Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Photokina 2008 DSLR Speculation and Predictions

With the Photokina 2008 Rumor Central getting too long, we decided to present speculation and predictions in a separate post. This has the extra benefit of making the distinction between the two even clearer.

Before we get started, we have to make sure everyone understands there is a difference between "speculation/predictions" and "rumors". Here are the dictionary definitions of speculation and rumor.

This is a week-long project that will grow and grow over the next few days. If you don't want to miss any updates, be sure to bookmark it!. If you have written any speculation or predictions please let us know and we'll link them in. If you notice any typos or errors, please let us know. With dozens of speculation pages written in burst mode, they are bound to happen!

This has been the hottest segment of the digital market in the last few years, with bigger sensors, lower prices and increasing megapixels fueling the fire. The Holy Grail of 35mm SLRs continues to be 35mm-full-frame and that's where more action is expected.

Photokina 2008 Speculation and Predictions
Nikon D3x or D4
Nikon D800 or D900

Canon 1Ds Mark IV
Canon 3D
Canon 5D Mark II or 7D
Canon 1D Mark III-N
Canon 50D full frame

Sony Alpha A900
Sony Alpha A800

Pentax K1D or K5D
Samsung full frame

Olympus OM

Fuji full frame


Leica R-series
Leica M-series
Canon 50D

Nikon D90 or D85 or D80x

Sony Alpha

Pentax K2000d


Sigma SD15

Leica R-series
Leica M-series


Photokina 2008 Speculation and Predictions: The Full Frame DSLRs

Nikon D3x or D4: LIKELY
The nanosecond the D3 was officially announced, threads sprung up in the photography forums speculating and extrapolating on a flagship model with lots more megapixels. The most "common" name for this is D3X, while some think it might be D4. Considering that the D3 is almost a year old, and the D700 was just announced, we think Nikon will announce a flagship DSLR at or by Photokina 2008. The most likely candidate for a sensor is a variation or special edition of the 25-megapixel Sony Exmor CMOS sensor that has already been announced and is expected to be in the upcoming Sony Alpha A900 DSLR. It may not have the "per pixel" quality of the D3, but full-frame sensors don't grow on trees. Unless of course Nikon is cooking a special sensor for this, in which case, prepare to pay even more.

Nikon D800 or D900 full frame: DREAMS
We were frankly surprised to see even Thom Hogan mention this. Why would Nikon put the 20+ megapixel full frame sensor in the non-flagship model, when they really need a higher megapixel model to compete with Canon 1Ds Mark III and keep the megapixels delta with the medium format at a respectable ratio. We can understand if this were to be announced in 2009 or Photokina 2010 after the D3X/D4 flagship, but now? We think this is wishful thinking or myth-information - which almost guarantees it will be announced at Photokina 2008 ;-)

Canon 1Ds Mark IV: Not Now John!
An obscure Pink Floyd song is the best we could come up with, but the 1Ds Mark III was announced last August, at "Fauxtokina", and we clearly are not going to get a new full frame flagship that fast. But the new 50 and 60 megapixel medium format digital backs are putting more pressure on the 1Ds Mark III which is already treated as a quasi-medium format by the DSLR users who flock to the sub-$5000 models.

Canon 5D Mark II or EOS 7D: LIKELY
The fact that Canon hasn't announced a replacement for the 5D Mark I three years after its announcement may be even bigger news than what they will actually announce. Once thought as invincible and could-do-no-wrong, Canon is quietely slipping away, taking the back seat, with Nikon winning the mindshare wars, first with the D3/D300 power duo and now with the D700 full framer.

So do they have something disruptive up their sleeves that they have been trying to perfect, or are they simply doing what's best for the bean counters, producing the products that can get them the maximum profits with the minimum risks and investment?

Regardless, we expect to see a 5D Mark II or 7D at or by Photokina 2008, with an expected increase in megapixels, perhaps splitting the difference between the 1Ds Mark III and the 12-megapixel "affordable" APS-C and DX DSLRs. Let's say 16 or 18 megapixels or 15 or something like that.

Canon 3D: Wait for 2010?
We forgot about the mythically-legendary 3D! Perhaps Canon is "saving" the name for a special occasion, perhaps the stars just haven't aligned yet for the introduction of a 3D in-between the 5D and the 1D. Needless to say the rumors will always be there, regardless.

We don't expect a 3D at Photokina 2008, we see that more likely at Photokina 2010 or 2012! Fear not, we'll start "Photokina 2012 speculation" the day after Photokina 2008 finishes :)

Canon 1D Mark III N: SHOULD but WON'T
Considering the relative troubles some users have had with the tribbles inside the 1D Mark III autofocus system, it would make sense if Canon announced a 1D Mark III-N to make up for it. After all, they did release a 1D Mark II-N. But an "N" model would also spark a nano-revolution among some existing Mark III users who may feel "cheated".

But considering the power duo of 12mp 35mm full frame D3/D700 DSLRs, we think that the next EOS speed-demon DSLR will also have to be full-frame in order to keep up with the Nikkor-Joneses. The troubled (according to some, not all) 1.3x 1DMk3 was announced at PMA 2007.

Canon 50D full frame: Unknown
With the EOS 40D under $1000, and the 5D Mark I under $2000, there is certainly some room for a hybrid of the two coming out as the 13-megapixel 50D, using the 35mm full frame sensor of the 5D Mark I. We don't think this is going to happen this year. In fact it may never happen as Canon may decide to keep the 40D/30D/20D line-up at the APS-C EF-S sensor size, as there is plenty of room between the Digital Rebels and the 35mm full frame DSLRs. Instead this type of a DSLR may show as a "7D" or "9D", depending on what Canon sees a few years down the horizon in terms of 35mm full frame DSLRs.

Sony Alpha A900: YES, YES, YES!
Well, at least according to Sony who has been banging the drums on the A900 flagship for a while now, although for a camera that is going to be real for sure, it hasn't been generating as much buzz as the unknowns. Then again, the mysterious is more exciting than the explained. From what has been said, the 25-megapixel Sony Exmor CMOS sensor will be powering this flagship. Its price is one of the things that remains a mystery, with some thinking/wishing of a $2000 price while others saying that it will be priced much higher (D3 at $5000, 1Ds Mark III at $8000).

Sony Alpha A800: Makes Sense but in 2009?
We saw the rumors of an Alpha A800 at the Camera Labs forum. An Alpha A800 that could perhaps be using a variation of the 12mp sensors found in the D3/D700 power duo. While initially it may raise an eyebrow or two (or three), this actually makes sense. Sony shot the poor Alpha A700 in the foot by pricing it high, and then blitzing it with the A350, A300 and A200, so taking another shot at it with the A800 won't hurt too much. The A800 would fit nicely in their line-up, bridging the A900 flagship with all the other APS-C/DX models.

Pentax K1D or K5D or KxD: Definitely Maybe
We know that Samsung is working on a 35mm full frame sensor, but from what we are reading, they are not likely to have it ready for launch in 2008. Since Pentax has been closely working with Samsung and using either theirs or Sony sensors, they may have options.

However, Pentax does not have the weight of a Nikon, which gets very special treatment from Sony semis. So, in theory, the sensor options for Pentax are:
  1. 12mp full frame Sony sensor (see D3/D700)
  2. 25mp Sony Exmor sensor
  3. Samsung upcoming full frame sensor

Of those, and considering the history, finances, philosophy, and market share, we think that the 12mp sensor makes the most sense for Pentax in 2008. Given how they like to load up their DSLRs with more "bang for the buck" features than the competition, they could make a mean 12mp 35mm-full-frame dSLR, and keep it under $2000. Whether they would name it K1D or something else is a different story, but after all, it's the camera that matters, not the name. Assuming of course they can get the sensor and can get it at a price they can afford.

Samsung full frame DSLR: See Pentax above
As we just mentioned, Samsung is working on a full frame sensor, but that wouldn't stop them from piggy-backing on whatever Pentax does next. Or what they do in co-operation. After all, despite what we've been hearing from/about Samsung, all their DSLRs so far have been Pentaxian Evil Universe clones.

Olympus resurrects full frame OM: DREAMS
This is about as wishful thinking wishful-thinking can get. Although this would make fans of the OM mount very happy, considering the current DSLR landscape, and Oly's commitment to Four Thirds, we just can't see this happening. Especially since Olympus is a relatively small company, without the resources to willy-nilly start and stop big projects like this.

Fuji full-frame SuperCCD: Unknown
Our crystal ball is hazy on this one. Fuji "upgraded" their body with the S5 Pro by "buying" the Nikon D200, so perhaps they could do the same with the D300/D700 body, assuming of course they have a 35m full frame sensor. With 35mm full frame expanding and prices dropping, the APS-C SuperCCD advantage is not as big as it used to be. Considering the Nikon dependancy on bodies, and relatively low sales, a 35mm full frame sensor might be too big of an investment for Fuji. But let's not forget that corporate pride is quite often a business objective with companies, especially in Japan, so Fuji could go ahead with such a project. And who knows, perhaps the benefits of SuperCCD are magnified at the 35mm full frame level, giving it once again, a competitive advantage.

Sigma/Foveon full frame: Not Now John!
Not in 2008, but who knows what they are planning for the future. The Foveon sensor has been smaller after all (1.7x), so jumping to full frame would be an even bigger leap. Let's just say not in 2008. The Sigma exec said earlier this year that they are planning a couple more DP-models, so perhaps there is a master plan after all!

Leica R-series: Eventually
Leica put the "T" in turmoil when their CEO was fired after "revealing" too much. With the owners now in control, it will be interesting to see what Leica does. The R-series is definitely anxious for something digital, but will it be a 35mm full frame or a cropped sensor? We don't think we will see an actual full frame Leica in 2008, but considering the historical importance of Photokina for a German company, we may hear some plans. Or perhaps a development notice? Something? Please???

Leica M-series: Eventually
We already have established that the M8 will be a supported product for life, so the next step in the Leica world is a full framer. See above for the CEO situation. We don't expect this to happen this year, but we may get some guidance, or perhaps an estimate on when we may expect to get another estimate :) A pre-announcement of a motion to proceed on a motion to invoke cloture on a motion to announce a development notice. It will be very popular in the Senate ;-)

Photokina 2008 Speculation and Predictions: The APS-C DX DSLRs

Canon 50D: Not in 2008
With two new Digital Rebels this year, the next "target" for an update is the x0D-tier. The 40D is only one year old, but it has fallen under $1000, and considering the Canon line-up, there might be some room between the full-framers and the 40D for a 50D. The 50D in this case could be a Super-40D, but still using an APS-C/DX sensor. In other words, a camera to go after the Nikon D300 mainly. We are going to take a side, and predict that this won't happen in 2008. Canon will be happy to go with the D-Rebels, the 40D, 5D Mark I remaining stock, and whatever else new they announce to replace it (5DMk2, or 7D). So an APS-C 50D would likely come at PMA 2009 or later.

Nikon D90 (or D85 or D80x): YES, YES, YES!
The Nikon D80 was announced two years ago, and with the removal of focus motors from the D40/D60 line-up, there is certainly a need for a camera to fill in the gap between them and the D300. And even if that wasn't the case, the competition is very heavy under $1000, with the 40D, K20D, Alphas and E510/E520. Some rumors talk of removing the focus motor from the D90 as well. We think that would be stupid, and at that price-point and feature set Nikon would have a hard time making the sell.

As far as the name, a D80x would be chosen if the camera uses the same or a similar sensor, while a D90 would probably be the name if the camera uses the 12mp sensor (or a variation) found in the D300. Perhaps a D85 if they think they are going to run out of model names soon. Considering the impact the D80 had on the D200, one would think that a D90 could derail the D300 which has been able to sell at a high price in the US market, even though it's been a year since its announcement. And while there is the D700, it costs almost twice as much as the D700. So perhaps the D300 may have more to fear from a D90/D85, than the D700 at $3000.

In fact that is just about the only reason we can think of that would prompt Nikon to delay the announcement of the D90. If they are happy with how the D300 and D80 are doing, they may not want to disturb the peace with a D90. At the same time, they also have to worry about letting the 40D, K20D and others "run unopposed". And this would be the scenario that produces a D80x instead of a D90 or D85.

Sony Alpha: Nada
With the A700, A350, A300 and A200 blitzing the market, there isn't a lot of room nor it makes sense to release yet another camera in this segment. But then again, the aforementioned four did not make as much sense either. Our prediction is nada in 2008. Nada as in nothing, not a model named "Nada" :)

Pentax K2000D: Possibly Likely
Rumor has it that Pentax may be working on a more affordable K2000D DSLR. Well, the K200D has already fallen in price down to $550 after the Gear Up Rebate, so we are not quite sure where how it would fit in the market. Perhaps Pentax is thinking of a K100D/K110D combo, with the K2000D targeting the emerging world economies, where a lower priced DSLR maybe the difference between owning one and not owning one. In that context, and considering the history and availability of affordable older K-lenses, the K2000D makes sense. And we think it would be silly if they removed the sensor-shift image stabilization, unless of course they are planning to do something cute and adorable with the K2000D, like the Olympus E400/E410/E420 models. Or perhaps the K2000D will be the mythical K1000D. That way, the mythical K1000 name is preserved in the history books, and the 2000D is the numerical progression of the digital age.

Samsung APS-C/DX DSLR: Likely
Ever since the GX1L and GX1s, Samsung has skipped the whole Pentax K100d/K200d models. But for a company that wants to become #1 in market share in the next couple of years, an affordable DSLR is a must have, especially considering the popularity of sub-$1000 DSLRs. We think Photokina 2008 will be the time where Samsung announces an "affordable" AA-based DSLR, likely based on the K200D or rumored K2000D.

There is also talk that they are working on their own designs, so who knows, maybe they will launch those at the sub-$1000 tier, and bundle it with a microwave and a 4gb mp3 player ;-)

Olympus: Nada
With the E420 and E520 announced this year, and the E3 last year, there has been some chatter about a camera that would fit between the E520 and the E3. On paper this makes sense, but considering the feature sets and availability of sensors, how exactly do you create a camera that doesn't cannibalize the E3 and at the same time justifies a higher price than the E520? If Olympus can answer that question, then we could have something in this segment.

Another rumor mentioned the development of a Panasonic HDR sensor and that an Olympus E530 would be the first one to try it out. We would certainly be interested and excited and thrilled to see something like that come out. Perhaps that may be the reason why Panasonic has been quiet on the DSLR front. But our prediction is that Olympus won't announce any new DSLRs in 2008.

Panasonic Mysteries with Art Bell
Remember corporate pride? Panasonic has shown that, first with the LC-5, then the LC-1, then the L-1 and the L-10. They clearly want to show that they can design a solid product, even if that sacrifizes the commercial viability of that product.

But time is flying, and we had expected that by now Panasonic would have had an L100 and a mass-market Lumix L1000 DSLR. This obviously hasn't happened in this reality. There was even a rumor that they might be opting out of 4/3rds. Another rumor said they are working on a ground-breaking HDR sensor for Four Thirds. So we can't really tell.

Our prediction? Panasonic announces an "affordable" $800 Lumix L100 DSLR, combined with a Leica-branded 14-50mm kit lens (28-100mm equivalent). As far as an HDR sensor or other anything else, we may get a development notice, if nothing else, as an homage to the tradition of Photokina - assuming of course such as thing is more than just wishful thinking or rumors.

Fuji S7 Pro: Maybe
We already talked about Fuji above, in the full frame segment. Not sure if there is enough to justify a sequential update to the Fuji S5, unless they have something that can carve a competitive niche. Perhaps a Nikon D300 body, with a sequentially updated sensor? The S5 Pro was announced at Photokina 2006, and two years is a long time, but the S5 Pro is a niche product, and those who must have as much dynamic range as they possibly can are and will be taking a long hard look at Fuji. So a sequential update may be in order?

Sigma SD15: Likely
Unlike the Leica CEO, the Sigma founder is likely not on shaky ground, although I'm sure you've all seen cases of a company founder hanging around long after he/she lost touch with the current market and was treated by the current management as a delicate piece of history that you don't want to offend but you don't want him/her to ruin your business either. I won't name any names (No, I'm not talking about Sigma!)

So when the Sigma founder said a Sigma SD15 DSLR is coming at Photokina, we should not doubt it. But the problem with the Sigma products is that they have layers of announcements, and there are months (if not years) between development notice and actual release date (see: Sigma DP1).

Leica R-series: Not sure
Will Leica come up with an R-series APS-C/DX/1.3x solution this year? Will they make a splashy development notice and then ask their devoted fans to patiently wait for months (or years) while more new DSLRs are announced and released by the Japanese SLR makers? One thing is for sure, Leica will say something. Whether it will be an actual product or "future directions" we can't tell yet. We have to polish our crystal ball.

Leica M-series: Unlikely
Leica has already made the M8 a "camera for life", so they are less likely to use their precious resources on yet another APS-C DSLR, when there is a demand for 35mm full frame, especially since Leica users expect the best and are dying for a full-framer for their lovely red dots!

Photokina 2008 Speculation and Predictions: The SuperZooms

Here are our SuperZoom speculation and predictions. Zoom! Zoom!

Photokina 2008 Speculation and Predictions: The Prosumers/RAWsumers

You may call them RAWsumers, Prosumers, Serious Compacts, Power Compacts, PASM compacts, photographer's compacts, or just about anything else. This covers cameras like the Canon G9, Panasonic LX3, Ricoh GX100, and friends. Here is a boat load of speculation and predictions.

More Photokina 2008 coverage

  1. Photokina 2008 Rumors Central
  2. Fauxtokina 2007 Speculation and Predictions
  3. Photokina 2008 SuperZoom Speculation
  4. Photokina 2008 Prosumer/RAWsumer compacts
  5. World of Imaging, new website in support of Photokina
  6. Vote on the various rumors digg-style at CameraRumo(u)
  7. Official Photokina website
  8. Photokina 2008 RAWsumer speculation
  9. See all the current and recent DSLRs listed at the Digital Camera List, which is column #1 of that table
  10. Lots of DSLR reviews, in a unique 3-column format, at the DSLR Reference Map

Reactions and Other People's Speculation and Predictions
  1. The Canon users in the dpreview forums are discussing this and opining.
  2. Nikon users are gazing into their Crystal Ball in the Nikon dpreview forum

You Decide - vote in the polls

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