Monday, July 28, 2008

Photokina 2008 Speculation: Power Compacts

We continue our on-going series with the "power compacts", the fixed-lens digital cameras that support RAW natively or are advanced enough one way or another to be of interest to photographers. We've already had a special on superzooms, so we won't discuss them here. It's best to explain this by looking at the type of cameras discussed below.

Photographer's Compacts
More LikelyLess Likely
speed demon

Canon G10, CMOS sensors and big A-series
The safest bet is that Canon will release some kind of a G9 replacement. The questions are: 1) how many and 2) what. We think that a sequential G9 update will happen regardless of what else they do. Some people are calling this the "Powershot G10", and are estimating that it will be using the 14-megapixel (okay, 13.7mp) sensor that we first saw in the Sony Cybershot W300.

What type of a camera the G10 may be may depend on what else Canon decides to announce. It's no secret that Canon is planning to unleash non-DSLR digital cameras using their own CMOS sensors at some point in the future. If they are indeed ready to unleash them at Photokina, they may do so with a bang, perhaps producing a camera with a bigger sensor than the 1/1.7". Whether they'll go to 2/3" or larger or even all the way to APS-C/DX, it will be interesting to see.

One thing that would please traditional G-series fans is if they get the G-series back in spirit, not just in name. Don't get me wrong, both the G7 and the G9 are great cameras on their own, especially considering prices and the competition. But when compared to the traditional G-series, one is justified to call them GINO (G-series in name only).

So some of the possibilities are:
  1. Sequential G9 update with the 14mp 1/1.7" sensor
  2. Sequential G9 update with the 15mp 1/1.7" sensor (oh dear!)
  3. Sequential G9 update but not jumping to higher megapixels (please?)
  4. Beefed up G9 update (speed, buffer, BATTERY, etc)
  5. G9 update using the new Canon CMOS sensors instead
  6. More advanced model using the new Canon CMOS sensor

Our prediction? There will be a sequential G9 update and if Canon decides to unleash its new CMOS sensors, it is likely that they will have one more advanced/expensive camera above the "G10". If their CMOS sensors are similar in size, but offer some other significant advantages (eg lower noise, dynamic range, HDR, etc) they may release the same body in two sensor configurations, and charge more for the CMOS version.

Unless of course they follow the example of Kodak and launch their home-grown CMOS sensors with a 5-megapixel 1/2.5" sensor. OUCH!

On the big-sensor A-series front, the A650-IS is holding down the fort, after Canon went away from the dual camera strategy. The A650-IS was supposed to be a poor man's G9, but A650 proponents will point out that the A650-IS actually has twice the battery life. Just like the G9, the A650 IS was announced last August, so a replacement is very likely. We expect a sequential update, let's call it A660-IS, likely using the 14mp 1/1.72" sensor. We hope that Canon does the right thing and offers RAW with it, but the chances are against it :(

Nikon SeriousPix for real this time?
We forgot about the biggest one of the whole lot, but thankfully one of our readers reminded us in the comments section: The highly anticipated/wished-for APS seriously serious fixed-lens camera from Nikon. This has been buzzing around the forums for a while now, and with the APS-C/DX size sensors becoming more and more affordable, it could make an exciting yet relatively affordable model. Needless to say there is pent up demand for advanced fixed-lens and "EVILs" and the first one who gets it right, could have a big hit on their hands. Look at what it did for Ricoh in the 1/1.8" segment. Now imagine if it has the Nikon label on it instead and uses a "DSLR-size" sensor. We are cautiously optimistic on this one, because a potential letdown would be a big drop. [New!]

Nikon has teased fans of small cameras twice now with the P5000 and the P5100, but despite using a 1/1.7" sensor, they did not offer RAW. Offering RAW would have made both of these cameras more desirable.

The rumors and leaks on the internets are pointing to a Coolpix P6000 using the aforementioned 14mp 1/1.7" sensor, RAW, hot-shoe, wide-angle and such. That would be a good start for sure! It's been a while since Nikon announced a RAWsumer and it's about time. The renaissance of their DSLR line-up has tidal impact, and adding a serious Coolpix will make the tide go higher.

And what about a P5x00 model? The P5000 came out in early 2007 and the P5100 at Fauxtokina 2007, so it looks like there is room for a P5200 if the six-month pattern holds. The P5200 would most likely be a sequential update, and not offering the more advanced features one would hope/expect to find in the P6000. But there is a also the possibility that if there is a P6000, there may not be a P5200 at this time. Nikon has been known to keep Coolpix models around longer than the average digital camera manufacturer.

Vroooom! How about the Sony 6mp 1/1.8" speed-demon sensor?
There is nothing that binds the speed-demon sensor found in the Casio EX-F1 to superzooms, so we may see it in a compact digital camera. Granted, it makes more sense in a superzoom because then you can also draw from the camcorder crowd, but one could make a speed-demon compact, something that hasn't been done in recent memory.

Theoretically anyone could make this, realistically, we don't know if anyone would. Either way, this would be a fun camera to make, and as the market gets more and more congested, perhaps the manufacturers will open their minds and start trying new things. And this would be one of those new things!

Kodak escapes the mid-range?
It's been a while. No, not the song, but since Kodak attempted a non-mid-range digital camera. We are taking of course about the misunderstood P880. Considering Kodak's release history, this may be the year we get a new one because it is after all Photokina. But on the other hand Kodak has handed off digital cameras to a 3rd party, so that decreases the chances.

Our prediction? It would be nice to see such as a camera from Kodak, but we don't think we'll get one at/by Photokina 2008.

Sony wake up please!
If you look at the Sony forums and blogs, you may have seen a petition circulating, asking Sony to come up with a V5. The mythical V5 of course would be a resurrection of their V1 and V3 line. Considering what Sony has now, either a V1 or V3 re-emergence would be welcome.

With more companies shyly returning to the prosumer/RAWsumer segment, Sony cannot be left behind, especially if they want to be #1. And they don't have to take a big risk, a 1/1.72"-based camera with RAW, hot-shoe, manual control, photographer-priority features and things like that would satisfy a number of Sony fans.

For bonus points of course Sony could go for a more advanced digital camera. After all it was Sony who brought us the now-legendary R1 and the "Big Daddy" F-series models (F707, F717, F828). And for even more bonus points, they could revitalize and modernize the Minolta A-series too!

So as you can see, Sony has plenty of options based on the blended history and tradition of both Sony and Minolta prosumers. We hope they do wake up and produce more cameras in this segment. Realistically, one "safe" "V-series type" model is possible. The more exotic models? We hope but don't expect them. Sony, prove us wrong!!!

Fuji, your SuperCCD children are waiting!
Fuji is quite possibly the manufacturer that deserves the award of under-utilizing their advantages over the competition. No need to rehash their inability to capitalize on their 6mp "magic" SuperCCD sensor.

The E900 is three years old, and Fuji has not released any non-superzoom "serious" model since. They have been very stingy with the features on their F100fd/F50fd models, and stingy on the use of sensors that showed a competitive advantage to the traditional Sony sensors.

Their strategy to release multiple models in different markets at different times is a bit strange, to put it mildly, and it's not helping the brand from a global perspective.

So having said all that, what would Fuji do? The F100fd was announced in January 2008, and the F50fd in July 2007, so there is some sequential-momentum (hope) for a F120fd or so that would build upon and improve on the F100fd. RAW is one of the things that would make people happy, and make the cameras more appealing to the non-Fuji fans, just like the addition of SD cards did.

While not in lockstep with Sony on megapixel numbers, Fuji has been trying to keep up with the Bayer-Joneses. A welcome surprise was the "moderation" they showed with the 11-megapixel 2/3" sensor in the S100fs. But we wouldn't be surprised if they pulled out a 15-megapixel SuperCCD either at Photokina or PMA 2009.

And speaking of the 11mp 2/3" CCD, I'm sure there would be a niche for an advanced compact using that and offering some kind of wide-angle, perhaps 28mm since the larger sensor could/would make a wider lens more difficult/expensive.

Infact, Serious Compacts has pointed out that Fuji could make a really nice digital camera if they borrowed ideas from the body and design of the Fujiklasse film cameras. A "luxury" advanced compact to make Leica fans jealous and happy at the same time?

And a bearish prediction: Sadly, nothing in this segment at/by Photokina 2008.

Olympus, the C-series is calling
Olympus is another company that once upon a time was synonymous with advanced digital cameras, but since then, they have slowly and steadily faded out of the segment. They signaled a return to RAW with the SP-superzooms, and have been making 1/1.8"-based Stylus models, but nothing "serious".

So will Olympus try to jump back on the bandwagon or take a wait and see approach? They do offer affordable DSLRs, and the E410/E420 are adorably small, so they may not want to tempt Olympus fans with non-FourThirds cameras at the $500 price point.

Let's not forget that Olympus's prosumer swan song earned raving reviews from dpreview's Phil Askey, so it would be interesting to see what they could come up with if they decided to go for it, and put their hearts in it.

Once again, we are having a bearish prediction, NADA from Olympus in this segment, but once again we will be thrilled if we are proven wrong in our predictions! The ultimate win-win situation? :-)

Pentax Opt-es out again
Not many puns with a name like Optio so forgive the "opt out". Pentax is concentrating on specific niches, and historically they haven't really gone after the serious non-DSLRs, so we don't expect anything other than perhaps a sequential A-series model. Their last A-series model was the battery-troubled A40.

Casio watches the clock, anything?
Once upon a time Casio was an influential manufacturer in the market. But then the big electronics giants and the SLR traditionalists jumped in, and Casio's influence and market share subsided outside of Japan.

While Casio is no stranger to making semi-serious models, they went all cutesy the last couple of years, but that streak was broken by the speed-demon, the EX-F1.

This raises the potential of a possibility of perhaps Casio looking at the possibility of a feasibility study of the potential of re-entering this market. They have after all done the R&D for the Casio EX-F1, so they can make the most out of their investment by cutting/pasting what they developed into other models.

Prediction? Once again bearish, we don't see anything advanced coming, but as alawys, we'll be pleasantly surprised if they do come up with something photographically fun!

Samsung wants to be #1 without RAW
Samsung tried their hand with exactly one advanced non-DSLR of their own. And it was a big one, the Pro815, but they haven't really released anything else in the above-the-mid-range segment. At the same time Samsung wants to take over the global #1 in terms of market share, but we think it's hard for a company to be a global #1 without a presence that gets the enthusiast-photographers involved and excited about the brand, and sparking sales among the average electronic superstore consumers.

And while their newly announced TL34hd (NV100hd) wears the megapixel-crown at the moment, it doesn't really have the features that allow it to escape the orbit of the Planet Mid-Range (no RAW, hot-shoe, etc).

We have another empty prediction, but Samsung, please prove us wrong :)

Panasonic Loves RAW, anything else in the cupboards?
Panasonic spared us the predictions when they announced four hot new cameras that include the tempting LX3, the megapixel-bloated FX150 (but with RAW!), and the RAW FZ28. If only more digital camera manufacturers showed more "RAW love".

With Venus Engine IV promising a new wave of miracles and wonders, and Monet showing unbelievable staying power (ouch!), Panasonic may be done in non-DSLRs for 2008. If you look at their historical announcement patterns, they rarely squirt new non-DSLRs after July. Their two DSLRs came at PMA 2006 and Fauxtokina 2007 (August), which may suggest an 18-month cycle, in which case perhaps the DSLR fans may have to wait until PMA 2009.

One possibility (read: wishful thinking) is to put a Four Thirds sensor in a fixed-lens body. They did have a solid fixed lens camera in the 2/3"-based Panasonic LC-1 so there is a slimmer of hope. Perhaps if they are not planning to announce a mass-market sub-$1000 DSLR this year, a more advanced fixed-lens camera becomes less unlikely.

And of course there's always the possibility of a big FZ-series model with RAW, which is covered in the SuperZooms speculation.

Sigma loves Foveon, Foveon loves Sigma
Normally we wouldn't expect anything, but the Sigma founder told Amateur Photographer UK earlier this year that two more DP-series models are coming, and quite possibly one of them may have a zoom lens of some sort.

We know what a Foveon sensor is, we know what the Sigma DP1 is, but we don't know what the alleged DP2 and DP3 may be. If they stick to prime lenses, they will obviously try different focal lengths that appeal to different crowds, and if they try a zoom lens, they will try something that is technically feasible and at the same time photographically practical.

As far as the timing and availability of these, we are obviously on "Sigma time" and judging by the DP1, your dart shot is as good as mine. But one would hope that after the DP1, Sigma may have straightened up their processes and may be able to deliver faster.

GE, the new kid in town
GE is not exactly going to take the market by storm from the top tier, but if they want to get "pho cred" they have to make cameras that at least partially appeal to photography enthusiasts. We don't expect them to do so this year. Maybe in 2009 or 2010, assuming they are still in the market. (Ouch! Who let the Bears in?)

HP, well, we had to include them
We are including them for completeness, we don't really expect anything serious from HP.

Leica, Leica, where are you Leic-a-sonics?
It has been a while since we saw a new Leica-sonic! Wlll we get 2-3 of them at Photokina 2008? Obviously the new LX3 screams Leica version, so if they do just one, this might be it. But I think we will also see one of the three 25mm FX-series models (FX35, FX37, FX500) in Leica uniform. As far as the superzooms, I'm not sure, the TZ5 is a fun camera, but I don't know if it will appeal as a Leica model? The other Leica possibility is the FX150, and RAW would make it even more Leica-palatable. And the 15-megapixel sensor would give Leica fans megapixel-bragging-rights beyond the Red Dot.

Ricoh rebooted the RAWsumers! Well done!
With the GX200 just recently announced, and the GRD II announced in late October 2007, Ricoh is set on their power duo line-up going into the 2008 holiday shopping season.

Their GX100 and GRD I were quite possibly what has put pressure on the other digital camera manufacturers to revisit this segment, and it is quite possible that in the next few months they may be "outdone" by the Big Boys. But we have to take a moment and praise Ricoh for revitalizing this segment.

Speculation Discussions in the blogosphere
  1. Serious Compacts
  2. LightDescription speculates on future Canon G-series models

More Photokina Rumors, Speculations and Predictions

  1. Photokina 2008 rumors
  2. DSLR Speculation and Predictions
  3. SuperZoom speculation and predictions
  4. Vote on rumors digg-style at
  5. World of Imaging, a Photokina site
  6. Official Photokina website
  7. RAWsumer speculation
  8. 2007 Fauxtokina Speculation and Predictions
  9. The DigitalCameraList has all the current and recent models. For the RAWsumers and power compacts, check column #2. RAW is indicated in italics next to the camera's name


Anonymous said...

No mention of the APS-sensor Nikon compact that Thomas Hogan has been championing, and about which Nikon has circulated market surveys to several of their notable users?

1001 noisy cameras said...

Very good point! I forgot about that one! Will be added in the next couple of hours!

ZBruce said...

Prior to Photokina 2008 and in a clear response to the recent announcement of Panasonic LX-3, Fujifilm has today announced FinePix Natura Digital F1.9. The camera is aimed at photo enthusiast and professionals who are looking for the ultimate compact rangefinder camera which has the image quality of a digital SLR. Consequently the FinePix Natural Digital F1.9 comes with comprehensive manual controls and a fast F1.9 35mm (35mm equivalent) Super EBC Fujinon lens. Images are captured on a size APS-C SuperCCD SR IX sensor sporting 10 million effective pixels. The FinePix Natura Digital F1.9 will be available in the United Stated from October at $599.

---Key features---

**Large APS-C size 10-megapixel Super CCD SR IX for Dramatically Higher Picture Quality**
** F1.9 Extraordinary Bright 35mm High Quality Super EBC Fujinon lens **
** Real Photo (RP) processor III to produce superb out of camera photos **
** 3-inch Large 3:2 LCD plus bright optical viewfinder **
** Full suite of manual control for professional results **

1001 noisy cameras said...

Anything else to share since this will undoubtedly tantalize and excite a lot of people? I'm sure many will think "fiction", so anything else "concrete" would be great in convincing them/us!

This was interesting enough that it got its own post right here.