Sony Q&A: Now that 4K’s a done deal, what’s the next big thing?


posted Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 2:07 PM EDT


We had the opportunity to sit down recently with the President and Chief Operating Officer, Deputy President and Deputy Vice President of Sony Electronics, all of whom are instrumental in developing and executing Sony's strategy for imaging products in the US. We more often speak with engineers and product planners -- individuals from the technology side of the house, in other words -- and those interviews naturally focus more on the nuts and bolts of technology and camera features. Thanks to the level of the executives involved in this interview, though, we were able to explore more about Sony's strategy and approach to the market, and how the company views the US market as distinct from those in other parts of the world. 

Senior Reviews Editor Mike Tomkins conducted the interview, drawing on questions developed himself and by several others of us here at Imaging Resource . Editorial notes in italics below are by IR Founder and Publisher Dave Etchells. It was an interesting conversation; read on below to see for yourself! (Scroll to the bottom for our overall take.)

To recap, the interview participants are:

Mike Tomkins -- Senior Reviews Editor, Imaging Resource
Mike Fasulo -- President & Chief Operating Officer, Sony Electronics Inc.
Neal Manowitz -- Deputy Vice President, Digital Imaging, Mobile Entertainment Division, Sony Electronics Inc.
Toshifumi Okuda -- Deputy President, Sony Electronics Inc.

Mike Tomkins/Imaging Resource: Sony has necessarily built its camera business on the basis of coming in and taking market share from the established leaders. What do you see as your unique strengths in this market, and how will you capitalize on them to win more share from Canon, Nikon, and Olympus?

Mike Fasulo
President & Chief Operating Officer
Sony Electronics Inc.

Mike Fasulo/Sony Electronics: Let me take a crack at that. I prefer to look at it a different way. We’re fulfilling the needs of the customer, and in this case -- in the imaging case -- there’s quite a few very specific customers. So if we look at it from the broadcast side, that’s a whole industry and segment in and of itself that we serve extremely well with a lot of legacy and a lot of credibility.

If you look at it from the professional side, for professional photography there’s no doubt that we’re a legitimate vendor in that space, a legitimate brand in that space. But that takes on a whole different requirement than the broadcast side, as well as the prosumer part of the consumer side. So it’s really finding what that need is, and looking at... How do we leapfrog, how do we disrupt, how do we innovate beyond today?

Then the enthusiast is really interesting. So the enthusiast, we’re seeing -- and Neal could probably speak to this in a little more depth -- you know, there’s all of this craze about "the smartphone took away the camera business". Well, not really. There’s a camera inside the smartphone, so it didn’t take it away. It just put it in a different form factor.

MT: Exactly, yeah.

MF: But if you look at the quality of the image, mom and dad still want that long-lasting memory, and they want it a decade from now to look as good as it does today.

So that’s where we’re seeing this consumer need and consumer shift to where we’re focused, which is in premium value cameras for the consumer. And I didn’t even talk about other industries of imaging. This is just in the world of photography, or the world of capturing images and videos. So the first thing is determining that focus and strength, and then moving from there. [Market] share is just... that’s a result.

MT: Gotcha.

MF: But putting the customer first and really filling those gaps in. The last two sets of announcements we’ve had have been just that: Not only disruptive and groundbreaking, but really met the needs of very specific customers and requirements. Neal, I don’t know if you want to embellish on that?

Neal Manowitz
Deputy Vice President, Digital Imaging
Mobile Entertainment Division
Sony Electronics Inc.

Neal Manowitz/Sony Electronics: I think you covered it perfectly. Yeah, I think we’ve been very focused around developing the Alpha system, how do we serve the customer in a unique way, and provide them the reasons to come back to imaging. So we see one of the challenges we have, as we were sharing last night, is that the DSLR market’s declining.

The reasons for its decline are a couple things. One is that there’s a big segment of customers that are walking away, and then also, secondly, customers are taking more and more time between the cycles of replacing that camera. So with the disruptive technologies, with innovation, by serving the customer in a new way, what we’re able to do is excite them and bring them back in, capture images they couldn’t capture before, improve the quality. The cameras can now capture things that you just can’t see with your eye.

"You think of 4K, many people just think of a television and a movie. That’s just the tip of the iceberg."

MT: What are the market needs that you see which you are uniquely positioned to address? And how will this play out in your strategy and products?

MF: One area is 4K, and you’ve seen now that we’ve been able to bring that into a camera with not only great quality, but superb slow-motion playback. And that is not only a unique capability of ours, but one that cuts across multiple domains. So you think of 4K, many people just think of a television and a movie. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You’re looking at your personal creative work on a 4K monitor, there’s nothing more spectacular than that. You want to see a mom smile, just put her child in 4K on a television.

So if you look at 4K across all industries, that covers broadcast, that covers distribution, that covers consumer, prosumer, et cetera, et cetera. But more closely aligned to cameras -- and Neal again, I’ll let you jump in here -- but more closely aligned to cameras is; what are the unique expectations of the consumer we’re serving? So we heard from [Sony Associate Artisan of Imagery] Brian Matiash upstairs about [the fact that] he doesn’t really care much about one form factor [being] lighter or smaller than the other...

MT: Yeah.

MF:’s about quality. So we have to be the best quality. And frankly, the consumer, prosumer, professional, have given us credit. We don’t claim it; we’ve been given credit by the users themselves that Sony does equal quality. So first and foremost, anything we do is going to fulfill that expectation of quality.

Then on the consumer side, it’s a very different gap to fill, which is... Why do I want to put anything else in my purse or pocket, when I have a smartphone? Alright? So in all honesty, the form factor that we’ve gone to with the [RX100-series], which is a beautiful form factor...

MT: It really is.

MF: Consumers, especially in America, think bigger is better. So convincing them -- or actually I don’t have to convince them, we’ve got to get them to understand that the quality of this camera is better than any DSLR you’ve used. So it’s just a different paradigm, based on the consumer set. But that’s another unique capability of Sony, the decades of form factors, miniaturization, between higher quality and smaller form.

"What’s exciting is simply that you can capture an image that you could have never captured before."

NM: Yeah. To that point, if we look at the mirrorless market, it’s growing significantly. It’s been growing for years in Asia as well, but there’s quite unique differences, right? In the US market, as Mike pointed out, bigger is better. And simply making the camera that’s just as good as the DSLR, but smaller and lighter, it doesn’t attract the excitement from the customer. Fundamentally, the whole purpose of them buying the camera is to take the best possible image. They want to capture that special moment. So when you say, "Eh, you can compromise in some way," [to achieve a smaller camera body] that’s not the exciting part.

What’s exciting is simply that you can capture an image that you could have never captured before. You can do things that you couldn’t have done before. Forget about the technology, whether it happens to be mirrorless or DSLR, that’s not the real win here. What’s happening is that the technology enables you to do something special.

It happens to be that the mirrorless technology -- because the sensor technology is evolving so quickly -- that mirrorless now is having this very rapid trend in advancements, and also from a market penetration and growth [perspective]. But it’s really coming back to that customer and how do we meet their verbalized and un-verbalized needs. How do we get them to take more pictures? How do we get them back into photography in a meaningful way?

MF: You know, one other practical point I’ll add to that, and I know you want to move on to the next question. But one other practical point is -- and Neal started this in our home entertainment side years ago -- our distribution is unique, versus many of our competitors. We are committed to the photo specialist, and committed across different areas of the business. That is one of the core priorities of how we go to market, and it is working very well.

Now we have some national customers as well, but on the national side, we demand -- and we’re very disciplined on -- the customer experience when you go to the shop. You know, the specialists -- this is their life, this is the DNA. So I think that is something also that sets us apart from others, and we’re willing to give up market share to make sure that customer experience is quality, as the brand is.

MT: Gotcha. So Sony’s in something of a unique position. You’re a large consumer electronics company, you’re vertically integrated, making all the major components of the digital imaging chain; sensors, optics, processors. At the same time though, you’re not entirely unique because Panasonic and Samsung can both lay claim to the same capabilities. You have a dominant global position in sensor technology, but Panasonic and Samsung do both make sensors, and both also manufacture their own optics. Panasonic in particular has a huge optics business, supplying lenses not only for other camera makers, but for millions of cellphones as well. And Samsung is particularly strong in processor technology.

Ignoring traditional camera makers for a moment, how do you see yourself competing against the major consumer electronics players in digital imaging?

"We’re competing against how we convince customers to come back to the imaging world."

MF: Toshi, you want to handle that?

Toshifumi Okuda
Deputy President
Sony Electronics Inc.

Toshifumi Okuda/Sony Electronics: Yeah. I think that, as Mike said and Neal said, the biggest challenge we are facing today is not like... how are we going to compete against those folks like Panasonic or Samsung, whoever it is. We’re competing against how we convince customers to come back to the imaging world. Everybody seems to feel good enough with a smartphone camera, but that’s not necessarily the case.

MT: Yeah.

TO: So we are looking at... Yes, our company has the largest asset of image sensor technology, and so on. So on our own, how are we going to utilize that technology to meet the customer needs, which the customers do not necessarily verbalize by themselves, they don’t know. Like slow motion, 4K higher resolution, and so on.

So I think that those will put us in a very unique position. Not necessarily different from others, but we are competing to convince customers to come back to the imaging world. So that’s why we are not necessarily caring so much about how you compete with Panasonic and Samsung.

MT: One more question sort of in that vein, and then we’ll move on to some other stuff. This is another one from Dave Etchells: How do you see the game playing out long-term with the consumer electronics companies versus the traditional camera makers? 15 years from now, do you think it’ll primarily be Sony and Samsung dividing the spoils, or do you expect to still be duking it out with Canon, Nikon, Olympus and so on, as well?

MF: I’ll be on a beach, drinking a margarita. <Laughter>

NM: I think the company that can innovate and deliver that value to the consumer, that’s the company that’s going to win. So there’s going to be millions of new technologies that come out in the next 15 years, and the market landscape’s going to be drastically different. There will be more and more disruptive technologies that cycle through.

We’ve seen it on Sony’s side. We’ve instigated this multiple times, right? From the launch of the first digital still camera to shoving the floppy disk into the camera to make it easier to email, to shifting the world from analog video to digital video to high definition, and now to 4K.

We’re putting a full-frame sensor inside of a mirrorless camera, making a one inch sensor, and saying "Let’s be able to put that into your pocket." And we’ve seen that, and consumers gravitating to that, and that’s where the consumer wins. In a market like the DSC market, where it’s down 30% year over year, in an area where we’re talking about $1,000 -- a $1,000 point and shoot makes no sense why it should live, right? If you think of it from a sheet of paper, [in theory] it shouldn’t be successful.

But what’s happening is, consumers see that the Sony RX100 IV can do a whole bunch of things that the cellphone can’t. That’s who’s going to win. That’s who’s going to win in the market, and that’s where it ultimately comes down to that consumer. So, as Toshi said, we have more market share in sensors, and we have all these great assets, but I think the real genius of the engineering team, and of what we can do as marketers, is being able to connect that, the technology to that consumer.

MF: Innovation required.

TO: I think 15 years ago, nobody imagined what there was going to be in 2015. <laughs>

MT: Yeah, exactly. <laughs> It may be a little too difficult to look into the crystal ball that far ahead.

TO: Yeah, advancements of the image sensor and optics may change in this landscape totally, where we wish to be a survivor, in any case. But 15 years later, the technology changes so rapidly. So we try to really survive in this industry, but nobody can tell 15 years later.

What's up with Sony and Olympus?

MT: Yeah, and it seems to me I get a sense that it’s increasing more and more rapidly over time as well. So it’s harder and harder to predict.

I mentioned Olympus just now. They’re not entirely the competition, as Sony holds a significant stake in Olympus. Does that have any impact from the digital imaging group’s perspective, or are they just another customer for the sensor division and every bit as much competitors in digital imaging as any other camera maker would be for you?

TO: I think that, for now, we have been aligned with Olympus [in the] medical solution field, which is very much a different industry at the moment.

MT: Yes.

TO: And definitely, we need expertise from Olympus and they need expertise from Sony. So we are marrying the two expertise all together to make a solutions business. So for now, I will say there is no impact or an influence in terms of the DI product concerned. But medical solution may also evolve over years and years, which may come closer to general usage on the customer’s end. So we’ll see.

[Ed. Note: We're not clear whether Okuda-san was talking solely about marrying expertise in the medical business here, or if there are plans for a broader partnership to develop integrated imaging solutions. It does seem that the primary focus of their partnership is currently in the medical realm, though. Olympus has an absolutely dominant position worldwide in the manufacture of endoscopes; Sony's sensor expertise has obvious applications in that field.]

MF: It’s an opportunity.

TO: Right.

MF: And we’ve gotten... this is not new for us. We have gotten really good at working with competitors that are also partners.

MT: ...which must be quite a challenge?

MF: It was in years past. Now it’s kind of natural.

MT: This sort of ties into the previous question, and maybe you’ve sort of answered it already, in a way. But is there any technology transfer between Olympus and Sony as a result of your financial relationship, playing off each other’s strengths?

TO: We don’t exactly work on a technological transfer that’s being made, but two teams get together, definitely there must be some discussion, respecting all the intellectual properties, and so on, for both companies’ sides.

MF: Yeah. Probably more of a global question.

MT: You’re all deeply involved in the American market specifically. What do you see as the most challenging aspect of competing here, versus other places in the world? You mentioned one example of the differences yourself in terms of in Asia, where the size and weight of the camera is a lot more important than it is here. What’s most challenging about the American market for you?

MF: My perspective, and I’ll be brief so Neal can give his. Maybe not what you’re expecting, but to keep my team focused on: "What does success look like?" We don’t want to go after market share at any cost. We want to continue to be that premium value brand that serves the needs of its customers. That sounds easy, but it is extremely difficult, especially in a company that’s going to be 70 years old next year. A company that’s been around for decades, and successful for decades, and amassed a market share, that’s a really challenging discipline. I’m very proud of the team, they’re doing extremely well. But that’s what keeps me up at night.

NM: Looking at it from just a DI perspective, and the uniqueness of the US market, there’s clearly some significant differentiation between other markets and the US. As we were talking about before, on the mirrorless side, the reasons for consumer purchase, and the challenges that we have to face here are very different.

So I think the opportunity now is that the technology has advanced to the point where we can provide these amazing, much better solutions. So where smaller and lighter is a benefit in other regions in the world, here the one inch mirrorless camera hasn’t taken off. It’s a very small niche product. Micro Four Thirds has compromises. So over here, [larger sensor-size] is having a very big advantage in terms of, how do we provide better solutions for the consumer.

MF: Toshi, you’ve worked in multiple markets. What’s your take on that? Do you think it’s that different?

Okuda: "Software" elements are more important in the US market, well-crafted, "craftsmanship type" products more so in Japan

TO: <laughs> Yeah. I used to work in China and the US. I’m just two years old in the US market. I think that the US has a... the American market seems to have a bit of a different dynamism. There are lots of IT companies, software companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, taking software elements in the customer usage is getting increased in the US market, as compared to like Japan. [In the Japanese market,] people love to have a very nice, mechanical, well crafted... craftsmanship type of product, which is very much different.

The biggest challenge from the Japanese company perspective might be, how we understand the customer in the US, so we can really reflect that customer insight onto the development of a product, or even sensor technologies, and so on. So without knowing the customer, and just developing technology, it doesn’t make any sense. Knowing the customer is the biggest challenge. It’s very much software driven, compared to other Asian countries. That’s my take.

[Ed. Note: This is very interesting. We've been aware in the past how much the Japanese market is driven by product aesthetics, which include small form factors, and what might even be called "cuteness" in American parlance. Okuda-san articulates the difference in the American market as being about "software". Perhaps another way of expressing that is that the American psyche is more concerned about what a product can do and how it does it, than how it looks and feels when using it. It's not a clear dividing line, of course, because user interfaces have very strong aesthetic elements, and Americans care very much about the feel, fit, and finish of products. It's hard to describe exactly, but having spent some time in Japan, I have a strong sense of just how differently the Japanese view products, compared to Americans. I really can't articulate it, but Okuda-san's explanation resonates with my own experience.]

MT: Sony Corporation as a whole has been through some very trying times over the last few years, and has had to make some tough decisions. DI looks like a huge success story, but it seems that the company’s problems in other areas are having an impact on the digital imaging organization as well.

It of course makes sense that all divisions would be affected: The corporation as a whole has to survive and be healthy. Do you think though, that positive effects from the difficult cost-cutting moves you’ve made over the last year will start to make themselves felt in DI’s ability to take the battle to traditional players more aggressively?

Woah: $4 billion in new capital (that'll buy some bigger factories and more R&D!)

MF: Absolutely. We’re seeing that already. We just announced our quarterly earnings, which were quite positive. We’ve been through some painful decision-making the last couple of years, but we’ve moved through it rather quickly. Now we’re starting to see the benefits -- if you would call it a financial benefit -- of those tough decisions.

The other part of that equation is, we’ve just raised some significant capital, and a new stock offer. So we have $4 billion in capital that we can reinvest, and imaging is one of the core areas -- not the only area, but one of the core areas that we’re investing in. The other piece of information is... Hirai-san, Kaz [Kazuo] Hirai, our worldwide President and CEO, and Ken [Kenichiro] Yoshida, our worldwide CFO, have made it very clear to the executive team globally what each segment of business represents.

So when you’re looking at growth categories, [the strategy is to be] aggressive, go after share, very defined. When you’re looking at profit categories -- imaging being one of those -- very defined. And then repeat sales, so lenses and accessories is a nice ecosystem. And then the third is volatile categories, and that covers smartphones and televisions.

It doesn’t make any one more or less important than the other. It’s just how we, as a leadership team, go to market under that parameter. And I’ve got to tell you, it is not only refreshing to have that clarity, but we are seeing significant financial benefit from it.

[Ed. Note: Wow. Not being a financial types, we don't follow things like stock offerings very closely, so we didn't know about Sony having recently raised $4 billion in new capital. $4 billion is a heck of a lot of capital to be able to invest. And now that Sony's turned around and generating strong operating profits (projected by management at $2.7 billion for FY2016) instead of losses, all that money's available to actually invest, vs being bled away by ongoing losses. It seems a safe bet that we're going to see continued technology advances from Sony over the next few years.]

MT: Oh, that’s great -- So switching gears a bit, the main differentiation between the Sony RX10 II, RX100 IV and their predecessors, is video, and particularly the high speed video capability. Was the decision to go in that direction driven by existing customer demand, with customers asking for higher frame-rate video? Or was it more a matter of seeing that the higher frame rates were possible, and deciding that there would be demand if you built cameras around that capability?

NM: So, it’s an interesting question, which leads to one of the cores of... Where’s the impetus of technology? So I think it comes from... In a general sense, it comes from two places. One is, there’s clearly a voice from the customer saying, "I want this." So 4K is a very good example of that. When we look at the data of existing DSC, and DSLR, and mirrorless interchangeable lens camera customers, we see 4K ranks very highly as a demand, which then leads very clearly into the cameras that we introduce.

High frame rate is an area where it doesn’t show up as high in terms of the voice from the customer, but we see the opportunity. And there’s been many times in our history where there is that imagination, that ability and the conviction to go after that market, right? The Walkman, harking all the way back, is a good example of that. Digital Mavica is another good example of finding that unmet need, that hasn’t been vocalized. So specifically, there’s an element of the sensor technology, and what’s possible, but really the key value in it comes back to connecting back to what’s the benefit for the consumer.

So on the RX100, we talked about a lot of the video functionality. On the Sony A7R II, the technology lends to everything we were talking about upstairs, with the better focusing and the ability for it to now use A-mount glass as if it was native glass. And that's a big benefit, especially for someone that’s already invested in A-mount cameras and their lens technologies. So there’s a huge value there.

MT: Yeah.

MF: And that goes along with the world’s best engineers. I mean, we have phenomenal engineers in this space.

MT: You must have, from the products that you’re turning out! We mentioned 4K just now, and it’s obviously an area that’s factoring very heavily in your thinking, with all three of the cameras that you’ve just launched offering fully in-camera 4K recording. It seems like it’s becoming a must-have feature in still cameras, but it’s our sense that it’s only slowly penetrating US households. What sort of numbers are you seeing for 4K adoption? And looking into your crystal ball, what does that curve look like over the next few years?

MF: It’s crazy good. <Laughter> So I guess, numbers, adoption [is what] you’re looking for, I guess in the television space?

MT: Yeah, exactly.

MF: So what did we see, four times...

TO: This year.

Crazy-fast adoption for 4K TVs (4K is a really big deal)

MF: ...this year. And then up to 17 million in the next two years. Alright. So if you look at televisions, it’s 35 million, give or take, sold every year since I was born. So that’s kind of the number. And the adoption is faster than anything I have seen in my 30 year history. I’ve seen new formats come and go. But the adoption of 4K, and I think because seeing is believing, a good demonstration really shows the customer visibly why they want and need 4K.

There’s nothing more emotional than putting a child’s photo -- or a video of Sally’s first play -- on a 4K monitor, and having parents just melt. So it’s all good. I mean, it’s a good thing. We’re seeing tremendous adoption of the [4K] televisions. We’re seeing tremendous adoption of industries working together, which we’ve never seen before. And HD was just the opposite; you know, that was stalled for five years.

MT: And is that in the US specifically, or is that globally that you’re talking about?

MF: Globally, but the US is one of the top, leading countries of the world, yeah.

TO: Yeah. US is obviously ahead...

MF: Europe is close, right?

MF: US is fastest. And it’s here to stay.

MT: Interesting. It's great to hear that it is taking off. Our sense was that it took a couple of years to get rolling, but now 4K TVs seem everywhere in the stores.

I think that’s all the time we have, but thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions!


IR Summary

This was a lot higher-level and less product/feature-specific than many of our interviews, but as such, it gave some valuable insight into Sony's strategic directions in the imaging market. Here are some things we heard pretty clearly:

  • 4K is huge. This is increasingly clear, but Sony has a lead over most manufacturers in the breadth of their product supporting this. We expect to see 4K video in pretty much every Sony camera going forward. (Panasonic is onboard with this trend as well. Nikon and Canon not so much yet - but stay tuned...)

  • Sony is all about pushing the boundaries of what's possible in compact form factors, and the market has been responding to it. The RX100 line has almost single-handedly revived the enthusiast compact camera market. Others are following suit, but Sony has demonstrated that there's a market for high-end pocket cameras at surprisingly high prices. (The RX100 IV clearly pushes the current limits there; we'll see how the market responds. There's literally no other solution to compete with its ultra-high frame rate video, but not everyone needs that. On the other hand, for people who don't need that, there's a whole line of lower-end RX100s available to meet their needs.)

  • Sony seems to recognize the difference between their domestic and foreign markets. This has been a little while coming; like most manufacturers, their initial mirrorless offerings were aimed at "step up" consumers, timidly moving up from point & shoots; a category that really didn't exist outside Japan. Per Okuda-san's comments, they now seem to understand the differences between the Japanese market and those elsewhere, and we think their current product lines speak to this.

  • It seems that the Sony/Olympus partnership has more to do with the medical imaging market (where Olympus is extremely strong, with their dominant endoscope products) than it is other areas of imaging. We don't think there's much technology transfer between the companies in the area of digital cameras, and so don't expect much cross-fertilization in the camera area between the two.

  • Sony will continue to dominate the sensor market, and Sony cameras will be the first beneficiaries of this. Given how much the sensor business is contributing to both their top- and bottom-lines, it's an easy call to say that sensor production capacity and R&D is going to account for a lot of Sony's capital investment. With roughly $4 billion in newly-raised capital and newly-strong operating profits, we expect to see a lot of investment in this area going forward. Sony's also been doing very well in the camera market, with rising sales in the face of a declining business overall. We expect to see continued strong investment in this area as well; I don't think enthusiasts and pros will find any shortage of new Sony camera models going forward. 

  • This is all very positive, so where are the risks/downsides? Panasonic has some excellent offerings, both in terms of basic camera capability and very strong 4K capabilities, and in fact were out in front of Sony in the latter area initially. Their market share sadly doesn't match the capabilities of their cameras, though. We think they're improving this, but don't see them poised to steal market share from Sony in the near future. The two together may steal share from the traditional manufacturers, but we don't see Panasonic as a threat to Sony's future growth in the camera business.

    Samsung is a formidable foe, especially given their dominance in consumer electronics and strong global position in the smartphone business. They have more than 3x the market share in televisions that Sony does, and can leverage that in their camera business, with bundle deals and connectivity between products. They don't have Sony's market share in cameras yet, but Samsung is a very large and profitable company, with enormous technical resources, and so a formidable opponent; we expect to see increasing rivalry between these two companies in the years ahead, and if anyone poses a threat to Sony in the camera business long-term, it's probably Samsung.

    But don't count out Canon, Nikon and Olympus. All three of those companies have vastly stronger lens lineups than Sony -- Olympus' lineup sharing in and with Panasonic's, through the Four Thirds Alliance -- and this is a critical concern for the enthusiast and pro markets. The millions upon millions of lenses that Canon and Nikon already have out there constitute an enormous gravitational force in the market, pulling people into their sphere, and keeping existing customers loyal. So nothing's a given in the camera business, but Sony seems to have developed a set of successful strategies, and shows no sign of letting up any time soon.

Bottom line, nothing's ever a given in the camera business, and ongoing success is never assured. But Sony seems to have developed a set of successful strategies, has a good understanding of where their strengths lie, and shows no sign of letting up any time soon. Stay tuned; there's never been a better time to be a photographer, and Sony certainly seems poised to do their part in continuing to let the good times roll :-)