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Sony boosts CSCs at the expense of DSLRs

A Sony press release based on a market research study claims that 30 percent of  Australians own DSLR cameras, but the majority haven’t developed their skills to fully exploit their capabilities.

Aren’t customers stupid? To help market its NEX range of mirrorless interchangeables, Sony has a series of YouTube videos depicting people being gormless with DSLRs.

(Photo Counter questions whether Sony’s claim that around seven million out of 22 million Australians own a DSLR is even close to correct, and sought clarification from Sony’s PR consultancy, Hausmann Communications. See Comment below.)

The study, based on a survey of just over 1000 ‘non-professional DSLR users’ by online market research outfit The Digital Edge, stated ‘Australia boasts strong ownership of DSLR cameras, with 30 percent of Australians having purchased one of these professional [sic] cameras’, but almost two-thirds of these DSLR owners use their camera on auto-mode either always or most of the time.

The press release continues: ‘Furthermore, the study shows that one in three DSLR owners don’t know how to use their camera, which may correlate to why so many DSLR users are snapping images purely on auto mode. Three quarters of DSLR users agree that classes, advice or professional guidance is needed to avoid using their camera completely in auto mode.

‘The study also revealed that the main reason 72 percent of Australians bought a DLSR camera was to simply capture family memories and for fun. Sixty-five per cent of young people (18-29) consider the camera a modern status symbol with one in five using their high end camera to capture images purely for blogging and social media sites like Facebook. Overall, the results reveal that owners have the DSLR gear and no idea, or no need to use a camera with this level of complexity.’

– The press release seems to indicate that Sony is swinging its high end consumer camera strategy towards its mirrorless interchangeable NEX range, rather than its DSLR Alphas.

Sony has also launched a series of short, humorous You Tube videos mocking ‘inappropriate’ use of DSLRs, such as using a long lens to take hand-held self-portraits for Facebook. (The latest in the series has pro photographer Gary Heery patronising random DSLR users for having low levels of photographic expertise. Bizarre)

‘A DSLR camera is a high end, professional piece of equipment and in line with the Sony study, we recognise that the majority of everyday users the find these cameras too big and too hard to master,’ said Di Shepherd, marketing manager of Digital Imaging, Sony Australia.

‘Following these results, we want consumers to be aware that there are alternative cameras available for non-professionals who want to take better photos as part of their leisure and social activities.

‘Sony believes the future of creative everyday photography lies with compact system cameras and we are committed to growing this category, with the Sony NEX range. With all the image quality of DSLR in a lightweight and compact body, the NEX camera is straightforward and easy-to-use, offering non-professional photographers DSLR quality without the difficulty,’ said Ms Shepherd.

COMMENT: We found the assertion by Sony that 30 percent of Australians own a DSLR hard to believe. We went back to ask Sony’s PR person, Nick Johnson of Hausmann Communications, whether he was confident in the 30 percent figure, and perhaps share the research data with us to show how the figure was arrived at.

Beyond the claim that one in three of all Australians own a DSLR (and surely Sony, with access to more reliable figures, would be aware that it was dubious) we thought it remarkable that a survey of 1000 DSLR owners could elicit the fact that 70 percent of Australians are not DSLR owners. Wonder how that works? (I asked, but the question was overlooked.)  The response from the PR consultancy was: ‘The figures were provided to us from a professional research company and were verified with them prior to the release being distributed.’

So we asked GfK, which measures sales for the camera industry internationally, if they could help us out with a rough idea of the DSLR ‘installed base’ in Australia. Their best estimate was that 16.3 percent of 14 – 65 year olds owned one or more interchangeable lens cameras, including CSCs.  So if we shave two or three percentage points off for the CSCs, and take into account those many Australians over 65 who probably don’t own DSLRs in as great a proportion, Sony’s assertion of fact is not even half right. And when you are messing with hard data, half right is totally wrong.  

(NOTE: Hausmann Communications has since come back to say that Sony accepts the GfK figure on DSLR ownership.) 

– But why um, shall we say, ‘gild the lily’ when you don’t have to? The key point Sony is making is that compact, lightweight mirrorless interchangeables are more suited for the quality end of amateur photography than DSLRs. That’s important, as it signals that Sony is getting behind its NEX range for consumers, it would seem at the expense of its Alpha DSLRs – which are now defined as ‘professional’ cameras. Retailers would find that useful intelligence, for future shelf weightings if nothing else.

There was absolutely no need to throw rubbery figures into the argument. With hard data on our industry not shared across the industry, the last thing we need is dodgy statistics muddying the waters. 

…And another thing: Is a marketing campaign essentially bagging DSLRs and their users a good thing for the industry? Can’t see it myself.   


  1. Garrett Rooney Garrett Rooney November 23, 2012

    From talking to my customers in-store, many of them would assume that a DSLR is simply a digital camera, they would have no idea what SLR means and just have heard the “Digital” part of the description. I would be interested to see what way the questions were phrased and if the questioners clearly explained the difference between a standard digital camera and a DSLR.

  2. Tim Tim November 24, 2012

    There is a great video clip related to this story and my remarks are related to that: I will just say that we could all mock the low percentage of the DSLR market that Sony hold but we wouldn’t bother, I don’t think we would waste our time.

    Having said that, its a lovely bit of video to send out to people who have bought DSLR’s from us and we hope all of the customers that we have shared it with see the funny side …

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