A little over a year ago, Nikon launched its new 1 Series mirrorless system by unveiling the V1 and J1 cameras. This past August, the company launched the J2 as the successor of the J1, but it’s 2nd generation counterpart, the V2, was strangely absent. Luckily for the J2, it won’t be lonely for too much longer.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that the V2 is scheduled to be announced by the end of this year. It’s pretty clear that the road is already being paved for the new camera: at the beginning of this month, Nikon dropped the price of the V1 (with kit lens) down to $400 — a good deal lower than the $900 MSRP the kit was launched with. As with the J2, the V2 is expected to be a minor refresh of its predecessor.
There are currently two interchangeable-lens rangefinder-esque cameras in Fujifilm’s X-Series lineup: the X-Pro1 and the X-E1, both of which contain APS-C sensors. Owners are gushing over the cameras, which are actually quite similar aside from the viewfinders (hybrid vs. electronic only). They feature sleek, retro designs that are very similar to Leica’s classic M-line of rangefinders. A common sentiment that I’ve heard is that the X-Series would be absolutely perfect if the company simply introduced a full frame body.
Everyone is a photographer these days, and it is estimated that 380 billion photographs were taken last year, with a huge percentage of them created with the 1 billion+ camera-equipped phones now floating around. The New York Times’ James Estrin has some interesting thoughts on where this radical-shift in the practice and definition of photography is taking us:
Just as access to pens and paper hasn’t produced thousands of Shakespeares or Nabokovs, this explosion of camera phones doesn’t seem to have led to more Dorothea Langes or Henri Cartier-Bressons. But it has certainly led to many more images of what people ate at lunch.
[...] A photograph is no longer predominantly a way of keeping a treasured family memory or even of learning about places or people that we would otherwise not encounter. It is now mainly a chintzy currency in a social interaction and a way of gazing even further into one’s navel.
He thinks the strengthening torrent of digital images will have one of two possible effects: a culture that is more aware and appreciative of photography, or a society in which it’s impossible for any photo to rise above the flood of images.
German photographer Falk Lumo has an interesting post on his blog regarding full frame and crop sensors. His theory is that camera manufacturers have created an artificial barrier between the two sensor sizes for business reasons, and that we’ll soon be seeing big changes in the camera world as this barrier disappears:
[...] there is an artificial separation between the APS-C and full frame markets. Artificial because less people still believe that full frame must be expensive. And artificial because image qualities beyond an effective resolution of 20 MP may simply require full frame. The new offers from Nikon (D800 and D600) therefore directly address this and may accelerate the disappearance of the artificial market separation. This is known as “supercriticality”: the market ought to offer uncrippled, full frame enthusiast cameras in the $1,500 segment but offers APS-C cameras instead. Supercritical systems “fall” into their preferred state after only small perturbations occur. Once this happens, a D800 type camera will be in the $1,500 segment.
He predicts that full frame cameras will soon be much more affordable and compact as mirrorless cameras eat into the APS-C market, leaving “cameras with a full frame mount but a half frame sensor” to be “a curiosity of the past.”
The rumblings in the rumor mill are getting stronger, and it seems like there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing new DSLRs announced by both Canon and Nikon by the end of the month. Craig Blair over at Canon Rumors says that he knows with near certainty that Canon will be announcing a new full frame DSLR on October 18th. The camera is rumored to pack between 16-18 megapixels, have ISO that goes up to 51,200, shoot at high speeds (possibly between 12-14fps), and have 61 AF points.
As technology improves, features that were once limited to expensive professional models often become available to the masses, but will this ever be true for full-frame sensors? Nikon’s Senior VP David Lee was recently asked this question in an interview with TWICE, and here’s what he said:
I think that there are definitely two different approaches here. What we’re seeing is that sensor performance continues to improve, but obviously there’s really a need for bulk because with a full-size sensor there’s a real low-light performance benefit, high speed performance, framing rates, and so on and so forth. So, I think you’ll definitely continue to see the higher-end pro consumer continue to have that large format. It’s definitely needed in the D3 and D700. You’ll see that technology continue to improve and grow, but the DX sensor form factor is also important. The compactness of the D3100 and D5100 is very popular. I don’t think one approach will ever overtake the other because of the overall image capabilities and the light performance capabilities.
Seems like he either misunderstood the question, or decided to beat around the bush. It’s an interesting question though — will any of the big manufacturers shake up the industry by being the first to put a full-frame sensor in a consumer-level camera? The sensors have already jumped from pro-level cameras to prosumer-level ones starting in 2005 with the Canon 5D, so it seems like the next logical step will be the consumer level. A sub-$1000 full-frame camera. Now that’s a thought.
Thom Hogan has some news from reliable sources regarding Nikon’s upcoming mirrorless announcement:
I’m pretty certain of the 1″ (~2.7x) sensor at this point, and since I can’t find anyone else making one that makes sense for the camera, I continue to wonder if this will be another Nikon designed sensor. That certainly would be an interesting development. As I noted last week, you don’t have to get very far forward from the D3100 sensor to get something that could be 10-12mp and highly credible at 2.7x.
I’ve now been told by three different sources it will launch before CES, probably in late September, and it’ll launch with three lenses (wide angle prime, kit zoom, telephoto zoom). The lenses are reportedly “quite small” in nature, along the lines of fat C-mount lenses.
I wonder if the camera would fit nicely in a pocket with a lens attached.
People seem to be having a hard time swallowing the idea that Nikon could do well if their upcoming mirrorless camera only packs a 2.7x crop sensor, but Thom Hogan argues that there’s a logical “hole” in the market that Nikon could be the first to fill:
So how much change does it take to make a real difference that gets noticed? The number 1.4 is meaningful in photography in so many ways. Turns out, that something around that number makes a lot of sense for capture size change, too. Each 1.4x change doubles the area of light captured. Hmm, that sounds an awful like a “stop.” [...] So if we were to make cameras about a stop apart, what would we get: a progression close to MF, FX, DX, m4/3, and whatever Nikon calls their 2.7x product.
[...] all this discussion that a 2.7x size choice is irrational is incorrect, IMHO. Having three very different choices with clearly different and increasing performance at each size is on its face a rational decision. If Nikon can deliver a stop+ better performance than the best compact camera but keep the overall size close, that represents a gain to photographers.
Though there does appear to be a “hole” in the sensor size progression of existing cameras in the market, whether anyone actually wants a 2.7x sensor remains to be seen — especially as MFT cameras get smaller and smaller.
CNBC ran this short segment a couple days ago in which they invited CNET’s Dan Ackerman to explain the changing landscape in the digital camera industry. He thinks point-and-shoot cameras may soon become extinct due to the rise of camera-equipped phones, but also that DSLRs are the cameras here to stay. A recent study found that phones have replaced digital cameras completely for 44% of consumers, and that number seems bound to rise as the cameras on phones continue to improve.
My guess is that in five years, we’ll see digital camera users divided into three camps: mobile phone, interchangeable lens compact, and DSLR. What’s your prediction?