Strange Days

It seems that we're slowly finding out about just how tight things really are in the supply chains for the camera makers. Sony has already transitioned two bodies to a new rear LCD due to the problem of finding parts. Now Fujifilm has announced that deliveries of the X-S10 and nine lenses are impacted by "delays in parts procurement." 

None of the camera makers is going to be immune from the problem, it seems, and this comes at a time when demand for cameras is increasing again. We're going to have a very tight supply of new gear this summer, it seems.

Meanwhile, new product rumors are all raising eyebrows among those waiting for upcoming gear:

  • Fujifilm won't announce another X model this year. Well, if they can't get parts for a model that should be a best seller, I fully understand that they might not want to launch other X models into the fray. But I actually suspect that Fujifilm has seen delays in the X-Trans V image sensor that will be used in the next camera, and this is the primary driver of the upcoming X-drought. Meanwhile, the GFX50S Mark II will get announced in fall, but it's really just the same 50mp sensor with the GFX100S body changes (which should make it less expensive).
  • Sony's next APS-C camera isn't an A6600 replacement, but rather another in the line of ZV-1 and A7C vlogging-style cameras. Okay, I get it. Sony will then have 1", APS-C, and full frame vlogging-centric cameras. But does the market need that much choice? Moreover, this doesn't really tell us anything about where Sony sees APS-C going as a still photography tool.
  • The likely GH5 II isn't getting a lot of love. We've all seen the full spec sheet on the II model at this point, and it seems much more like a firmware update than a product update. The net result is that the m4/3 crowd is once again wondering whether m4/3 is dying off; will there ever be a new sensor and capabilities offered by either OM Digital Solutions or Panasonic? I think there will be, including a GH6 development announcement soon. Again, parts availability may be pushing everyone's schedule backwards, so don't read too much into missing future models.
  • Smartphones try bigger image sensors again. Sharp teamed up with Leica to produce the Aquos R6, which uses a 20mp 1" sensor—likely the well-known Sony one—along with a Leica designed lens that is 19mm equivalent. That seems odd to me. 19mm is nearly a 90° horizontal angle of view. Hold your arms out in front of you at 90°. Is that the most likely angle of view you want to take smartphone photos with (landscape photographers, notwithstanding)? Probably not. Thus it's likely that portraits and other images will often be "zoomed" (cropped), which of course has an impact on overall image quality and thus doesn't necessarily distinguish the 1" smartphone all that much from some of the smaller image sensor ones. That said, this is another attempted nibble upwards by smartphones, reducing the dedicated camera space that makes sense.
  • Are the Olympics On or Off? And what does it mean if they're On or Off? Hard to believe we're less than 70 days away from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and it isn't clear if or exactly how they'll be held, let alone how many photographers will show up and want to be using CPS, NPS, and SPS loaners and services. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency again. Officially, the government says the Olympics will be held "no matter what." Yet we're seeing uncharacteristic protests in Japan to cancel them, and those seem to be growing. Personally, I think we'll see the Olympics happen. The camera-related question is this: given all the restrictions that are likely to be in place, will we see any promotion from Canon (R3) and Nikon (Z9) centered around prototypes being used by some photographers? It's seeming less likely that there may be a broad loaner program, and more likely that only a few prototypes will be shared most likely with Japanese media organizations. If so, there will be a much more controlled information flow about these upcoming products than if Western agencies get access to them.

Much as the quake/flood impacts of 2011 had a tangible effect on supply of a number of camera products, the pandemic-fueled supply chain disorder of 2021 is doing the same thing this decade. As much as all of us want 2021 to be a "normal year" for photographic products, it's not trending that way. 

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