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Where Go We With Digital?

Increasingly I see digital trifurcating into three distinct areas:

  • High-megapixel DSLRs (Nikon D800/D800E, Canon in the works presumably).
  • Compact and relatively lightweight high quality compact cameras (Sony RX100, Sony RX1, Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill, Olympus OM-D E-M5, etc).
  • Camera phones and iPads and the like, which surely will someday deliver image quality and usability that might actually work. Currently, they all suck as cameras, but are certainly fun toys which can be pressed into usable service under some conditions (but my failure rate with iPhone is 95%, so I gave up on it).

What is the point of Nikon DX or Canon EF-S? The ergonomic factors are shopworn and tired without the full-frame benefits, they are not fun to use, and the image quality is only marginally better than the best compact cameras, and perhaps worse in some cases, particularly when cameras like the Sony RX1 ship (soon).

What’s really going on is a trend to the best combinations of high image quality and best ergonomics and ease of use. The three categories above dovetail into that trend, and it’s why Nikon DX and Canon EF-S will die— they excel in neither area.

I’d much rather carry a Sigma DP1 Merrill or Sony RX100 than a bulky cropped-frame DSLR with its porthole of a viewfinder. And I bet so too would 99% of generic buyers out there, if only they understood the options. Which is not to say there are not exceptions (gotta shoot the kids at soccer with an f/3.5 - f/5.6 superzoom, surely). And this is not a commentary on where things stood one or two years ago, but rather what is coming.

There are really only two form factors that make sense to me: suck it up and carry the full-frame DSLR with the very best of the bulky and heavy lenses, or get the best darn compact you can find, and have it handy all the time (Sony RX100, Sony RX1, the Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill would quality with some svelting-up design changes to the body). Since a camera not taken does not make any images.

Marketing bozos and inertia will guarantee Nikon DX and Canon EF-S sales for a long time. But they are stone cold dead as viable form factors— boring ergonomic design failures that do nothing well, compromised designs driven by a failure of imagination. As for cropped-frame Pentax and the like: give it up or do something interesting already.

Probably goring someone’s sacred cow here (I hope so), and I don’t have a crystal ball— technology does have its surprises. But it’s very interesting to me how many readers have written with the “dumped my bulky DSLR” story. This trend will accelerate because the simple fact is that cameras like the Sony RX100 and the Sigma DP1/DP2 Merrill and Olympus OM-D E-M5 (which are only the first shot across the bow to Nikon and Canon) can make a darn good 16 X 24 print, which is way more than 99% of users need. The Sony RX1 with its full-frame sensor is expensive, but will be tremendously appealing for its form factor to quality ratio. Nikon and Canon are sleeping giants who might get whittled down to size if they don’t wake up and produce something a lot better than the boring footnote cameras like Nikon J1/J2 and Canon M, which are recycled and rehashed inside-the-box me-too ideas.

Leon B writes:

Must be honest Lloyd, your comments regarding DX is kinda just your opinion.

Cant you snobs cut us DX users some slack???

DIGLLOYD: You can lead a sacred cow to water, but you can’t make it think.

I am discussing gross trends. The industry is changing rapidly, putting established players at market risks they do not seem to grasp. Disruption in progress. DX looks like a dead-end to me, which has exactly zero to do with making images by someone who already has a DX camera.


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