Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nikon P7000 Now Shipping, and Premium Compact Cameras

    There are a lot of things I want to cover in the next few weeks, including more images and discussion on my recent trip (tomorrow), and talk about new cameras, particularly one that I will be getting and reviewing. I wont keep you in suspense, the camera I'll be working with is the Nikon P7000, which is the kind of camera that I have been hoping Nikon would release for some time.

    Today many Canadian dealers, at least in eastern Canada, started shipping the Nikon P7000. Sadly the dealer in Western Canada that I placed my order with is still waiting for shipments of the P7000 to arrive, so I'll have to wait a little longer. Given previous track records they tend to get shipments within a week of the bigger eastern dealers. So with that being the case, I'm hoping to have it in my hands within the next week or so. Once I do have it, I'll give a quick hands on preview and start the review process.

    Now onto discussion about premium compact cameras. The Canon G series has been the kind of point and shoot camera that I have wanted for some time, but the Canon G11 has been in the $525+ range here in Canada for a while, until it was discontinued, when the price fell to around $489, making them somewhat unattractive price wise. The G12 is no better, being priced at around $550, while the Nikon P7000 on the other hand is being sold for around $474.99 at most dealers. That puts the P7000 into a far more comfortable price range from my perspective. That's not all I have to say on the subject though, because there is more to this discussion than P7000 vs the G12.

    I already talked about the spec differences between the Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 before, so I wont be talking about that today. In my original post about the Nikon P7000, Panasonic LX-5 and the Canon G12 I made a comment about the price of these premium compacts vs the micro 4/3 cameras and the mirrorless APS-C sensor equipped cameras. Part of the reason I noted the price difference was the inevitable lowering of price among those interchangeable lens compacts as they become more prevalent. As noted in my last post on Photokina 2010 many companies, other than Nikon and Canon, are starting to make such cameras. So the question is, how much longer will there be a place for premium compact cameras? That is a loaded question, because in many ways they target different buyers.

    Cameras like the P7000, G12 and LX-5 are more appealing to consumers who want a powerful compact camera, but don't want to get into the game of needing a bag to move all their lenses and accessories around. This I believe is the largest group of people who will be buying the mentioned cameras. These are people who may love photography, but do not wish to be bogged down by having a large camera and lens to drag around all day. Although the mirrorless cameras have somewhat addressed the issue of camera size, they still are somewhat bulky, and not pocketable by any means of the imagination.

The mirrorless cameras themselves are smallish, but as soon as you want something more than a pancake fixed focal length lens most of the size advantages of removing the mirror are gone. A 200mm or longer lens on a mirrorless camera is still large and bulky, but the 140mm and 200mm lenses of cameras like the G12 and P7000 take up no additional space. One could argue that the lenses for the mirrorless cameras are faster aperture wise, but just isn't the case. The G12 is F4.5 at 140mm and the P7000 is F5.6 at 200mm, which is equal or better than the long zooms for current mirrorless cameras. With that in mind, I think you can start to see the picture of why premium compacts still have a place in the market.

    The second group that is attracted to the likes of premium compacts are DSLR users, like myself, who want something smaller, without a bunch of lenses to worry about, but still have something that offers the control of a higher end DSLRs. These cameras do offer fast lenses, at least on the wide angel end of the zoom range, and as a result these cameras do offer decent image quality in lowish light. Not to mention that the ISO performance of cameras like the P7000 and G12 that have 1/1.7" senors aren't that bad anymore. Some previews show that the image quality is in line with 10MP DSLR sensors from cameras like the Nikon D60 and D3000. Although that image performance is not top of the line, it is very good for a compact camera, and not far behind the current micro 4/3s cameras either.

    The micro 4/3s and APS-C sensor equipped mirrorless cameras are aimed more to take over the place that was once, and is still mostly held by entry level DSLRs. People who want more than what a compact can offer, namely higher end optics and better high ISO performance, but without the weight and bulk of a DSLR. This is clearly a growing market as we see strong sales of cameras like the Olympus E-LP1, Panasonic GF1 and Sony NEX cameras. The question is, will this growing market remove the need for premium compacts? I doubt that, because as I said, I think the cameras target different buyers, but it may push the price of said premium compacts down. To me that wouldn't be a bad thing, as it would be nice to see premium compacts priced around $399 or $450, rather than $499 and $550.