Monday, July 28, 2008

Photokina 2008 Superzoom speculation and predictions

We started the giant Photokina 2008 DSLR Speculation and Predictions yesterday, and we continue today with the fixed-lens digital cameras that have a zoom ratio of 10X or more, aka the superzooms. Stay tuned for upcoming posts for RAWsumers/prosumers and the ultracompacts. Please note that this is speculation and predictions, not to be confused with the Photokina rumors or facts. By definition, speculation casts a wider net.

This will be updated multiple times, so if you want to keep up with the updates be sure to bookmark it using the permalink.

Photokina SuperZoom Predictions
Canon Superzooms

Superzooms with the 6mp 1/1.8" speed demon sensor?

Fuji superzooms

Sony superzooms

Panasonic SuperZooms

Leica superzooms

Olympus superzooms

Kodak SuperZooms

Nikon superzooms

Samsung superzooms

Pentax superzooms

New Term: A RAWZoomer!

Photokina 2008 Speculation and Predictions: The SuperZooms

This is the hottest segment of the non-DSLR digital camera market among photography enthusiasts at the moment. The superzooms picked up the mantle when the traditional SLR manufacturers pulled the rug from underneath the Prosumers/RAWsumers when DSLRs starting becoming feasibly affordable.

Will anyone else use the 6mp 1/1.8" Speed-demon sensor? Not Sure
Certainly Casio did, with their super-fast, super-serious, sweet-delirious EX-F1 (now we owe REM 5-cents in royalties), but since then, it was a bit of a surprise not to see anyone else take advantage of the speed-demon capabilities of this sensor. We obviously do not know whether Casio had an exclusive on the sensor, or the price is prohibitively expensive or perhaps the companies who also sell camcorders do not want to tinker with their camcorder sales by offering a camera than can do both, and really fast.

So with the technobabble out of the way, it is time for a prediction. Well, sort of, because our crystal ball is very hazy on this one. Canon, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung all have a long line of camcorders and presumably would not want to risk sales of both their current superzooms and their camcorders by offering a viable all-in-one model. But Sony makes the sensor! Sure, they do, but will they make a camera too?

So who is left? Fuji? Olympus? Nikon? Kodak? Pentax? Another one from Casio? Olympus certainly has the tradition of the UZi (C2100uz) and EZi (E100/RS), so they could be a good candidate. Fuji already has their own giantsumer (Fuji S100fs), while Nikon, Kodak and Pentax depend on 3rd parties. Would a 3rd party maker take the risk of offering an expensive camera like that in different flavors?

The bottom line: Crystal ball hazy, would be mildly (and pleasantly) surprised if we saw more than one of these announced at or by Photokina 2008. Heck, even one of them would be nice, preferably available for sale online as well (*hint* *hint* Casio, e-commerce is calling).

Canon Superzooms: S5-IS and SX100-IS replacements: Three?
Once upon a time Canon was thought as invincible. Then came the Nikon D40/D40x and the D3/D300 and the D700. But that didn't stop at DSLRs. It expanded in the compacts. Regular readers of the Camera Charts may have noticed a disturbing trend for Canon, their superzooms are getting beaten by the Panasonic superzooms at Amazon, and Amazon is a "Canon shop". We've been following the Amazon top sellers for years, and it was very rare to see other superzooms ahead of Canon on a regular basis. For the last few weeks, the Panasonic TZ-series along with the FZ18 (when in stock and under $300) are kicking Canon's "zoomhind".

So to summarize, Canon badly needs to introduce new superzoom models because the market has moved along, with superzooms ranging from 15X to 20X from Olympus (3), Fuji (3), Sony (3), Panasonic (2), Nikon (1) and Kodak (1) too. As we said many times before, Canon likes to trail the trends, and then blitz the market (see CF-to-SD conversion, 4AA-to-2AA, larger LCD camera displays, etc). But it looks like they have waited for too long this time.

Nothing wrong with the S5-IS as is, but we should expect an S5 IS replacement by
Photokina. The S5-IS was announced in May 2007, and that's more than 12 months already! The big question is whether Canon announces one or two models to follow-up on the S5 IS. One reasonable approach would be to introduce a sequential update to the S5-IS featuring the same 12X IS lens and the new 10mp 1/2.33" sensor, and another more expensive model featuring a long(er) zoom lens, perhaps a 28-400mm at a minimum. Canon may be a bit more conservative on the lens as they have their reputation of image quality to maintain, which is why we may see a more "conservative" 28-400mm instead of the 18X or 20X zoom ratios. Let's call them "S7 IS" and "S10 IS".

The SX-100 IS was announced in August 2007 at Fauxtokina, and we should expect to see an SX100 IS replacement by Photokina, using the new 10mp 1/2.33" sensor. This was Canon's second attempt at a "fun zoom" camera, after the failure (by Canon standards) that was the TX-1. The SX100 IS is doing much better, but still has not been able to fend off the momentum of the Panasonic "Monet" TZ-series, which started with the TZ3 and continues with the TZ5 and TZ4. Let's call this "SX 120 IS" or "SX 110 IS". Yes, we are predicting model names too :)

Panasonic superzooms: FZ50 is waiting for company!
The recent Panasonic announcement took out the chance for a FZ28 prediction, and with the TZ5 and TZ4 coming earlier this year, the focus is on the big FZ-series.

The availability of the TZ-series and the 18X FZ18/FZ28 have pretty much squeezed out the FZ8, and reduced the chances of a FZ8 replacement although we do have to point out that Panasonic would be going from 10X to 18X, without the traditional 12X stop in between. It would be nice if we saw a FZ9 with RAW, but think it's not very likely. The FZ8 was announced in January 2007. Unless of course Panasonic has other ideas (eg try a speed-demon sensor), which also sounds more wishful thinking than anything else.

It took Panasonica two years to replace the LX2 with the brand new LX3, so there is some hope for those who are anxiously and impatiently waiting for a FZ50 replacement. Some hope, not "Obama 200K @ Berlin" type of hope.

The FZ50 was announced in July 2006, along with the LX2. Coincidence? We think not! So what are some of the options or alternatives or follow-ups for the FZ50?
  1. Use the LX3 10mp 1/1.63" sensor and issue a straight up replacement, let's call it the FZ60.
  2. Release a similar camera, but starting at 28mm wide, while preserving a reasonable (or even shorter) zoom ratio, eg 28-300mm equivalent or perhaps follow the Fuji example and go with something like the Finepix S100fs (28-400mm equivalent). Let's call this FZ55 or FZ60 or FZ70.
  3. Jump on the big zoom ratio bandwagon with the FZ80 featuring an 18X lens. Because horsepower megapixels zoom ratio sells!

We still don't know whether Panasonic plans to release an affordable DSLR. If they don't, this increases the chances of them making an advanced superzoom that boldly takes the FZ-series to the next level.

Our prediction? We'll be pleasantly surprised if we see FZ50 or FZ8 follow-ups or replacements.

Sony superzooms: Minolta A-series please come back and save the day!
While the Sony H-series superzooms have their fans, you can't swing a mouse cord without hitting a so-so review. Neither the move to 15X nor the "fun zooms" have been a smash hit, and if Sony wants to challenge Canon for the #1 spot without subsidizing market share with sub-$200 S-series and W-series cameras, they need to come up with a couple of solid superzooms.

Our preference is for Sony to revitalize the Minolta A-series cameras, and "modernize" them with today's latest sensors and technology. But this is (sadly) highly unlikely. Sony, prove us wrong please :)

The "flagship" H50 came out in late February 2008, so we shouldn't expect a replacement for it, unless Sony plans to leapfrog it with a longer zoom ratio camera, or perhaps, yes, perhaps, use its own 6mp 1/1.8" speed-demon sensor and produce a hybrid. See the section at the top for more of our mumblings on that sensor. Their previous superzooms, the H7 and H9 came out in late February 2007, so it looks like Sony is on a time-table. Oops, I mean, time horizon :)

The top "fun zoom", the H10, came out at PMA 2008, and it's unlikely to be replaced, unless Sony is in a hurry to give it the 10mp 1/2.33" sensor or 9mp 1/2.5" sensor, in which case it will be more of a co-runner instead of a replacement. Their first "fun zoom" was the Cybershot H3, which was announced in August 2007. But then again, perhaps Sony is on the half-year cycle for these models.

Clearly Sony needs to do something in this segment, but we just don't know what they'll do for Photokina 2008 or (sadly) if they'll announce anything new. They need to make something that makes the H-series look more exciting when compared to the Canon S-IS tradition and the Panasonic buzz.

Nikon SuperZooms: Anything else?
After a few half-hearted attempts at "fun zooms" (read Coolpix S-series), Nikon signaled a partial return to more "serious" superzooms with the 18X Coolpix P80. But sadly that camera did not get RAW, and that may have left some red and raw in the face ;-)

Will Nikon go in burst mode and crank a couple more superzooms, perhaps with RAW and a larger sensor? They certainly were not shy in 2004 when they came up with the 8400, 8700 and 8800. And will Nikon take another shot at the "fun zoom" segment, either with a variation of their once popular "twist and shout" design, or a more "TZ-like" design?

Our crystal ball is hazy, we could see one more superzoom from Nikon this year, but we just can't pinpoint what it might be.

Olympus SuperZooms: No room for fun zooms, anything else?
Olympus is pretty much leaving very little room for a "fun zoom" line-up, since their Stylus line has now grown to a 7x room ratio lens, effectively making those their small zooms. So we don't think Olympus will try any TZ-like cameras this year.

As far as their bigger zooms, the SP-570uz was announced in January, pushing the superzoom ratio to a whole "nuther" level at 20X. Before that we had the SP-560uz in August 2007, and the SP-550uz in January 2007. So is Olympus on a six-month cycle, or was the SP-560uz a "bug fix release" to address some of the SP-550uz bugs, issues, complaints and concerns? The answer to that question will determine what we see from Olympus.

Kodak superzooms: We are done for 2008?
Kodak just recently announced their first post-12X superzoom, the EasyChair Z1015-IS (typo intended), and considering they already have about half a dozen "active" superzooms in their line-up, it just doesn't make sense to announce any more, unless they are planning to go for something different.

Occasionally Kodak wakes up from the mid-range and produces a camera that dares to take a peek into the upper tier (remember the P880?), but for the most part they stick to the mid-range and below. If they do decide to "brave" something new, then perhaps they could take a chance on the 6mp 1/1.8" Sony sensor, since they don't have their own camcorders to worry about. Their recent move to make a "Flip competitor" hybrid, the Zi6 may be a sign that they are waking up. And a speed-demon would generate enough buzz that could have a "tide effect" on their other cameras.

Another, even more remote perhaps possibility is a more advanced superzoom with RAW.

Fuji superzooms: Infrared perhaps?
Fujifilm has about as many superzooms as films in the market today ;-) They go from the 11mp 2/3" giantsumer S100fs to the lowly S5700/S5800 (S700/S800) affordables. In-between, we find the 18X S8100fd/S8000fd, along with the S1000fd. Image stabilization seems to be a bit of an issue for Fuji, in that their lower tier superzooms don't have it, and their upper tier superzooms have a reputation of not having as good of an image stabilization system as the competition. But at least they have fixed the xD problem and turned it into an advantage with their xD/SD dual-purpose memory card slots (Olympus, wake up and smell the SD card!).

So the only thing we can think of from Fuji is the possibility of a UVIR. Yes, an infra-red sensitive version of one of their superzooms, and the S100fs seems to be the most likely candiate. They have already released two DSLR UvIr versions (S3 Pro and S5 Pro) and an S9x00 version, at CES 2007, known as the IS-1.

So our Fuji prediction is that we will see an infra-red sensitive version of the S100fs! And considering our track record, it means we won't ;-)

Samsung superzooms: {}
For a company who seems amp'ed to take over the global #1 spot from the likes of Canon, Sony and Kodak, Samsung is ignoring the superzoom segment, which is one of the hottest and most buzzworthy segments of the market.

Granted, Samsung has their own camcorders and their gadget-hybrids, but neither one of those appeals to the mainstream photographers. Samsung tried their hand with the 8mp 2/3" Pro 815 giantzoomer, which was the last of the 8mp 2/3" Mohicans, but that was it from Samsung superzooms.

While common sense says that they should try to attack this segment, it doesn't look like Samsung will be testing the superzoom waters this year (prediction).

Pentax superzooms
Pentax has stayed away from superzooms since their weird looking hybrid models of a few centuries ago. We predict that they will continue to stay away as they continue to focus on specific niches in the market (eg the waterproof W-series (the cool blue W60 is so adorable!)).

Leica Superzooms
Leica came out with the V-Lux 1, which was of course a Panasonic leica-sonic clone-a-sonic. Will Leica take a chance on any of the other available Panasonics? Will a "fun zoom" TZ-series Leica make sense in the eyes of the Leicaphiles? How about a FZ28?

It's been a while since Leica announced a fixed-lens clone digital camera, so the question is, are they planning a big (2 or 3 models) announcement at Photokina 2008 or are they fading out of that business? One camera that screams Leica is the LX3, which we'll cover in the Prosumer/RAWsumer predictions segment, which is coming up tomorrow soon.

New Term: RAWZoomers
We love creating new terms or blending existing terms to create new ones, so today we are introducing a new term today, RAWZoomers, which refers to superzoom digital cameras with a fixed-lens that support RAW natively. RAWZoomers are a subset of RAWsumers. For this purpose, a superzoom is defined as one that has a zoom ratio of 10X or more, regardless of the focal length range. The new term has been added to our repository of 1001 Noisy Terms.

More Photokina 2008 coverage

  1. DSLR Predictions
  2. Photokina 2008 Rumor Central
  3. Vote up or down various rumors at CameraRumo(u)
  4. Last year's predictions (Fauxtokina 2007)
  5. Official Photokina site
  6. World of Imaging

  • The Digital Camera List, where all the current and recent models are listed in one giant yet spartan table. See the "SuperZoom" column for all the superzooms. It is the 3rd column of the table.


    Anonymous said...

    The S10, aside from it's glaring terrible lack of manual controls, is a brilliant camera. It takes great pictures, and the swivel lens lets you get angles you just can't do with other cameras. I wish the P80 had continued in the swivel lens tradition.

    1001 noisy cameras said...

    It is indeed interesting that they have given up on the swivel lens designs, even though they had and still have their fans and followers.