And it helps improve the breed, as ever
When I read the other day that Mamiya was quitting the photography business, having blown not a few Yen in developing its medium format digital camera, I confess my first reaction was unease. While Mamiya may have been guilty of poor market analysis – Canon’s 35mm format sensors being the equal of just about anything medium format offers at a fraction of the price – it is never a good thing to have less choice.
Take a look at today’s monopolists and their uniformly execrable products and customer service – Microsoft’s operating system, Adobe’s Photoshop, Intuit’s Quicken, the handful of oligopolistic US defense manufacturers, the US Government (the worst monopolist of all) – and you get the idea.
However, I thought a more analytical approach might make better sense of Mamiya’s demise, so I dug out the old 1976 Wallace Heaton Blue Book, the photography equipment catalog published by a famous London camera store, and did some figuring.
Here were your choices some thirty years ago:
First, 35mm SLRs: Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Leica, Rollei, Zodel (Zodel?), Olympus, Minolta, Miranda, Yasicha, Petriflex, Praktica, Mamiya and Exakta were listed in that order.
35mm rangefinder cameras included Leica, Minolta, Yasicha, Canon, Agfa, Dignette (what?), Nikon, Rollei, Olympus and Konica.
No digital cameras, of course.
Seventeen manufacturers all told.
Then I went to the B&H web site to see what’s out there today.
SLR film cameras: Canon, Contax (now defunct), KonicaMinolta (kaput), Leica, Nikon, Pentax, Phoenix, Sigma, Vivitar and Voigtlander.
35mm film cameras: Canon, Contax (now defunct), Fantasea, Goko, Kalimar, KonicaMinolta (now defunct), Leica, Lomographic, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Rollei and Zeiss.
Digital cameras: Bushnell, Canon, Casio, Epson, Fuji, HP, Kodak, KonicaMinolta (gone), Mamiya (gone), Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Rollei, Samsung, Sanyo and Sony.
Make that twenty four active manufacturers, or some 40% more than there were thirty years ago. And many of these are consumer electronics companies first (Canon, Casio, Epson, Fuji, HP, Panasonic, Samsung, Sanyo and Sony), and camera makers a distant second.
So while Canon could do with some serious full frame sensor competition, the capitalist world as seen through the metric of choice of photo gear seems to be ticking along just fine. Those that fell by the wayside, KonicaMinolta, Mamiya, Miranda etc. just failed to make products enough people wanted, which is as it should be.
Look, the alternative is GM – a company making products no one wants with its hand out to the government, aka the taxpayer’s pocket. I prefer a good bankruptcy myself.