I’ve had great experiences with Canon cameras over the years. I’m on my third consumer point-and-shoot so far (PowerShot A80, SD700IS, SD990IS), and in my immediate family we have four more. But as my experience with photography grows, so does my requirement for advanced features. My SD990 is great–it’s got a lot of modes that allow me a great deal of manual control. And they packed all that functionality into an amazingly small form factor.
But it’s still a compact consumer camera, and thus subject to some limitations. The sensor size amounts to 0.43 cm?. Comparatively, the sensor size of the entry-level DSLR Canon Digital Rebel XS is 3.28 cm?, or 7.6 times larger (source). So the DSLR is much more capable of high-ISO shots with low noise. For lenses, there are a wide array of quality options in the DSLR camp (albeit at exorbitant prices). My compact camera…not so much.
But the market is lacking a good transitional camera between compact and DSLR, in particular for those of us who’ve always been shooting digital. Quite simply, I want a compact-style body with a DSLR sensor and quality (but compact) interchangeable lenses. Olympus and Panasonic have finally recognized this market and released the Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, utilizing the Micro Four Thirds standard, but the market leaders–Canon and Nikon–have no comparable offerings.
Maybe the big guys are too stuck in their ways. You know, the big-grip SLR form factor…the moving pentamirror…etc. I don’t need all that.
I’m a solid-state guy, though. Moving parts tend to break, so I want as few of them as possible. So just give me enough components to perform the job I need with no unnecessary complication (okay, maybe a little unnecessary complication, if it’s particularly awesome). Basically, have the light come in and have a straight shot at the sensor. The sensor displays a live view on the LCD on the back, and when you take a picture records a full-quality shot on the card. Simple. None of this bending-light-around-corners, crazy-flipping-mirrors, or secondary-sensors.
Here’s an illustration from http://www.dpreview.com/previews/PanasonicGF1/ that shows how complicated the light path is in a traditional DSLR compared to the compact implementation that I’m picturing and Panasonic/Olympus have released.
So here’s my wish list:
- Body size/style: Compact
- Sensor Size: 4/3″ or greater
- Pixels: 10+ Megapixel
- Autofocus: Fast; approaching traditional DSLR levels. But due to the necessary contrast-based AF, it will probably be a tad slower.
- Flash: Yes, fixed, but nothing fancy. It’s only for emergency use anyway.
- Image Stabilization: In-Body preferred (reduces lens cost), but in-lens if necessary.
- Lens: Good quality lenses available, but also some solid compact options.
- Video: 720p @ 30fps or better
- Live View: Primary; viewfinder as an optional accessory
- LCD: 2.5″ or greater, touch capabilities
- Storage: SD/SDHC
- Price: $500-600 (okay, maybe I’m dreaming here)
I’d like to take a second to elaborate further on my LCD choice. One feature no one’s introduced yet are touchscreen capabilities on a camera. When the screen gets to be about 3.0″, you have enough real-estate to be able to implement this. It wouldn’t replace the buttons–most of them, anyway. But it would allow the ability to have context-specific options and a more fluid interface. For instance, some cameras now allow you to select a part of the frame to focus on. But I’m sure the method of doing so is cumbersome at best. With a touchscreen, you simply touch where you want your focus to be. Gesture support could also simplify many tasks. I think this feature will be coming before long; it may already be in the works.
So there’s my take on the current state of DSLR cameras and why I just can’t justify buying one yet. Panasonic’s DMC-GF1 is very close to what I’m looking for. If it were priced lower, had a less complicated flash, and in-body IS it would be arguably perfect. None of these are necessarily deal-breakers, though, either; I’m going to keep an eye on the GF1.
Canon has a big announcement planned for 9/29/2009, according to Canon Rumors, although there’s a good chance it has nothing to do with cameras. But I’m definitely hoping they’ll soon recognize this market and build me another great camera. (But Nikon, if you’re listening, here’s a great opportunity to break my Canon streak if you beat them to it.)