Never have the DSLR-bashers had it so good. Finally, there is the ultimate in point-and-shoot with sensors nearly as large as those in four-thirds DSLR cameras. And there is an electronic viewfinder to scan the world in ‘realtime’. Really high-tech. Why, you can change the lenses too! It is called EVIL, or the Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens camera. At the time of writing this the Olympus E-P1, a.k.a. the “PEN”, and the Panasonic GF1 are already hogging the eyeballs in the Internet space, if not the real world markets. Samsung too seems to have thrown the hat in the ring with the NX-10.
The whopping contraction in size has been acquired by hacking off the mirror mechanism altogether. In a typical SLR body, the light beams are reflected towards a pentaprism/pentamirror which in turn directs them through the viewfinder. Before you have the feeling that this is an elegy on the bygone mirror and prism, I would like to point out that many pros are given to use “mirror up” in their DSLR’s before tripping the shutter for avoiding vibrations caused by the snapping movement of the mirror. Thus, mirrors do have a negative side effect. Is this a reason to rejoice, then?
Not really. Although reluctantly, I am willing to let go the pristine real-life view of the subjects before I take the image in favour of the real-time electronic view, if it offers better and sharper pictures. Theoretically, it does. But it also seriously reduces the size of the camera. The problem is, they have bloated the sensor (for the standards of a compact camera)! And bigger sensors need bigger lenses! A typical zoom lens has several groups of glass elements inside them. Precision mechanisms and long barrels are required to move these elements to change the focal length. What is the point if I still have to snap a converter and use huge professional lenses to dwarfish bodies. How do they remain petite anymore? If the industry has to mint an entire series of miniaturised lenses for the EVIL format, what is the point in having a large sensor?
The evolution from Film to Digital SLRs has been a gradual one. The likes of Nikon started with the DX format (1.5X crop factor to 35mm) when they launched the D1 in 1999 and it was not till 2007 when they came up with D3, their first FX (full format 35mm) DSLR. It should not take one long to realize that the professionals looking for higher quality look up to full format cameras rather than the cropped DX version.
Yes, small is beautiful. But excuse me, it somehow appears to be a case of ‘Honey I shrunk the DSLR’! Just as everything in life, you set the limit somewhere. Can you really enjoy a HD movie on the small screen of your mobile phone? How effective are the mega dollar thrillers like the Star War series, the Jurassic Park saga or recently, the Avtar, on your home television panels?
I am not seeking to establish that the new EVIL format will fail. Far from it, we should witness the established players like Nikon and Canon flooding the market with their models sooner than later. The technology, however, is poised to replace the point-and-shoot, or more specifically, the advanced compact cameras –or “bridge cameras”, if you have it that way — rather than the DSLRs. Incidentally, the existing entry level DSLRs have already been shrunk to manageable sizes for those who hate the bulk of the bigger brethren of the race. You only have to try holding a Nikon D3000 or a Canon 1000D in you hands to realize this. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop the www.wired.com from coming up with “5 reasons to ditch your Digital SLR” :
Its an amazing piece of yellow journalism, indeed.