was also the beginning in his class, then follow a lot of imitators, Nikon, Samsum, Pentax and other!

5:19 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#6 Marcus Parfrey

They'll have natural customers from (a) those with Minolta-mount lenses, (2) happy Sony digicam customers, (c) people who desire anti-shake in an affordable DSLR (assuming they continue in K-M's footsteps), and those wanting state-of-the-art sensor technology at competitive prices (they provide most of Nikon's and Pentax's sensors, including those in the D2X and D200). To make the Alpha gain marketshare Sony will almost surely be the price/performance leader, using chips they possibly won't let Pentax/Nikon have.

Also consider that Zeiss has no contracts -- yet -- for DSLR lenses. They had Contax, which went under, and they're making limited numbers of Nikon manual-focus lenses, but they may very well have something cooking with Sony. Especially given their partnership on digicam lenses....

Competition is good. As long as the bodies hold up and the optics meet the competition, they'll do well.

The biggest hurdle? That the Sony corporation is bleeding money from its PS3 investment, that it's late on release of the PS3, that they'll lose money on every unit sold, and that the company is very, very focused on its game machine -- far more right now than on other manufacturing divisions. It may not be paying enough attention and marketing money to its DSLR plans, but whether or not that's so will be seen soon enough.

6:54 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#7 Nicholas

Here is my 2 cents:

1) Nikon probably has Sony in a box as a result of Nikon using Sony sensors.
They will not compete with Nikon. Nikon may feel that Sony's market reach will be limited due to the quantitative limitations on the existing minolta mount lenes.
2) Sony will get its feet wet at the consumer level and drown at the Pro DSLR level.
3) Sony will recoil and will then bounce back with two Fixed lens ( ala R-1 quality), 24-120 & 70 -200, cameras with 60fps CMOS sensors and capture the wedding photography market lock stock & barrel.

4) From this point they will introduce a Landscape fixed lens camera, a wildlife fixed ens camera, a sports fixed lens camera, etc., etc., each for about $1000.

IMHO, this is the future for Sony and Photography.

Regardds, Nicholas

7:58 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#8 max meier

the "little" sony problem is they think because they have the sony brand they can ask for much higher prices for the same stuff the others already have. the result.. you are out of touch sony baby with the development in this world.. I borrowed this from the stones and changed it a little, may they forgive me.. who ? you got it jumping jack digital !!!! ;-P

8:32 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#9 Patrick

Nicholas, I think you have it backward. Sony has Nikon in a box because Nikon does not make its own sensors and has to get them specced and/or made by others. Sony's 10.3MP CyberShot DSC-R1, for example, uses an APS-sized sensor (the first ever for any digicam) which is based on and nearly identical to the chip Sony sells to Nikon for sale in the Nikon D2X.

Now, imagine Sony coming up with updates to these chips, like full-frame or better noise control in low-light or extended dynamic range, and it decides not to share with its __competitors__. It could happen. Nikon is in the box. Nikon needs to see about sourcing chips from Imacon or somewhere else if they don't have a contract with Sony for a specific time period, or specific designs they can take elsewhere for manufacture.

Look at it this way: Canon has the plurality of the DSLR market, and Nikon is #2. Nikon and Pentax (soon to be a subsidiary of Samsung, from the looks of it) are completely dependent right now on Sony to provide sensor chips. What better way to edge into the DSLR market for Sony but to starve the companies it's most likely to take market share from, than by limiting access to new chips?

11:03 pm - Saturday, April 22, 2006

#10 nick in japan

I believe lottsa folks tend to be loyal to a company, IMHO, Sony didn't gain alot when they merged with Konica/Minolta, thus helping Canon and Nikon stay way ahead. If I were Sony, I'd stay in the sensor business, concentrate on getting a CMOS compact on the market that will be of pro-image quality. All serious/pro photographers will use back-ups, combine that with the average public being able to get noise-free, pro-quality shots from a moderately priced compact camera is exactly what we need. The goal should be to get the status as the leader in the compact class, and sales will explode. There is no leader right now, Panasonic is gonna rival Canon and Nikon! Sony, you gotta re-think it all, give us that shirt- pocket CMOS, 28-200 with IS and , at least 3/2 aspect, and some manual controls! We are getting tired of waiting!

1:02 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#11 Nicholas

This is a very good thread.


Nikon would never have used Sony chips without some kind on exculsive use obligation in their contract.

And I don't think it would expire so soon.

Sony will make Pro Fixed lens cameras, and everyone will follow ( possibly with sony chips).

Regards, Nicholas

3:30 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#12 Patrick

"Nikon would never have used Sony chips without some kind on exculsive use obligation"

For the current chips, perhaps. But is Sony obligated to share anything not currently made? That's the question. If not, Sony will surely choose to grow its own DSLR sales and lose a chip customer or two.

As for 'exclusive' remember that the Sony DSC-R1 already uses a near-identical sensor chip to the one in the Nikon D2X. I really doubt that Sony is obligated to pass along future sensors unless it's part of a limited-term contract.

5:07 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#13 nick in japan

With Mamiya's parent company, Cosmos Scientific, closing the door on future Mamiya sales, Sony's future in portrait work will probably be inhanced. I always thought the "boat anchor" R1 was ideally suited as a studio camera, now, with Hasselblad probably taking over the medium format lead, and Mamiya gone, Sony , does indeed have a market in the bigger, fixed lens, studio type. Attractive for we folks that cant afford Hasselblad equipment, at least.

6:35 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#14 jj

I don't think you very far to look to get an idea of how the world will be with Sony SLRs.

How different will their strategy be to the one used in compacts and DV?

What you will be looking at are dSLRs of a very nice design ethic, high levels of build quality, some unique features - and fair image quality.

I don't see that Sony take the market by storm - and I doubt it is their intention to play with the Pro dSLR market - after all more consumer type cameras sell - with lower production costs. They also won't (maybe some time way in the future) have a great deal to offer "Pros" in general - save some niche parts of that market.

The end result - just an additional option to take if you are looking for a consumer dSLR - which will probably be a very nice object indeed - for a slight premium - but not really giving anything extra to the end result. (image quality)

Sony do have the resources to do just about anything they desire - and marketing power to sell it. But they know where the money is.

9:14 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#15 nick in japan

Only time will tell....I would have liked to have seen Mamiya as as Sony partner, rather than Konica/Minolta. I have great respect for the Mamiya products that I have owned. This is a sad time for old-timers like me that learned alot with their products. I cannot ever remember an ill feeling about any of them I owned, or, still own. Sayonara good friend!

9:32 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#16 Patrick

"What you will be looking at are dSLRs of ...fair image quality."

I'm surprised you'd say that. All of Pentax's DSLRs use Sony sensors. Samsung's DSLR uses the same sensor. Nikon's D50, D70 and D70s use that same sensor. Sony sells Nikon the sensors to the D200 and the D2X as well. Are they of 'fair image quality'? No.

Remember they also bought technology from Konica-Minolta, whose models 7D and 5D, using the same sensor as the Pentaxs and Nikon D50/D70, were found to offer better color rendition and low-light performance.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by Sony's DSLRs.

11:50 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#17 Patrick

"I would have liked to have seen Mamiya as as Sony partner"

Heck no. Mamiya offered absolutely nothing in the 35mm DSLR space, was years behind in coming out with a long-announced (super-expensive $7,000) medium format DSLR whose technology they bought from another company, and were in a business whose sales were collapsing.

11:53 am - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#18 zuikoku

Sony will give a big impact on D-SLR business starting 2007 with some exciting features. I believe Sony still support Nikon's sensor development since huge demand on Nikon's products in the market now.

All model will be released by Sony from low entry to high end one which compete directly with giant Canon/Nikon

3:22 pm - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#19 nick in japan

As a studio camera, many pros swore by Mamiya, the push for keeping small sensors in the market is the attempt to keep us always wanting more. Mamiya had the platform with the 645, Sony could have brought their sensors into that, with a bigger CMOS, and expanded on that. By introducing the R1, they went down another road. There are wonderful lenses out there that permit the 645 digital to be versatile, not only in the studio but anywhere. That's where I was going in my thoughts. I have some awesome glass that, yes, Mamiya made some bad decisions about. Those old manual focus lenses are great, it angered alot of us when Mamiya made them obsolete by not allowing them to be used on the autofocus/digital models. I think alot of folks developed contempt for the company about that time. Good thing I'm a collector!
Just before I went digital, I got a 35mm back for my TL, lottsa versatility, compimenting the backs with reversal and print medium format film, Sony could have made a digital back and we could have transitioned that way too, IMHO.

3:27 pm - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#20 Itai

Sony will be successful in the DSLR market. It has nothing to do with the technology they have, even with the Konica-Minolta agreement and the sensors they provide for Nikon, Pentax among others. That technology just gives them something to start with.

Sony will be successful because it has brand recognition. Sony knows that a brand is worth more than quality products. That is why Sony sells products they make and product that others make under its name. It doesn't tell you which ones, but they do it. That gives their brand presence in more markets than they could otherwise.

The truth is most people buy cameras because of brands. I frequently get asked what camera brand is the best? Notice the word BRAND in the question. In some parts of the world more than others, people buy Sony digital cameras without question, without even looking at what other brands have to offer. This is the success of the Sony brand.

This means that Sony will sell DSLR cameras without problems. That is one measure of success. Will they make good DSLR cameras? Probably in some aspects, because of the technology they have in hands. Does that means thay they will sell to everyone? Of course not. Proffessionals, for example, are more discerning and will evaluate the Sony cameras based on their merits. So I expect the new Sony DSLR cameras to be adopted rapidly by entry-level consumers.

5:24 pm - Sunday, April 23, 2006

#21 AA


Man, I know some people who are absolutely and completely loyal to Sony. They will only ever buy Sony products. And they've been loyal to Sony since the 70s and 80s. They will never change.

6:27 am - Monday, April 24, 2006

#22 Patrick

"Mamiya had the platform with the 645, Sony could have brought their sensors into that"

Companies in the MF biz are bleeding money, and most pros -- including event shooters and wedding pros (although not most studio shooters, a small minority of the market anyway) -- have gone to 35mm DSLRs.

Nobody sees sales in MF DSLRS, especially with the cost-effectiveness of Canon's full-frame 35mm DSLRs (and far more affordable lenses).

Sony was smart to ignore medium format completely. That business is like throwing away your money. Only Hasselblad is surviving, and that's because 'Hasselblad' is only a name, as the Swedish firm was sold off and the cameras sold today are Fuji designed & built.

5:06 pm - Monday, April 24, 2006

#23 nick in japan

"Bling" is a money maker, that's for sure, for those photographers that compete for the big-bucks, they surely will opt for the Fuji with the Hassy logo, JUST like the Leica fanatics. I am very sorry that Mamiya didnt compete in medium format digital, which they could have very easily, by dropping the digital back price to a level that was attractive. Almost like there were lottsa incentives given by Hassy/Fuji!
I believe most photographers would use medium format digital if the prices were dropped, there is no substitute for cubic inches.

10:38 pm - Monday, April 24, 2006

#24 Patrick

" I believe most photographers would use medium format digital if the prices were dropped, there is no substitute for cubic inches."

That's a function of sensor production costs. Larger sensors are far more difficult and expensive to manufacture than smaller ones (and the cameras have noise/heat issues that smaller cameras don't), and smaller sensors will always be cheaper.

There are only 3-4 makers of large sensors and it's a tiny business -- tens of thousands of units tops -- compared to millions of DSLR sensors (and several times that of digicam sensors).

If prices came down on *anything* more would be sold. But for most pros, and nearly all amateurs, digital 35mm - or smaller - is sufficient. And it's still improving.

1:18 pm - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

#25 guy villeneuve

minolta never made it good as people only give nikon and canon appreciation. minolta was very genious but was not enough. siny has to go fast as lots of people gave up KM. sony has a big job when you consider PANASONIC but will they go ZEISS.SAME BATTLE AS IN THE 1955 TIMES...LEICA ZEISS. sony has to find its way into camera shops

3:59 pm - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

#26 guy villeneuve

SONY SHOULD RIGHT AWAY use a full frame cmos and stop the crazy start. hslf frame never made it so...this would make things really interesting for eveyone. including ZEISS LENSES

6:16 pm - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

#27 guy villeneuve

MINOLTA AND SONY have been lovers for some time never mind the marriage as it is worth nothing nowadays.but sony has to enter the camera shop in a proper way. i have faith in the venture

6:21 pm - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

#28 guy villeneuve

who will arrive the first SONY or PANASONIC as the race is on and after the price war...PHOTOKINA is too far PANASONIC will be metal built and retro feel which is a plus but SONY COULD COME OUT WITH AN ACE ALSO..

6:56 pm - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

#29 Ken

Its interesting reading all the theorists opinions of what may or may not happen, but I would like to ask the question 'How many of you used the Dynax 7D? (obviously the basis of the forthcoming Sony range) I can tell you it was superb and many people I know who used it thought likewise. At a time when Nikon D200 users are finding it produces better (and sharper) results than the D2X, I feel many Nikon users will have had their confidence in the marque severely dented especially having paid such a high price for a product with suspect performance. With SONY's unquestioned technilogical expertise, KONICA's reputation in the field of colour and the unrivalled No 1 position of MINOLTA's light measuring equipment, I say ROLL ON SONY.

12:15 pm - Friday, April 28, 2006

#30 nick in japan

Good to hear , Ken! Thanks! Not alot of Minolta fans here where I live, the sensor in the 7D was made by whom?
I'm up to my ears with Sony, I am a big fan too! I have all the "F' models.
When the LED screen went out, on one of my GRT-170s, after 1 1/2 years, 1/2 a year out of warranty, they replaced it free! That made me more of a believer in the company. My LX-1's home is slipped into the hot-shoe of my trusty F-828, my dependable daily duo!

12:35 pm - Friday, April 28, 2006

#31 Nigel

I don't see Canon getting too worried about Sony as a competitor in this market. From my experience over the years Sony has never lived up to it's own hype in the reliability stakes and most reports on their digital cameras have highlighted their tendency to colour fringing. Only recently Nikon owners were encountering problems with their Sony chips. What, however, about the rumours a few months ago of Nikon considering selling out their digital camera business to Sony? Could there have been real substance to that rumour? Were Sony exerting their muscle as chip providers to Nikon? Could Nikon see real difficulties in finding alternate sources of chips and when also faced with the need to completely redesign their lens mounts, if they wish to compete with full frame sensors, might they have been reconsidering their position in this market? More questions than answers but I suspect interesting times ahead.

2:13 pm - Saturday, April 29, 2006

#32 Fred

I spoke to a rep from Sony UK a couple of days ago - there will be an initial consumer DSLR in 1-3 months, then a further 2 models this year ranging up to semi-pro level (whatever that means). They are staying with standard SLR (ie mirror & prism) technology with no live preview at the moment. He also advised not to buy into the first model as the subsequent ones will be superior / better / improved. And finally the models won't simply be a rebadged 7D, but far improved & redesigned (but does that mean better????).

12:44 am - Monday, May 1, 2006

#33 nick in japan

Great last question, manufacturers will add, and then subtract things from an upgrade, I saw this with the Sony F-707 upgrade to the F-717. Improvements and removal of modes, truthfully, I would purchase a 707 before a 717 if I needed to make the choice.
I hope Sony will make some breakthrough advancements too!

5:06 am - Monday, May 1, 2006

#34 Per Naesheim

I am sure they can if their new SLR will have at least these features:
1. Konica-Minolta's anti-shake built into the camera body.
2. A system like Olympus' Supersonic Wave FilterTM to remove dust from the image sensor. But it should be possible to turn this feature off when you shoot in situations where quick start-up is needed.
3. A sturdy body about the size of the Olympus E-500.
4. Possibility to use Compact Flash memory cards (many of us have lots of those and hate to retire them) plus possibly Sony's own.
5. A sensor at least as good as what is found in the Canon EOS 30D, with excellent per pixel sharpness and low noise at higher ISO settings. While 6 megapixels may be "enough", an 8 or 10 megapixel sensor will have more market appeal.
6. Remote control, both wire and wireless.
7. A competitive price - preferably below USD 999.99!
If Sony can manage this, and possibly throw in a neat feature or two of their own, they will sell this camera like hotcakes! They may be in a hurry to get their first offering to market and this bill may be too hard to fill so quickly. But in their second or third model this would be worth aiming for. Otherwise most of us will shrug our sholders and stay with what we have.
Posted by Per Næsheim

10:36 am - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

#35 nick in japan

Gotta agree with you, forget about CF cards tho, I just priced some SD and CF 2Gig, here in Japan. The SD has now become cheaper than the CF, by about $9.00 US.
Looks like our old CF cards will end up as e-mail/ slide show storage units.

12:31 pm - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

#36 Kermi

However Sony will do at the dSLR market, i'm looking forward to it. That company has some brilliant ideas from time to time, and i'd be surprised if they didn't bring some into the dSLR market too. And i believe they'll be including the CF option too, as "even" the R1 can use CF.

I would suspect, that the Sony - Nikon deal is, that Nikon orders a sensor filling some specification from Sony, instead of just trying to grab whatever the Sony R&D people come up with. Not by any means supported by any facts, but that's the only model of business that sounds reasonable to me.

As for what stands to brand loyalty.. I might be accused of that.. owner of 3 Sony digicams (W7, H1 and just recently R1), i bought them because i liked what they could offer. And the feel. I've used some Canon cameras, and i didn't like the way they feel at all. However, if someone comes up with something that works better and feels better, i'll go and buy that one.

4:09 pm - Saturday, May 13, 2006

#37 Jim

I'll admit that I am a long-time Sony fan, having bought their electronics products since the late 60's (I'm old). But I am also a Nikon fan, having owned 2 Nikon systems over the years. But here's a thought - a digital camera is more like a pure electronic device than any film camera ever made. With Sony's experience in electronics, chip-making, and high-end digital video, I can see the future for them in digital photography is bright. As the manufacturing costs of digital sensors keeps coming down, as it inevitably will, Sony could be in a position to make not only consumer-oriented DSLR's, but also high-end professional cameras in both 35mm and medium format. Granted, the volume is limited, but the prestige factor is important in marketing. They DO make money on their professional digital video cameras, even thought the volume is small. The SONY name would benefit from the association. I keep thinking that someday, some company will eventually produce a camera to rival the Hasselblad H2D at a much lower price, using Zeiss lenses, with somewhere in the range of 40-50 megapixels, and a live viewfinder with extreme quality, histograms and all, plus a built-in 100gb hard drive. Sony probably could build one today, although they wouldn't make any money because of costs. But as they gain experience in DSLR design and manufacturing, I think they could come to be an important, if not dominant player in the high-end market.

11:46 pm - Saturday, June 3, 2006

#38 nick in japan

I want to ammend my original comment concerning "Sony didn't gain alot from joining with Konica/ Minolta" I think, now, that it was, maybe, a good move.
I am a devoted Sony fan and also Panasonic. I'm very interested in the up-coming Panasonic model but concerned that "IS" is not contained within the body, but rather offered in lenses. This may give Sony some edge in the competition.

9:53 am - Sunday, June 4, 2006

#39 Iwan

The Sony R1 badly needs Sony's Hologram AF laser focusing system - last seen on the V3 - before it could seriously be considered for studio work. Also, a bigger burst mode; but does the R1 have a future with Sony concentrating on the 'Alpha' SLR range? I predict the next model Alpha will be based on the 7D, with a magnesium chassis and a version of the R1/D2X CMOS sensor, + 5 fps shooting.
Again, Sony please reintroduce your laser focusing as it really was unbeatable technology.

2:00 am - Monday, August 28, 2006

#40 Kevin

Well, I stumbled upon the site and must say WOW.... I have owned Canon,Pentax an Sony dslr's and must say that most of what I just read was a bunch of ill informed spew I have seen. No doubt Nikon/Canon users that think these two cannot be touched. Well here we are a couple of years down the road and Sony has released 4 new cameras. For a company that can't play I would say they have brought some new tools that can compete and with the new FF camera on the way.. So I guess we can just wait and see what is to come we for sure know what is.

just my thoughts

8:48 pm - Saturday, July 5, 2008

#41 Gregg

I have just come across this as well, a year after Kevin and Sony is rumoured to be bringing out a well priced Full Frame camera and so that will add 5 new cameras this year, how we would like to predict the future perhaps a three way tussle, somebody is going to get hurt.

6:16 am - Wednesday, August 12, 2009