Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mirrorless Camera updates for 2011

Over the past 7 days a number of new mirrorless cameras have been released by Sony and Panasonic, which are squarely targeted at consumers. Olympus is due to release a number of new models before the end of June as well. How do we know that these cameras are targeted at consumers? Each of these cameras have limited external controls over what can be considered, photography centric features. There are no dials to change shutter speed or aperture and no dedicated ISO controls for example. In the case of the GF3 many of the features are manipulated by a touch screen. That sounds great, until you are in bright sunlight trying to change settings!

The Sony NEX-C3 is basically a NEX-3 with a 16MP APS-C sensor in a trimmed down body, while the Panasonic GF3 is another 12MP m4/3s camera, which is dumbed down GF2, which is a dumbed down GF1. This time Panasonic cut out the external socket for a flash and other accessories and made the body a even smaller. Both the NEX-C3 and GF3 have small bodies with simple controls, that will appeal to compact camera users. Sony, Panasonic, and to a lesser degree Olympus, realize that compact cameras are starting to fade due to the quality of cameras that are in modern cell phones. That means that at some point in the near future, dedicated point and shoot cameras will fade into history. With that in mind these camera makers want to design and build cameras that still appeal to people who don't care about photographic centric features, but want better image quality than a cell phone camera can provide, thus the NEX-C3, GF2/GF3 and EP-L1/EP-L2.

What do these cameras mean for photography enthusiasts? Not much from my point of view, unless you want a compact camera with interchangeable lenses rather than a high end point and shoot like the P7000, G12 or LX5. The issue I've always had, and still do, with the m4/3s and NEX cameras is that no matter how small they make the camera bodies, they cannot make the lenses much smaller. In my mind that defeats the entire purpose of such a camera system! Why would I want to have a DSLR with one set of lenses and then have a compact interchangeable lens camera? Two sets of lenses, how does that save space in my camera bag? To me the whole idea of a compact camera is that it does not need a bunch of extra stuff, like lenses, to take up extra space.

If you don't have a DSLR you don't need to worry about managing two system, in which case one of these cameras might be a good choice. I'd hold out for mirrorless cameras with more advanced features, but there is no way of knowing if or when they will hit the market. Maybe Nikon or Canon will be the first to release just such a camera? I hope so!