With the arrival of the Nikon 1 cameras, which go on sale today, Canon now stands alone as the only mainstream digital SLR manufacturer not to announce a compact system camera. But how long can Canon hold off?
SLR cameras have been around for more than 50 years, while compact system cameras (CSCs) are a relatively new breed. They’re generally larger than point-and-shoot models, but considerably smaller than digital SLRs. However, they also offer the option to change lenses.
The ability to switch a lens on a camera is a huge benefit to budding photographers, as it opens up a new world of creative options. More advanced photographers even look at their arsenal of lenses as the real investment, and their camera as just a replaceable accessory.
The Rise of the CSCs
The arrival of CSCs began in 2008 when Panasonic unveiled the micro four thirds Lumix G1. And it all came about thanks to improved LCD screens on cameras, which also sadly spelt the demise of the optical viewfinder.
These improved screens meant that the light hitting the sensor no longer had to be refracted though a mirror-box to the viewfinder, as a digital image could be replicated on the screen instead. This resulted in much more compact cameras than digital SLRs, and it would seem that this smaller form factor has certainly hit the mark.
Sales of CSCs have soared meteorically since their advent, and the rise looks set to continue as they gnaw away at the digital SLRs’ market share. Year-on-year, the total interchangeable lens market (dSLRs and CSCs) has grown in volume by 120%, but in isolation the CSC market alone has grown by some 205% in the same period.
There are a number of compact system cameras around from different manufacturers. Unfortunately, this means that most of the time you can’t use these lenses on other brands’ cameras. Panasonic and Olympus are the exception, as their lenses happen to be cross compatible. Sony’s NEX, Samsung’s NX, the Pentax Q and the Nikon 1, however, all have proprietary lenses that only fit their own particular models.
Canon is biding its sweet time
Nikon and Canon are often considered brands for the purist photographers, so it’s hardly surprising that they both delayed for so long. However, now that Nikon’s made its move, can Canon delay much longer – especially considering the lucrative look of the market?
On one hand, Canon could benefit from being the last to market by learning from the mistakes of others. On the other, Canon may wake up to find that somebody’s already eaten its slice of the CSC pie. Either way it doesn’t seem like Canon can rest on its laurels for much longer.
And what about you? Maybe a CSC should be on your Christmas list? When it comes to price, a CSC could be the best of both worlds. Our cheapest Best Buy CSC is around £300, which sits between £80 for a point-and-shoot and from £375 for a dSLR.
So, if you don’t want to sacrifice photo quality with a pocketable point-and-shoot and wince at the idea of lugging a bulky SLR around, perhaps a compact system camera could be your happy compromise?
Every few years the Photo Marketing Association hosts a major photography event, and next year’s show will be hosted in January in Las Vegas. Which? Tech will be there reporting from the event, and if Canon’s planning to unveil a CSC anytime soon, it’ll most likely be there.