Naughty or Nice, Merry or Lump of Coal?

I'm still trying to figure out what the upcoming holiday shopping season is going to look like for photographers. The pandemic-influenced supply chain and shipping problems has every company, big and small, scrambling to get organized.

Let's start with one thing that's going to cause some clear frustration: new cameras. Sony launched the A7 Mark IV today, and it should be a very popular camera. But it won't be available until December, and there's already backchannel whispering that it will be in short supply, at that. Meanwhile, Nikon is about to launch the Z9, and I don't have to go very far out on a limb to say that when it ships in the last week of November, it will be a sell-out. In fact, I think I'm still just hugging the trunk of the tree saying that, and not even on a limb at all ;~).

Plenty of other recently introduced cameras—Canon R3, Fujifilm GFX100s, Sony A1, etc.—are also in exceedingly short supply and will be difficult to obtain before the end of the year. 

For those that have to have the latest and greatest, this will not be a merry holiday, methinks. You'll be scrambling to get that shiny new tool if you don't already have your order placed with a dealer that has strong fulfillment capability. 

But I've been watching the more mainstream products that have been out for awhile slipping in and out of inventory almost constantly. Demand for cameras is the highest it's been since 2018, it seems, and the scramble at the manufacturers to keep up has gotten so intense that some have now resorted to shipping via air freight. 

It's not just cameras that are going through this: lenses, flashes, accessories, and pretty much everything. Nikon just announced in Japan that it won't take any more orders for the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR lens or SB-5000, for instance, because they can't supply them at the moment. 

I'd tend to say "well, just concentrate on updating and enhancing your computer system," but there, too, the answer is "supply limited, more on the way." 

I suspect that we're going to see three types of products being promoted by the camera makers this holiday season: (1) refurbished; (2) older generation, lingering inventory; and (3) bundles. I also expect to see that anything that looks like it isn't completely selling through will go on sale, too. This may be a very micro-managed process, where deals come and go very quickly. So I wouldn't wait if something comes on your radar that you want at a price that is better than usual. That might be a very ephemeral sale.

Aside: We really can't afford to lose any more camera dealers. But camera dealers are going to be really stressed this holiday season given the supply constraints. I strongly encourage supporting your local dealer as much as you can. Yes, I know that the big online sources are convenient, and I use them a lot myself, but companies like Amazon and B&H aren't going to go away if they have a difficult time fulfilling pent-up demand in the next few months. Your local dealer might. So drop on by and see if there's something they're selling that you just might want or need. Another possibility: if you know you want Camera X in December and your local dealer doesn't have one in stock today, go ahead and order it from them now. Dealers will be getting refreshed supply several times in the coming two months, but it's going to be first-come, first served for what they do get. 

I'll have some suggestions soon on things to buy to keep you happy this year end, but they're likely to be a little oddball and definitely aren't likely to be out-of-stock cameras and lenses ;~).

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