Sunday, 27 September 2009

Is 10% of the market not enough? - why no left handed digital cameras

Making a digital camera is an expensive business. Why would a manufacturer intentionally restrict likely market appeal to around 10% when compared to any other camera. But wait just a minute. If I come out with a camera for right handed people it is in competition with hundreds of other cameras and will never get anywhere near 10%. In fact a tenth of that would be remarkable. If I were to come up with a left handed digital camera now, in a market without any others, I might well attract more than 1% and my product would be a hot seller compared to anything else. In addition to this, most of the components would likely be the same, so apart from a new body/chassis it would be sharing component and development costs with an existing right handed camera.

Of course, once other manufacturers saw the potential market possibilities, I'm sure there would be competition. But in the early days I would have the market to myself and could be raking it in. If I was smart, I might even manage to establish myself as the brand that people associated with left handed cameras. A John Maw camera might even become the accepted name for left handed cams, just as iPod has become the term people use when referring to MP3 players. I am no economist (a quick glance at my bank statement proves that) but I am sure that this is a winner for a company with some foresight.

What a shame that digital camera manufacture isn't really possible as a cottage industry, or I might be burning the midnight oil in my garage catering for this niche market. By the way, I would need a tester, as I am a member of the other 90%.

Image taken on Uxbridge Common

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Did Leica miss an opportunity with the S2?

So Leica has joined the otherwise diminishing number of makers of medium format cameras (along with, more recently, Hartblei). What marks the S2 out from the rest of the digital medium format brigade, other than the fact that this system has the smallest image area of any camera to be dubbed medium format, is the aspect ratio of the chip. Leica have opted to use a 2:3 format just like 35mm style cameras, whereas most other of the larger chips offer something around 3:4 or 4:5.

Why does this matter? Well, only in the sense that the majority of published images are not reproduced at 2:3. If you look at the average proportions of images being reproduced in print the ratio is much nearer 3:4. That means that some of the resolution is lost in cropping, leading to an almost routine reduction in pixel count in the final image.

Of course 35mm cameras managed with this format for many years, but it should be remembered that the choice of format was, in the first place, one of convenience for historical reasons (and of course Leica was the company responsible for that decision too). Then along came digital SLRs and most (at first all) followed the same pattern, wasting the opportunity to change to a better format. Medium format digital took a more flexible approach and opted, in most cases, for something better suited to the needs of the market, until now. Thanks Leica.

PS. The Hartblei's isn't a digital camera system specifically, as it can take film backs, and also Hartblei might already consider themselves a medium format camera maker as they have, for some years, supplied modified Kiev cameras.

Image: illuminated path, Turville