Here's the last few paragraphs of an interesting essay on the future of
digital cameras -- he describes the camera I'm waiting for...
The E-P1 and GF1 represent the first nail in the DSLR coffin. They clearly show that you can make a smaller, more convenient camera
with very few trade-offs, especially around quality. The cameras lack optical viewfinders (OVF), and some analysts believe that the
photo enthusiast would never be willing to forgo these, but this is a fallacy. Most new DSLR customers have been shooting for years
with digital point-and-shoots that don't have optical viewfinders, or at least not ones that were of much value. They're used to
shooting this way and can compose beautiful shots on an LCD. Just wander around Flickr to see thousands of photos that prove this point.
Canon and Nikon dwarf Olympus and Panasonic, so they have some time to react, but they clearly need to. The problem is that a new
mirrorless system requires a new line of lenses to provide the true benefits of the downscaled format, but both companies already
have two existing lines of lenses--one for their pro-level, full-frame sensored cameras and one for the consumer DSLRs cameras with
APS-sized sensors. Having a third line of lenses may be too much, so there's a fair chance we'll see the Big Two go in a different
Instead of focusing on another interchangeable lens format, the companies may release truly compact cameras with built-in zoom
lenses much like those in their existing PowerShot and Coolpix lines, but with large consumer-level DSLR sensors. This makes sense,
because ultimately, this is what consumers want--as they showed in the film days. Most digital camera sales still tend towards
compact units; as nice as the Micro Four Thirds cameras are, they don't slip into your pocket. You need to make a conscious decision
to carry them around.
Two small camera manufacturers--Sigma, primarily known for its after-market lenses, and Leica, known for its very pricey premium
cameras--were first out of the gate with all-in-one big-sensor cameras, the Sigma DP1 and DP2 and Leica X1. All unfortunately use
fixed-focal-length (non-zoom) lenses, which limit their appeal (as will the Leica's $2,000 price tag). Until these cameras can
incorporate zooms, they'll be limited to a very small enthusiast market.
But once they do (and my guess is that this will happen in mid-2010), watch out. Consumer-level DSLRs won't go away; they didn't in
the film days, and they won't now. But they'll become marginalized as more and more people turn toward more convenient alternatives.
History has a way of repeating itself.
Post by Ben Z. Gottesman