Photography lesson

Camera makers need to learn this important lesson

I’ve always been fascinated by how little hype the photo world can produce, and camera makers still don’t seem to understand its value. Not so long ago, we saw the watch world turn into chaos with the Omega x Swatch collaboration. For years it made me wonder why the photo world couldn’t create so much hype. Apple can do it, and many other brands can too. But for some strange reason, the camera world just doesn’t understand that it can produce affordable luxury that everyone will flock to.

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If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a story. Swatch, owner of Omega, has created a collaborative product to make an Omega Speedmaster for less than $300. The Speedmaster is available in a variety of colors and meets most people’s needs. Sure, it’s not a $5,000 Omega Speedmaster, but it’s pretty close. For this price, it’s a real bargain. Then, Swatch only made a few pieces available in its stores. The lines around the world were crazy. In the Middle East, the line was incredibly long. London had to close its event, and the events in New York and Toronto were crazy. In the watch world, this has created insane hype for a product that everyone wants.

But camera makers have often failed to get that kind of press. I understand why. Watch brands have many of their own stores. Now, let’s analyze this for NYC:

  • Leica: two stores (one coming soon)
  • Canon: No stores
  • Nikon: no stores
  • Sony: a store
  • Fujifilm: No stores, but they had the Fujifilm Wonder Shop
  • Ricoh: Not really a store
  • OM-System: no stores
  • Panasonic: No stores
  • Hasselblad: They call DJI their “strategic partner”.

If you look at this list, the only manufacturer that could pull this off would be Leica. Leica could do one of the following:

  • Bring back the Leica M6 at an incredibly affordable price to undermine the second-hand market
  • Bring back the 35mm f2.4 at an incredibly low price
  • Fit a full-frame sensor into the body of a Leica XE and significantly reduce the price
  • Bring back a Leica film point and shoot at an incredibly affordable price to undercut the second-hand market

Of course, Sony could do something similar that would only be available in their store. Otherwise, they could tell NY Photo retailers to only make the product available in-store. Queues outside would generate insane hype, would be flagged by all outlets, etc.

But the photo industry and camera makers don’t get it. People were lining up to buy this product and then trying to return it online for more money. More importantly, Leica could do it and be an absolute killer for a long time.

Camera makers, read the room. Cameras are not essential parts of our lives; they are luxury goods for most of us. Professional photographers are a small niche of camera buyers. Many of us care about high-end products, to say that consumers don’t care about compact cameras and low-priced products is foolish. People will flock if manufacturers make them available, give users what they want, and build hype. Consumers would create a lot of their own hype and love. And social media influencers and the press would eat it.