03rd Jan 2013
Looking at how mobile phone launches in the year have been largely unexciting (part 1 of this series), this one comes across as a breath of fresh air. Of course, the year did witness its share of routine launches of cameras with more and more pixels and not much discernable improvement in quality, but there were also some bold initiatives that made a mark in the evolution of digital cameras.
Finally, Point And Shoots Mature
For a decade now, manufacturers have marketed megapixels so effectively, people consider it to be the first measure of image quality. In reality, the pixel count only tells you how large the image is, but nothing about how good it will be. The biggest problem in point and shoot cameras is that they come with small sensors, giving such snappers very poor low light performance. Even on current generation models, ISO 800 and above is mostly unusable: and DLSRs manage relatively clean looking photos even at ISO 1600 and some models, even beyond ISO 3200. There have been some attempts to plonk in a larger sensor into small form factors (for example the Canon G series), but those were still not pocketable enough.
And then came along Sony, with the surprisingly brilliant RX100 (nothing to do with the legendary motorbike) that features the second largest sensor in the current range of point and shoots, all in a pocket-friendly size. Priced at about Rs 34,000, it is costlier than an entry level DSLR + kit lens, but that is the price you pay for good image quality in a compact form factor. Incidentally, Sony also holds the record for the largest sensor size in compact cameras with its RX1, which has a sensor as big as those found in professional DSLRs. The RX1 costs so much money that mentioning the figure might give you sense of something being wrong with this world, so I'll let it be.
Phone Camera Grows Up Too
In June this year, amidst a lot of hype, the Nokia PureView 808 set new standards for what a mobile phone camera can do, and then more recently Nikon's CoolPix s800c, and Samsung's GALAXY Camera, showed us that a camera-cum-compact Android device can do sharing, browsing and basically everything a 'smartphone' does (except voice calls, and that's disappointing).
Budget Cameras Available For Record Low Price
Despite all its brilliance, the RX100 demands what most would consider an obscenely large amount of money. And yes for most mortals that is the first deciding factor to pick up a camera ; everything else comes later. How economical can a 10x optical zoom, 10+ mp camera be? Rs 8,500. Yes, that low.
A 5x optical zoom can be yours for as little as Rs 4,300, while for a basic 3x optical zoom, you need to spend only about Rs 3,300. We are not talking of no-name Chinese knock offs, but known brand names in the photography business. Two years back, prices were about twice as much.
Pro-shooters And Enthusiasts Spoilt By Choice
There have been 41 interchangable lens cameras launched in 2012: A rather higher number as compared to the 25 in 2011.
For the longest time, Canon and Nikon, each owing to their matured eco-system (availability of lenses, flashes, and other accessories) seemed hard to beat. So, when an alternative format of an interchangeable lens system, the micro-four-thirds format was announced a little over four years ago in the form of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, I had my doubts on whether the ecosystem would evolve to shake the hegemony of Canon and Nikon. And I'm happy to be proved wrong – now, apart from new models based on this micro-four-thirds system, there’s also a slew of lenses available for them (you can use an Olympus lens on a Panasonic body, how cool is that?).
Back to the giants, Canon and Nikon — both companies launched their 'less expensive' full-frame models for enthusiasts, the EOS 6D (Canon) and D600 (Nikon). With several 'families' of DSLRs from both these manufacturers in existence, the line between 'enthusiast' and 'professional' is getting blurred. These cameras set you back by about Rupees One Lakh. As for the latest in the entry level category, the 2012 models from both these companies are too expensive to be bought in India right now, and we'll have to settle for models that are a generation or two older. Sad but true…
2012 TechTree Wrap-Up Part 2: Cameras Finally Get Interesting
The year saw a lot happening in the digital photography space, with cameras being made for nearly every budget and need.
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