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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.

That's it.

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 SLR cameras.



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