Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The New Cameras...The Coming Thing, or Dinosaurs?

A pair of hands frame the sun breaking out of storm clouds in a stock photo illustrating optimism, the future, and possibilities.
What will the future of high-end digital cameras look like?

The following is a forum post by Lanny Ziering, CEO of SuperStock and a stock photographer himself. Lanny brings an interesting perspective on the new crop of digital cameras....

I've been following the discussions about the new Nikon D4 and Fuji X-Pro-1 with great interest. There are so many new, appealing cameras that have been announced: Canon 1Dx, Panasonic GX1, Sony NEX-7, and, of course, the Nikon D4 and Fuji X-Pro-1. It got me thinking. What are all these cameras telling us about where photography and cameras are headed? What will the top-of-the-line professional camera look like 3-5 years from now?

The Nikon D4 or Canon 1Dx are undeniably the state of the art in tools for professional photographers. But, I can't help but feel they are the camera of today and not the camera of tomorrow. They remind me of a Porsche Panamera Turbo S, which in my book is the most amazing, state of the art sedan made today. But, in all honesty, that Porsche tells us more about the cars of yesterday than tomorrow. On the other hand, there is the Toyota Prius. Ugly, boring to drive, but the Prius tells us a lot more about where automobiles are headed than the Panamera. That said, I've driven the Prius and hate it. I've driven a Panamera and loved it. But truth be told, the Panamera is a dinosaur.

I think that Nikon D4 is like that Panamera Turbo S--a dinosaur. So what is the Prius of cameras? The new Fuji? The new Panasonic? All interesting cameras, but I think the model of the camera of the future is the Sony NEX-7. I'm not crazy. I realize there is no comparison between a Nikon D4 and a Sony NEX-7 as a professional tool. But it is hard to believe that high-end professional cameras 3-5 years from now will continue to have mirrors and prisms. I also think mechanical shutters will be phased out over the next 3-5 years. Mirrors, prisms, and shutters add bulk, weight, noise, vibration, and complexity and all in the name of solving yesterday's problems. The Sony NEX-7 is the first camera to move substantially in the direction of the future. I think its form and feature set are the prototype of what is to come. It has no mirror, no prism, and the first curtain of the shutter is not needed to begin the exposure. It has a viewfinder that probably gives a more accurate representation of what the final image will look like than anything you can see on ground glass sitting inside a mirror/prism box. The NEX-7 body weighs 353 grams versus the Nikon weighing 1340 grams. Even a plastic digital Canon Rebel body weighs 570 grams.

Like the Red One was totally disruptive to video cameras, the Sony NEX-7--or probably the camera that Sony introduces in the next year or two to replace it--will be as disruptive as the Red. An interesting questions is whether Nikon and Canon will effectively make the switch away from mirrors, prisms, and mechanical shutters. Neither has a serious mirrorless offering yet for enthusiasts, let alone pros. It will be interesting to watch.

Just wanted to share my thoughts.

Lanny Ziering