Bodies too cheap or too many?

Are bodies too cheap (relatively speaking) or are there just too many?

Thirty years ago the big four camera makers, as they were then – Minolta, Canon, Olympus and Pentax – essentially had four distinctive models at four different price points in their ranges. The starter, intermediate, enthusiast and advanced models in the range. Whatever you want to call them, they were clearly differentiated in both cost and features.

Where is Nikon? Back then Nikon was the manufacturer of choice for professionals. For the most part they were happy with that ‘niche’ and weren’t particularly interested in competing in the mass market arena.

It is interesting that third party lens manufactures also had a bigger slice of the cake. There was a huge choice, including from some names that don’t exist any more. Most people didn’t see the advantage of spending more money on the own brand lenses. Nearly every dealer also had a healthy stock of pre owned equipment. We used to call it second hand.

If we take a look at the Nikon range today most people would be …. Confused. It is not clear which models are actually current and which have been discontinued. Nikon have managed to stuff the supply pipeline full of inventory. Not just in DX camera bodies either. Surely they must qualify for the most 18 – to something zoom lens award from any single manufacturer. Really Nikon what are you playing at? We don’t need all these. Cut down on your manufacturer and inventory costs and get rid of some of them.

The same goes for the bodies. Work out a decent naming system for your whole range. Stick to it and clear out your inventory. Have some decent, different models with some compelling features to make people want to upgrade. Don’t force them into FX by not making a D300 replacement. There’s no guarantee people will stay with you, if you force them to look too hard. Standardise on some of the more common accessories between the consumer models and enthusiast models. You might think your selling more batteries every time but equally you may be putting people off, or worse, appear to be money grabbing.

So where is the evidence for this confusion?

Look on any review site at the forums. People are effectively asking strangers how to spend their hard earned money. “I Have a D3xxx should I go for a D5100 or D5300 or a D5500?”. “Upgrading from a D3xxx. Should I buy a Nikon D7200 or a Nikon D750?” My response here is apples and oranges. One is DX – D7200, one is FX – D750 (Nikon’s cropped and full frame sensors, respectively).

FX puts you in a totally different league. You have a bigger sensor. You have bigger bodies and bigger lenses. Heavier lenses. Much more expensive lenses. These bodies and lenses are for people who want to make a living from photography on a regular basis and provide the user with something that is missing from the consumer range. Better build, better quality, wider apertures the ability to shoot in more varied conditions etc.

The problem is, what used to be clearly priced, specified and aimed at professionals has become blurred and is now in the reach of the enthusiast. Cameras have got better, prices are cheaper and anyone can become a ‘professional’ photographer.

This had some advantages and disadvantages. Prices for wedding packages have dropped. These days wedding packages are advertised from £200. Handy for the Bride and Groom. Decimating for the pro tog with a reputation trying to earn a living. Of course, this is no guarantee of quality or service and as with everything else in life you would have to shop around and compare what you are getting. Both in service and end product. But is does echo the theme of how cheap and how many. Notice I have only really mentioned Nikon. This is because I’m most familiar with the Nikon range.

If we look at the market as a whole we have much greater choice at virtually every price point within reason. Some manufacturers have a better handle on the amount of models V price V difference than others. As long as whoever you like offers some decent bodies, lenses and accessories to enable you to do your type of photography, then great, that’s a win.

But manufacturers are confusing consumers to the extent they don’t really know what to buy. They are more than spoiling us for choice.

When consumers are turning to strangers on a forum to ask which camera company they should potentially spend thousands of pounds with (It doesn’t stop with the body. Does it?) then, that’s a fail.

So – Bodies too cheap or too many?