Has the Well of Digital SLR Innovation Run Dry?
Fact of life - when you're the dominant company
in your industry you no longer have to innovate.
It makes sense - with the lion's share of the market, why change
anything? If it's not broken don't fix it.
It's the little guys who must be creative to get noticed.
The Olympus Edge
Many will agree that Olympus is not exactly a "little guy". But
they are when it comes to the digital SLR market.
Olympus trails behind both Canon and Nikon in the distribution
and sales of digital Single Lens Reflex cameras.
This makes Olympus a company primed for innovation - and that's
exactly what they've done.
In March of 2006, Olympus released the EVOLT E330, a camera that
is one-of-a-kind: it's the only digital SLR with a live preview
mode on the LCD.
This may not sound like an innovation to you. After all, every
compact digital camera out there shows you what picture you're about
to take on the LCD.
But it's not standard on digital SLR cameras.
With any other SLR you must look through the viewfinder to compose
a photo. You can only use the LCD to review photos and change menus.
The live LCD makes the EVOLT E330 a unique camera. It's made even
more so by a vibrating sensor that clears itself of dust every time
you turn the camera on.
This feature is also exclusive to Olympus cameras - if dust gets
on the sensor of your Canon or Nikon, you have to clean it yourself
(a tricky operation) or have it cleaned professionally.
Canon in Comparison
Canon's new camera release this year is the 30D.
Despite the addition of some new features, this camera is virtually
identical to the 20D, released in 2004.
While the 20D broke a lot of ground for digital SLR cameras, the
30D is wholly unremarkable. It's a minor upgrade to a camera that
sold exceptionally well.
The 30D doesn't have unique features like the Olympus E330.
Does this mean that everyone will go rushing out to purchase Olympus
cameras and drop Canon's sales like a brick?
I doubt it.
Too many photographers already have an investment in Canon lenses,
so a Canon digital SLR is the natural choice, regardless of whether
or not the camera is innovative.
Still, it seems a shame that a market leader can establish a position
and grind out products with nothing new to offer.
Time will tell whether this approach is successful. Eventually
Canon may have to adopt the new technology pioneered by their competition.
While this may only occur due to a loss of market share, I hope
that it doesn't have to come to that.
As a digital SLR enthusiast I enjoy innovation, since I believe
that digital SLR technology still has some secrets that have yet
to be revealed.
What remains to be seen is which company finds them first.
Chris Roberts dispenses practical plain-English advice and information
about digital SLR cameras at the Digital
SLR Guide. His 5-week ecourse in digital
SLR technique helps beginners get the most out of their digital