Twenty years ago, Nikon owned the 35mm professional photography market, and then along came autofocus, followed by digital.
Canon was traditionally the number 2 company.
However with autofocus, Canon made inroads as both companies updated their product lines with new technology.
Then came digital photography, Canon seized the opportunity, and by innovating and marketing more aggressively than Nikon, they seized the number one spot.
They became the camera of choice for most pros by the early 21st century.
Nikon responded hard in late 2007 by launching the D3 and D300 - anyone watching the Beijing Olympics will witness that about half the pros were shooting Nikon, the rest Canon.
Four years earlier in Athens, Nikons were few and far between.
Now it's the second half of 2008, and Canon is firing shots back across Nikons bow.
The new Canon EOS 50D comes in a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than the Nikon D300, yet beats the D300 in the megapixel race (15.
3mp) while claiming a higher maximum ISO (12,800 vs.
The D300 on paper appears to have better AF and faster frame rate, but someone new coming into the market will look long and hard at the cheaper, higher resolution, higher ISO Canon.
A couple of weeks later Canon fired another shot with the full frame EOS 5D Mark II.
Again priced a few hundred dollars less than the Nikon it takes aim at - the D700.
It boasts 21.
1 mp vs.
the Nikons 12.
1 mp, while matching the max ISO of 25,600.
Again, the D700 has a faster frame rate etc.
, but from a marketing perspective Canon now has a very strong platform to go after the serious amateur/prosumer, especially if they are not sports shooters.
However, it gets better.
At the end of August Nikon announced the D90 - the first DSLR with video capture, sporting a full 720p.
The ability to use SLR lenses for video and capture a very shallow depth of field is significant - it's not a feature for everyone, but for some this is huge, and could possible save them tens of thousands of dollars on video equipment.
Less than 3 weeks later, Canon stole Nikons thunder again with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, sporting a full 1080p video capture mode in a prosumer camera (vs.
the more entry level Nikon D90).
Obviously Canon is serious about video too, and appears to have the superior system.
Then there is the 24.
6 megapixel Sony that should start shipping in a few weeks time.
So far Nikon has been pushing back on the megapixel race, making noises about not wanting to slow down workflow, and higher megapixels not being needed.
Higher megapixels also show up problems in lenses, cause diffraction issues and introduce a whole new set of problems.
Very few people actually need more than 12 megapixels, however your average user or beginner does not know this.
They are listening to the marketing people, and comparing bullet points on web sites between cameras to make their purchasing decisions.
From a marketing perspective, Canon now has the upper hand in the serious amateur/semi-pro market.
Nikon has to respond - either with a new set of products, or with an aggressive marketing campaign to educate consumers as to why megapixels don't matter.
As has been proven time and again by numerous companies across multiple industries, launching new products to meet demand is virtually always cheaper and/or more profitable than trying to reeducate the consumer.
These are exciting times in the DSLR world; it took Canon a year to respond to the Nikon D300, and several months to respond to the Nikon D700.
A response from Nikon will come, maybe not this year, but it has to come.