Deep in the Discounts

As usual in the post-Photokina time, new product announcements have tapered off a bit, but there also still seems to be a fairly large backlog of previous generation cameras still lingering. To wit:

  • Nikon V1 with kit lens: US$499.
  • Nikon J1 with kit lens: US$397.
  • Nikon J2 with kit lens: US$499.
  • Olympus E-PL3 with kit lens: US$399.
  • Olympus E-PM1 with kit lens: US$299.
  • Panasonic GF3 with kit lens: US$350.
  • Sony NEX-5N with kit lens: US$470.

Some of these deals are starting to get more rare (V1 and GF3 in particular), indicating that inventories may just about be depleted. My advice would be not to delay picking up one of these cameras if you're on the fence. The fence may disappear out from under you shortly (though I should point out that on the used market that excellent quality versions of these cameras go for even less).

Consider this, though: every one of these cameras is more competent in image quality than the compact cameras we were paying US$400 to US$500 for just a couple of years ago. Every one. I was one of the first to switch from using a compact camera in my pocket every day to a mirrorless, though I vacillate back and forth today (these days the carry-everywhere camera is either the Sony RX-100 compact or sometimes the Panasonic GF5 with collapsing 14-42mm mirrorless). 

Each of the cameras up above is in the "carry almost always" category in terms of size, especially if you don't mind paying a little extra for the right lens to keep it as compact as possible. Yet many of them do things you can't do on most compacts (e.g. focus performance on the Nikon 1 models, high ISO performance on that NEX-5N). This is what made me move from the small-sensor compacts in the first place: I could get clearly better performance without paying a huge size/weight penalty. 

So why write about past generation models? Partly because I think the camera companies are now trying to stage their inventories a little better. I think the long-hanging overlap of different model generations is going to become smaller and tighter as we move forward. You can see that with Panasonic right now: they've been aggressively pushing the GF5 and GX1 prior to announcing any follow-on models, and those models seem a bit later than we originally expected. We're going to see more of this in the future for several reasons: (1) you end up competing with yourself; (2) the camera companies overestimated sales and ended up with inventory they didn't expect to have, so now they're starting to scale that back; and (3) with the yen in decline, you definitely don't want to build cameras costed in today's yen and sell them next year at a depreciated yen value. 

That's not to say we won't still see discounting and instant rebates and sales and even older model discounts. It's just that the plethora of super deals we've been seeing on older generation mirrorless cameras are going to become less common in the future. 

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