Friday, January 27, 2012

ILC vs DSLR In 2012 Part 1

As we move farther into 2012 the amount of available mirrorless or Interchangeable Lens Compacts (ILC) cameras will continue to grow. The question is, what segment of camera buyers find these most interesting? At first glance it is point and shoot camera owner who want better image quality without buying a DSLR. I think there is a much bigger market than that though. There are questions in my mind about these systems, is the appeal simply due to the light weight and compact size? I've owned a Panasonic GF2 since July last year and I can see the appeal of these cameras, which is why I purchased one. Do I use the GF2 as much as I do my D700, no. Would I if there were more advanced options, yes!

Thom Hogan recently wrote an article on how far digital cameras have come in the last 10 years, and pointed out that camera buyers need to take a closer look at what they really need out of a camera. He directly compared the D100 of 2002 against the Nikon 1 V1 of late 2011. He asked the simple question, which would you choose if you were buying a camera today (via a quick survey)? The vast majority of people answered, the Nikon 1 V1, interestingly enough. So why do respondents today say they would buy an ILC like the V1 over an advanced DSLR like the D100?

I believe the reason people would pick the V1 over the D100 are simple, image quality, resolution, speed of camera operation and throw the addition of having a smaller, lighter camera. Keep in mind Nikon users can use auto focus (AF-I/AF-S) lenses on the V1 through an adaptor, so even though the sensor is smaller than APS-C, you don't have throw away all your Nikkor lenses to make the switch. Remind anyone of the switch to APS-C sensor DSLRs from 35mm film? Now think about this, if cameras like the D100 were mainstay cameras for many pro photographers in 2002-2004, what does that say about capability of cameras like the Nikon 1 system today (the V1 and J1 are better than D100 in many respects)?

If Nikon makes a higher end, 1 series camera I could see myself adopting one. Maybe not as my primary camera, but as a backup, sure. In the future, one can only hope that these ILC cameras continue to get better and perhaps replace DSLRs altogether. That is not a hope I had a few years ago when the first Olympus and Panasonic M4/3s cameras hit the market. What shifted my thinking on the matter? I think having the ability to use one and see the practical value of said systems is what changed my mind more than anything else. Bigger is not always better, ILC cameras will slowly prove that as they become more robust and advanced. Of course the other trend that I hope comes to an end is the battle to make the smallest ILC camera, but that is another topic, for another day.

Read Part 2