Sony had a huge stand at the photography show and looking round it you get a sense of the range of camera products that they have for sale. With huge resources they have always had no fear about coming up with new products and testing them on the marketplace. If they sell, they follow it up, if they don't they move on to something else.
This has obviously resulted in some interesting and innovative gear, based around their core sensor manufacturing business, which obviously gives them a head start in putting new concepts together. Develop a new sensor, think about what kind of camera to house it in.
They also seem to have no problem about protecting their product ranges. They make video cameras but have been throwing a lot of R & D at mirrorless and DSLT video. They make smartphones, but still have a foot in the compact market, particularly with their 'super compact' the RX100 series. There's full-frame, APS-C and 1" sensor cameras and they are trying to fulfill their intention of creating options that are fast and / or high resolution and / or good in low light. And in many aspects of what they offer, they have certainly succeeded.
But I was struck by the fact that both Leica and Nikon were in close proximity to the Sony stand. Both well-established and well respected camera brands, but companies who can't even come close to the resources that Sony possess. And much as I appreciate what Sony have achieved in the short time they have been seriously making cameras, I can't help but feel that it would sad if this multi-national, multi-product juggernaut of a company rolled over these smaller specialist, mostly optical product based brands.
Indeed one of the things that struck me about the whole show was the diversity of brands and products. And that, for me, is very much a good thing. It's always struck me as strange that from time to time fanboy sites applaud their chosen brand when they post good financial results and start getting worried when the reverse happens. The parallels with supporting a football team becoming ever more pronounced. It does seem from time to time those 'supporters' would like nothing more than their chosen brand to wipe out the opposition. Strange.
I certainly have no wish to see any of the existing camera brands disappear. For me diversity is everything and many of the smaller companies are always capable of coming up with something innovative. Just look at the recent resurgence of Fuji.
I have to say that one of my most enjoyable moments at the show was finding this company, Flaghead, tucked away at on the perimeter of the show. From out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Voigtländer logo and went to see what was there. Suddenly I was confronted by a display cabinet of the whole range of Voigtlander lenses. For DSLR's, for Leica M mount and m4/3. And it was a beautiful sight. So much so that I forgot to take a picture!! I chatted awhile and looked longingly at the Voigtländer Bessa film camera, before finally seeing sense and realising that I really don't want to go back to film again. But this is beautiful stuff. Incredibly well made and optically superb.
And companies like Voigtländer will never crack the big time and I suspect will probably only just about break even or make a small profit at best. However the brand name was bought by an enthusiast, Kobayashi Hirofumi who runs Cosina and has done a great job in restoring to brand to it's former glories (and in my view actually enhancing that reputation.)
So much as I applaud Sony for doing what they do and mostly doing it well, hopefully the photographic 'mavericks' will still be able to prosper. I have to admit I like using my Sony cameras with a Voigtlander lens on the front of them, more than I like using the Sony native native lenses, Zeiss or not. (Sony Zeiss isn't 'real' Zeiss anyway) But then that's probably just me. But then for those of us who can see merit in not selling our souls to the corporate behemoths it's up to us to support them with our wallets, otherwise they will disappear. Which will in my view make our photographic experience somewhat poorer.