A long way to go, can China take over the future of camera manufacturing?
After the Second World War, if you were a professional photographer, then you would prefer the cameras of European brands such as Hasselblad or Leica. These two brands were basically the standard equipment of that era. Compared with large format cameras, they are smaller and lighter, and of course they are more expensive than other brands.
For many people who want to contact photography, the price is still Is one of the most obstructive factors. For most people, the price of a camera such as Leica is unacceptable. This means that if a company can produce cameras at a lower price, it has more room for competition. The answer after World War II came from several “less well-known” companies in Japan at the time-Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, etc.
Japan changed the camera industry
We may find it a bit weird now, but in the postwar period, Japanese-made cameras were once considered inferior. Today’s industry-leading companies like Canon only produced imitation Leica cameras at the time. Back then, if you couldn’t afford a “decent” camera produced in Europe, you could only buy a cheap Japanese-made camera.
After companies like Canon started to produce their own cameras, they saw real success. Since Leica produced the M3 in 1954, Canon no longer produces imitation Leica. In 1956, Canon produced the first rangefinder camera prototype-Canon VT, which was recognized as a brand new start for Canon.
next to Canon VT Axis camera
As we can see now, although European camera companies like Leica and Hasselblad have a place in the photography industry, their status is far less brilliant than they were decades ago. Even in terms of revenue, Canon or Sony’s revenue far exceeds that of most European camera manufacturers. At the moment, Leica or Hasselblad may be more of a status symbol. A wider range of professionals and enthusiasts generally use Japanese cameras, which to a large extent provide richer functions at lower prices. Made in Japan has indeed changed the entire industry. Even the competition within the industry mainly comes from other Japanese brands. In essence, few other countries in the camera industry can compete on the same level as Japan.
Finally, and most importantly, the “negative reputation” that Japanese brands once held has long since faded. Almost no one will hesitate to buy a Japanese brand camera because of quality problems. Most people will not even consider this issue. They buy cameras based on the reputation and usage habits of different brands.
Industry transforming to China
Previously, Fuji had decided to produce high-end series of cameras in China, which was a considerable step forward. Fuji X-T3 is Fuji’s first high-end model camera produced in China, and the price also reflects this. For some time, the actual cost of the old X-T2 was even higher than that of the X-T3. Therefore, Chinese manufacturing has a huge advantage, mainly because of cost, which is enough to put competitors into trouble. The transfer of camera manufacturing to China may be inevitable.
Fuji X- T3 is a high-end product produced in China
The rise of Chinese brands
In the past few decades, we have seen a huge increase in Chinese-made products. Of course, we have to admit that many of these brands and products have imitated foreign brands. Therefore, products made in China often bear the negative stigma of being cheap and inferior. This is exactly similar to what people once thought of Japanese-made products.
Companies such as Laowa are good examples of Chinese brands developing high-quality products, and the products they bring are also very personal and interesting. So far, the most famous product of Laowa is the 24mmf/14 ecological macro lens, which has surprised the world. There are many domestic brands like Laowa. Of course, they also seem to understand that it is difficult for their products to directly compete with Japanese-made products. Perhaps it is only a matter of time.
old frog 24mmf /14 Eco-macro lens
What we can see is that the traditional photography industry is slowly being occupied by smart phones and other portable shooting equipment, and the camera market is gradually shrinking. But if we study market trends carefully, you will find that more and more photographers are pursuing the fun, creativity and uniqueness of photography. Therefore, another company that reminds me is DJI. DJI has developed at an astonishing speed and has become the world’s leading drone brand. No other company can achieve this speed of development. The entire drone and stabilizer industry is dominated by Chinese companies, and there is no comparable competitor anywhere else in the world.
Dajiangyi Develop at an amazing speed and become the world’s leading drone brand
High-end camera made in China?
Japanese companies like Nikon started out as optical manufacturing, although they also produced replicas of Leica cameras; of course, Nikon eventually produced its own cameras and rose to the top of the industry. But digital cameras are different from film cameras decades ago. Japan’s surpassing started with autofocus, when electronic cameras were popular. The Japanese company changed the manufacturing method and greatly reduced the cost. They also transformed complex photography techniques into simple camera operations.
As smart phones have replaced the low-cost photography market. The complexity of high-end digital cameras requires the integration of multiple disciplines, as well as high-precision mechanical design and manufacturing. More importantly, the manufacture of sensors is almost monopolized by Japan. The lack of these basic industrial capabilities means that it is difficult to create digital cameras that can meet market expectations. Therefore, China still cannot replace Japan in the field of digital cameras in the short term.
However, it is feasible for Chinese companies to gain a foothold through mergers and acquisitions. In the current severe camera industry environment, brands that are not performing well may become potential acquisition targets for China. For example, DJI became the largest shareholder of Hasselblad after completing the acquisition of the majority of Hasselblad, which is a good example. For SLR cameras and mirrorless cameras, it may be difficult for us to see new brands appear out of thin air. The main reason is the relationship between profit margin and cost. Just as Coca-Cola and Pepsi have monopolized the carbonated beverage industry with a very low gross profit margin, it is difficult for other brands to have effective price competitiveness.
has to admit that the difference in manufacturing costs is very real, which may give Chinese companies a huge advantage over competitors. Perhaps in the next ten years, we may see some eye-catching acquisitions or cooperation, which will consolidate China’s influence in the camera industry.
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