Saturday, September 15, 2007

What are we waiting for? (yes, more speculation)

Now that the dust has settled and the new Nikon D3, D300, Canon 40D and 1Ds Mk III, along with the Sony A700 have been digested a little bit, we have a break in the new camera storm to see where we are at. Remember, everything you read in this post is speculation! Don't print this and ask your local camera shop to pre-order the cameras mentioned here :)

Due for a mid-October announcement is the Olympus E3, the new top E-system camera, coming four years after the E-1. A number of its features have either been leaked, or derived, partially thanks to the episodic teaser Olympus is running on their website. The biggest question at hand appears to be the sensor. Will it be exactly the same sensor found in the E510/E410? Will it be a beefed up version of that sensor, sort of like the Nikon D200 vs D80? Will it be the Kodak Trine FFT CCD that was discussed in the forums a few days ago? Will it be Foveon or Foveonesque? (Foveon sensors are just slightly larger than 4/3rds, 1.7x vs 2x, so it shouldn't be a problem size-wise). And what of the claims of class leading sensor-shift stabilization performance and blazing fast autofocus? And 5fps "connected copying"?

Hey, what about Pentax? Pentax is in a league of its own, it is not out there to compete with Canon/Nikon on a lens by lens and camera by camera basis. But despite that, one can still wonder what they are up to, especially since the Hoya merger/takeover has added an additional layer of confusion. So the questions that remain unanswered: What's the future of the Pentax 645D?. If funding is an issue, why not bring in Samsung and offer a co-branded model? Samsung should love it because they'll have a very high end camera with their name on it. And then what about a follow-up to the K10D or perhaps a flagship-type K1D type of camera? Given the sensor history, the next K12D or K1D will probably be using the 12.5mp 1.5x Sony sensor IMX021. I doubt we are going to see a different sensor provider in this cycle. Samsung seems to be too busy trying to become #3 globally to divert any resources to DSLRs or even advanced compact cameras. My guess is that we'll see a K12D this year, not a K1D flagship. The K12D would have the new 12mp sensor, and a few upgrades and new features here and there. With that coming out, a 10mp version of the K100D Super would not surprise me at all. Let's not forget Samsung needs a new set of entry-level DSLRs, their GX1s and GX1L are of the Pentax DS* and DL* era. So expect the K100D Super to be Samsung'ized, and then either a 10mp version of that, or perhaps a K110D-type going after the masses (probably not though).

Next up, the prosumer challenger, Ricoh. The GR-1D is already two years old and ripe for an update. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to forsee a Ricoh GR2D this year. With hopefully more improvements and bug fixes. Not sure what can be done about the sensor though, the current 12mp 1/1.7" sensors seem to be a bit of an overkill... With the GX100 things are a little bit trickier because it is so new. On one hand Ricoh has not been shy about releasing a new R-series camera every six months or so, so why not another GX? On the other hand, this is a more expensive (and lower volume model). But on the other hand (so many hands!), the GX-series does not have a whole lot of competition out there. Yes the Canon G9 added RAW, but it is still more GINO than G-series. A sad miserable 250 CIPA is a disgrace to the G-series legacy, some Canon G-series users will tell you. Anyway, back to Ricoh, the predictable thing would be to add a 12mp sensor and name it Ricoh GX120. The biggest questions (other than the sensor performance) would be whether Ricoh is able to fix some of the issues raised by users and reviews alike. As it stands, the GX100 is a great camera in the hands of an advanced enthusiast who likes to tweak the camera and tweak the images on the computer. For a more general appeal more enthusiasts, Ricoh needs to streamline this camera. Ricoh has a big chance to come up with a runaway hit here, both the speculated GX120 and the GR2d. Will they?

And while Canon is done with DSLRs, we may see an emergency Canon superzoom. The Powershot S5 IS price has collapsed from $500 to around $375, under intense price pressure from the Panasonic FZ18 at $400 and under zoom range envy from the 15x Sony H9 and H7 and the 18x Olympus SP550, SP560, Fuji S8000fd and Panasonic FZ18. While Canon is not usually the first to jump on a new fad trend, they have shown historically that they want to keep the competition on a short lease. Although they are very shrewd at operating at profit priority, I find it hard to believe that Canon is going to head into the holiday shopping season with the S5 IS as its top long-zoom model. Something at least 15x or more is needed! The safest thing would be an 18x hyperzoom starting at 28mm and catch-up with the rest and let the Canon brand take care of the sales. Unless of course they have a 60fps surprise up their sleeve. Let's not forget the Casio 60fps development notice camera looks advanced and the last time Casio made an advanced camera (4000 and 5700) there was a Canon hand involved. Coincidence or random speculation or wishful thinking or connecting random dots?

And speaking of the Casio, will we see the development notice 60fps camera this year? Can Casio make it available before the 2007 holiday shopping season feeding frenzy? And can Casio be trusted to make it a camera enthusiasts would buy and not dumb it down? Well for one thing, expecting RAW files at 60fps or 15fps is not going to happen. But that doesn't mean they can't offer RAW at a much slower pace to keep everyone happy :) But beyond Casio, will anyone else take advantage of this 6mp sensor from Sony? And if yes, who, where and when? This is a new branch in long zoom develompent and has the potential of rebooting the megapixel wars. It could also start the FPS Wars, which may have some undesirable side-effects (eg cameras trying to focus too fast and not being as accurate as before). Only time will tell. Let's hope for the best and embrace the worst ;-)

And speaking of happy waiting, where are you Sigma DP-1?. Will they release in time for this holiday shopping season or for the 2008 holiday shopping season. Come on Shiguma, wake up and smell the cameras :-)

Hey, what about Leica? Will Leica fans get the Leica version of the Panasonic L10? How about the compacts? A Leica 18x superzoom camera? Well, why not? The early reviews seem to be favorable of the lens, despite its crazy 18x range. I'm talking of course about a Leica version of the Panasonic FZ18, just like they Leica'fied the Panasonic big FZ-series (FZ30 or FZ50, I forgot). What else will Leica announce and release for the 2007 holiday shoppers? Some people want to have a RED DOT under their Xmas tree!

A more detailed speculation spectacular focusing (no pun intended) on fixed lens cameras with RAW at the RAWsumer blog.

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