Sony’s plans for world domination took another step forward yesterday thanks to Panasonic deciding to jump from it’s sinking semi-conductor (camera sensor) making ship. Sony has been making sensors for a large portion of camera manufacturers and, their sensors power millions of smartphone cameras too. For Sony, this is great, but we can’t help but wonder, is Sony’s grip on everything related to cameras becoming just a little bit too tight? Let’s talk about this after the break.
A recent report on Nikkei Asian Review shed some light on Panasonic’s decision to exit the semi-conductor and camera sensor making business. Apparently, Panasonic has been hemorrhaging money in the market that it first entered back in 1952. Back in the 90s, Panasonic was ranked in the top 10 producers of chips by sales, but now they will be selling Panasonic Semiconductor for just $250 million after reporting a loss of $215 million in the last fiscal year. The buyer is a Taiwanese company that supplies the likes of HP, Dell, and Microsoft.
Panasonic, like many other companies out there are feeling the heat from Sony. Sony really came out of nowhere when it purchased Minolta back in 2006. Since then, their camera division has taken off with a force that nobody could have predicted. Sony now makes roughly half of all the sensors that can be found in cameras (both Mirrorless and DSLR), and their sensors are in an estimated 70% of all smartphones. For Sony, this is fantastic. Their camera sensor business is going from strength to strength, but for us as photographers, and for camera manufacturers, Sony being this powerful is a terrible thing. It will cause the whole industry a world of hurt.
The sensors in cameras are what set each manufacturer’s offerings apart from each other. At least, that used to be the case. Now, it doesn’t really matter what camera you buy as most of them have a variant of the same camera sensor in them. Even if say, Nikon, for example, was to make a camera that’s so incredibly good that it becomes the top-selling device and pulls people away from Sony cameras, Sony still wins. Their wallets will get fatter because Nikon uses Sony sensors. Sony is laughing all the way to the bank. As Sony’s grip tightens even more, and as other camera sensor manufacturers go out of business, you may also find that prices increase as Sony will have the market cornered. In the end, we are the ones who will end up paying more for cameras.
A short while ago, there was some noise about Samsung wanting to surpass Sony when it came to making sensors. Samsung was apparently going to be increasing its camera sensor output from 45,000 units per day to over 120,000 per day, which would eclipse Sony, who reportedly pumps out 100,000 camera sensor chips per day. While there was no concrete evidence to suggest that Samsung wanted to get back into making sensors for DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, the competition sure would be welcomed. It would be nice to have another company out there who can shake things up a little, and bring new innovations to the market. What do you think about Panasonic’s decision to sell its semiconductor business? Let us know in the comment section below.