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It’s a Free-For-All in the Mirrorless Arena

With rumors of a Sony RX1 24-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera about to be announced, it’s just one more point of evidence that the ALLVIEW market is exploding with ferocious competition.

Which means an acceleration in the decline of the DSLR, see The Future of Non-DSLR and DSLR Cameras.

Consider just a few of the relatively new entrants, each offering some compelling features, none totally right, but all converging on something better:

  • Olympus OMD E-M5 (Micro Four Thirds, 16 megapixels, interchangeable lenses).
  • Sony RX100 ultra-compact (13.2 x 8.8mm sensor, 20 megapixels).
  • Fujifiml X-E1 (APS-C 16 megapixels, interchangeable lenses)
  • Sony RX1 rumor (full frame 24 megapixels).
  • Canon EOS M (APS-C 18 megapixels, interchangeable lenses).
  • Nikon 1 (10 megapixels 13.2 X 8.8mm sensor, interchangeable lenses, yawn).
  • Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill (14.3 X 3 megapixels true color sensor, fixed lens).

My extensive review of the Olympus E-M5 and review of the Sony RX100 is already in ALLVIEW, with the Sigma DP1 and Fujifilm X-E1 to come. I don’t plan on reviewing the Nikon 1, and I’m on the fence about the Canon EOS M; both are “me too” products offering nothing compelling.

What makes sense

I see the market moving along two very sensible paths:

  • Very compact and very high resolution point and shoot cameras with image quality from a decent size sensor that blows the socks off the miserable quality seen with today’s point-and-shoot cameras (Sony RX100 genre).
  • Compact to medium size mirrorless cameras with Micro Four Thirds, APS-C and full-frame sensors with image quality rivalling that of the best DSLRs (Olympus E-M5, Fuji X-* series, more to come).

I don’t see a place for tiny sensor Nikon 1 type systems.

In general, unless the camera is tiny, lack of an EVF is a big strike against a camera, especially for an aging baby-boomer audience. A top of camera add-on wart is just plain bad design (excepting specialized purposes, such as a low view angle for macro, etc).

Many of the offerings won’t be cameras at all, but shiny toys that do take pictures but are not made for photographers, Frankenstein amalgams of stills and video with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram crap features included. There will be 100 models to choose from of such conceptual failures, and 1 or 2 winners in each area (Full-frame and APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, ultra compact).

The “me too” market

I can't get excited about some of these “me too” cameras: the Nikon 1 for example.

With a Micro Four Thirds sensor barely big enough for future growth for high quality imagery, its sensor is nonetheless nearly twice the size of the Nikon 1— in my view, the Nikon 1 is a boring camera that will fail unless Nikon wraps that sensor in a truly compelling Sony RX100 style kit. And probably still fail; Nikon is not innovating any more, just plodding along with the same blinders on (36 megapixels is nice, but does not count as innovation especially with mangled Live View and no EVF—Sony will get there first). Canon has the same ingrained inertia as Nikon. Both will have their lunch eaten by Sony is my prediction.

Reasonable people can disagree here, but an interchangeable lens camera with a thumbnail size sensor is a non-starter for me. And the Nikon 1 has generated exactly zero (0) emails to me expressing interest— that ought to tell you something. Cameras are tools, and when one combines size/weight/image quality, the Sony RX100 is a winner because of its total design. The Nikon 1 is a loser for the same reasons.

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