Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Sony full frame lens strategy - Part 2

In my previous blog post on the Sony lens strategy for its full frame A mount I took a long time to say that I reckon its simple, to have a minimum number of lenses, almost all 'premium' glass, nothin mid range, one entry level kit lens and a few mandatory specialist lenses - ie macro and a fisheye. I postulated a possible, final, lens line-up that resulted in somewhere between 15 and 21 full frame lenses for the A mount ws likely. Go back and look at that entry for more detail if you care enough.

So now this questions are, why would Sony do this and should we be concerned?

First the why. Actually I reckon this is pretty easy - money. Sony is an electronics house, either it makes no optics or at best very few. I now suspect that EVERY Sony DSLR and mirrorless lens is 'bought in' from an OEM. This places a pretty hard (and probably quite low) ceiling upon how much Sony might make from selling lenses but leaves them with all the hassles of maintaining inventories, quality control, distribution, etc. Therefore Sony is probably thinking the following:
  • Sony must have a kit lens to sell its cameras so thats unavoidable
  • to sell cameras (especially full frame) Sony needs to ensure that there is a minimum range of glass for the more demanding (either for technical or other reason) users. The only way of ensuring this is available and of sufficient quality is distribute it yourself under your brand.
  • everything else can be left to OEMs (ie Sigma, Tamron, Tokina etc) to deal with directly. In fact, Sony might actually make more licencing the details of the A mount to these OEMs than paying them for lenses to rebrand and on sell.
Secondly, should we be concerned? Frankly no, in fact, given the advent of the E mount, I think A mount users may be delighted. This is my thinking:
  • in reality the lenses provided by OEMs easily meet the quality and range needs for 95% of mid level and entry level users (and probably 85% of advanced users). And
  • in reality the lenses that might have been Sony branded would have come from OEMs anyway.
Ok, but why should A mount users actually be happy with this arrangement? Because it makes maintaining the A mount and the E mount easy, it means that Sony can keep an A mount going with little corporate investment. A mount users might complain that they arent being shown much love, and thats true, but at least their mount continues to live, might I say, live with a very nice range of premium glass.

Many current Sony users are angry with Sony over how they've treated the A mount and by extension them. I can understand that however, I'd point out three things:

Sony isnt a charity, its job is to make money, a job it hasnt really been doing very well lately so I understand their desire to start doing better there

Right now a Sony user can buy a full frame A99 and APS-C A77 that can go toe to toe with just about anything else in the market (not saying they are the best but they are certainly competitive) and premium glass required to bet the best out of those cameras and A mount users are a whole lot better off than they were back in 2005/6 when the mount was dying under Minolta's management.

So all in all perhaps all the doom and gloom is a little over blown.