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Canon vs Nikon

canon, nikon, cameraThe competition opposing Nikon’s fans against Canon’s supported is an age-old one, each putting the pros and cons in a sometimes esoteric debate. With the introduction of digital photography in the 90’s and, most importantly, the recent drop in prices, the strife between the two Japanese manufacturers has taken a new and even fiercer turn. In the Middle East though, where mouth-watering prospects are fueled by a well off and IT-savvy potential customer base, Nikon has to battle on a ground where, despite a network of 14 distributors, market leader Canon enjoys a 40 years old enduring direct corporate presence.

New mass market

According to a 2005 study by market research company IDC, unfortunately the latest available figures, the regional market size for both digital cameras reached 930,000 units for a total value of $350 million. Out of this, Digital SLRs (single lens reflex cameras) represented 3.4 percent in 2004 with 7.9 million units. But IDC expects the SLR camera market to reach 7.9 million in 2009, or 9.6 percent of total anticipated shipments, and to eventually drive future growth. Significantly, Canon ME posts a 30 to 40 percent annual growth in the region.

Indeed, business is being boosted at more than one level: the range offer keeps being widened with manufacturers spending big bucks on R&D - Canon invests 30 percent of profits on development of new technologies. The ideal camera is yet to debut: customers want longer battery life, larger color LCDs, sleeker, more compact designs.

Besides, all players - including heavyweights Nikon and Canon - are now coming up with more accessible prices, attractive to masses - first-time buyers, professionals and techies switching from analogue to digital. In fact, whereas SLRs were priced at $2,000 and up, Canon made a huge point by introducing three years ago its middle-end Digital Rebel EOS 300D for $1,000. The trend was set by this major hit; soon enough, Nikon’s D70, also tagged at $1,000, was the firm’s best-selling item.

Specs fights

So, with price ranges roughly similar (even if Nikon remains slightly more expensive than Canon) and reputations both worthy of praise, competition takes place, arm-wrestling style, on technical performance, as shows the display of letters and numbers added to each model’s name. Canon’s Rebel XT EOS 350D (as opposed to the Rebel 300D) was expected to close up the technical gap with Nikon’s D70, but the latter swiftly fought back with an updated D70S and so on. More pictures between charges (600 pictures for the Rebel XT and up to 2,500 for the D70S), longer lasting batteries, enhanced resolution (8 megapixels for the new Canon, 6 megapixels for the D70 and the original Rebel), speed (three shots a second instead of two), faster picture transfer to computers, etc.

While Nikon keeps the upper hand with regards to specs, the Rebel XT hit a soft spot by becoming the smallest DSLR on the market with a body 15 percent smaller and 10 percent lighter than the original, available in either silver or black.

Something to show

When dealing with digital SLRs, options and accessories are obviously a must, if only to get the camera to operate properly and at its full capacity. But beyond technical considerations, loyalty to the brand is a major issue in a field where users become all but fanatical. In that regard, Canon - which has been represented in the Middle East for over 40 years - is in a better position than Nikon to make itself known to future buyers; in 2001, the company transformed its representative office into a full fledged subsidiary and moved to Dubai Internet City in 2002. Two years later, it opened an office in Cairo and in 2005, Canon ME took complete ownership of Canon North Africa, based in Paris. The company now manages 30 countries in both the Arab world and French speaking African countries. This heavy corporate presence allowed the brand to get involved in various regional events - and thus increase awareness - such as sports (it sponsored, among other things, the Africa Cup of Nations 2006), development activities, education, etc. In comparison, Nikon’s actual presence in the region looks nothing but discreet.

The verdict

In his blog, Community Guy, Jake McKee (a Nikon fan) says Nikon could in at a better long term position. The reason? He says it’s because Nikon understands that the line between pro’s and hobbyists is disappearing, whereas Canon still maintains a distinction between the two.

A poll, being conducted by Cnet News .com, asks the question


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