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I wonder if the unit volume will be down on the version II's. You may well be correct that there will be fewer professional outfits upgrading to the version II than in 1999. But might that be compensated for by the greater number of amateur wildlife and sports enthusiasts that are willing to spring $13K? Digital has attracted a big amateur following. For example Hasselblad told me that half of their market is now amateurs and these are very expensive kits. So maybe there are a lot more amateurs buying these $13K lenses than in 1999. Plus there is the...Show more →
Back in 2007ish, when a 500 IS could be had for around $5500, it seemed every third thread here was about the 500... and there were a ton of them on the B&S (I haven't checked recently to see if that's still the case). It was definitely the 'entry level' big white for anyone wishing to do BIF and wildlife. Considering that wages for the average person likely have been flat since 2007, it's quite the jump to consider spending nearly double now for effectively the same lens. I think as tests are showing, there are subtle image quality improvements, but they're not dramatic (with exception of weight reduction for the 400 and 600). And it's the weight reduction very frequently sited as an upgrade motivator. But if IQ is nearly identical, I suspect many are finding it difficult to justify the added cost compared to only a few years ago.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a major percentage of high end photo sales are to amateurs. There are many, many more people making photos now than ever, so it's inevitable that more are also working at higher levels where interest in big whites would be logical and a greater number in the upper enthusiast tier (than a decade ago) have considerable disposable income. But I suspect a major percentage are not in the position to arbitrarily spend 10K on a lens, especially when used IS v.I copies can be found at much better prices.
My primary working reference is from involvement in the sports and news industries. While photos from the Olympics will show scads of v.II super whites, one doesn't know how many of those are loaners. Also, the photographers covering such an event are the very elite of the industry and are still well supported by their employers with cutting edge equipment. My direct news experience is a 100K circulation Nikon based newspaper. The most recent round of equipment 'upgrades' were replacement second bodies - D7000 bodies to be exact. Primary bodies are aging D300s. Some still use D2Xs. The probability of D4 upgrades is -100%. A couple photographers are unhappy about this and are considering out of pocket used D3s purchases. If and when the pool 400 2.8 AF-S non-VR becomes unserviceable, I highly doubt it will be replaced, in part because no one in upper level decision making positions controlling the budget understands why one should spend $10K on a single lens (or $6K on a camera). Couple high MP APS-C sensors with a 70-200 with a 1.4x TC, and one can effectively cover a lot of news, including sports. In fact, I think this is even more of a reason the big whites will become less popular. As smaller, very high density sensors come online, such as the 20MP 1" in the Sony RX100, much more compact lenses can be used for similar reach (though of course DOF will be different). Actually, this was one justification used by Canon for retaining APS-H in the 1DIV. If Canon made a 1D-like 'affordable' body around such a 1" or m43 sensor, I think many would be all over it. I would be for the practicality, even though it doesn't appeal to the romance the on-paper specs from FF sensor, bokeh, etc. From wandering the sidelines of NFL games over the past decade, there is a pretty broad range of equipment on display. A lot of it is pretty old, especially in smaller markets and with freelance photographers. If it met clients' needs 5 years ago, the standards haven't changed and rates have been flat, then why spend more money on something that won't generate additional revenue? It's a pretty logical business decision.
That's primarily why I think demand for the new lenses will be softer than the previous generation, especially on the pro end. It's very likely Canon and other manufacturers will increasingly rely on less price sensitive enthusiasts with deep pockets willing to buy the best possible.
BTW, the inflation calculator I used showed that the $7500 1999 price would equal about $10500 now. I'm sure there are a multitude of other factors driving Canon to set the price at $13K instead.
Sorry for the long, tangental post, but I find this to be an interesting topic.