The British Journal of Photography reported yesterday that Epson has ceased production of the Epson R-D1, the first digital camera with a mechanical rangefinder. The R-D1, which became a cult camera around the world, has continued to be in good demand, causing the run of camera production to sell out earlier than had been planned.
Some dealers do still have small amounts of stock, and Epson will reserve the last stocks for the Japan market, where the camera will continue to be available until stocks are depleted. Epson did not explicitly say why it isn't considering another run of production.
This is speculation on our part, but how specialty products like this usually work is that a camera company analyzes the potential demand for a product, decides how long it would like its product to remain "in production" or available new, and then a single run of production is carried out. The item is then sold as "NOS" or new old stock, meaning all "new" units come from the stocks from that original run. If the product sells less well than anticipated, it can remain available ("in production") for a long time; or, if it sells better than anticipated and stocks run low, the company has to face the decision about whether to make another run or let the product "go out of production," i.e., become unavailable.
Committment to another run can change the economics of the product, sometimes dramatically. Production realities may have changed; the company now knows much more about profitability and the rates and costs of service and repair; and the market situation may have changed. In the case of the R-D1, for instance, DSLR prices have come down dramatically since its introduction, and it also has gained a direct competitor in the Leica M8. Sometimes, decisions about whether to commit to another run can have to do with things like potential costs for retooling, the availability of a subcontracted part or assembly, or even whether someone within the company or companies involved is advocating for it or not. Also, in projecting future demand, good current demand is not the only determinant.
The R-D1's demise leaves the M8 as the only digital 35mm-style camera with a mechanical rangefinder and manual-focus interchangeable lenses.
Mike (thanks to robinpywell)
Featured Comment by Janne: "The 'British sportscar' analogy is probably spot-on. The long-time actual advantages of a rangefinder camera has been small size and silent operation, and that is frankly well-covered by pocket digicams today, cameras that are far smaller, and completely silent, and with better focus performance than the fiddly, not-too-accurate rangefinder mechanism.
"You get a rangefinder today for the same reason you buy a green car with a Lucas electric system: you're certifiably insane. No, scratch that—you're a fan of the technology itself, more than of the results you can achieve with the device in question. A friend of a friend is a British car enthusiast. He can tell enthusiastic tales of juryrigged radiators and oil leaks emergency plugged with tape and a t-shirt, beaming happily as he describes crawling under some car in pouring rain just to be able to drive it home.
"It is an understandable, laudable enthusiasm. The problem is often that a niche enthusiast market just isn't very big, and it's hard to havbe a product that doesn't really offer anything for consumers outside that market."