The mirror cracks with new system
Panasonic jumps gun with new models, writes Jennifer Dudley-nicholson
NEW digital cameras have become smarter, smaller, tougher and even cheaper. At Australia’s biggest digital photography expo on the weekend, camera makers strived to recruit photo buffs and entice enthusiasts to upgrade.
But it was compact-system cameras that emerged as the hottest product of the PMA Imaging and Entertainment Expo, as existing makers launched slender shooters and new firms revealed their plans.
Switched On surveyed PMA’s booths to report below. interest in the category is at an all-time high in Australia.
‘‘ Mirrorless cameras are one of the fastest-growing segments and we expect this sector to double this year, growing from 12 per cent of the total interchangeable lens market to 24 per cent by next year,’’ Robins says.
The demand is growing as consumers try to take their photography to the next level in quality while seeking to avoid extra weight, he says.
Compact-system cameras achieve smaller, lighter bodies by eliminating the mirror in optical viewfinders, using electronic viewfinders or LCD screens, and use smaller sensors and lenses to reduce bulk.
A ConsumerScope GfK sur- Smiling both sides of camera: A woman shows her delight with Panasonic’s slim-line Lumix GF3 vey showed 13 per cent of camera buyers considered a DSLR camera late last year but opted for a compact camera— a prime market for compactsystem cameras.
‘‘ We know that the continued barriers to purchase have been the perceived weight, size and complexity of SLRs,’’ Robins says.
To appeal to this market, Panasonic launched the Lumix GF3 that weighs 222g, offers a focus time of 0.18 seconds, resolution of 12.1 megapixels and new creative modes for beginners, and will be available in August in a single-lens kit for $899.
The Lumix G3 a more advanced, 16-megapixel model, will launch next month for $1099. Ricoh is also looking to appeal to upwardly mobile photographers, using the expo to show off the first interchangeable lens adapter for its GXR camera.
Launched two years ago, the camera is a shell to which users attach a lens unit. Units contain an image sensor and lens, letting users upgrade their camera with ease.
The latest addition, called the M Lens Mount Unit, comes with a 12-megapixel APS-C sensor but arrives without a lens. It lets users add lenses from their collection, Ricoh sales manager Martin Shock says.
‘‘ The feedback we got is that users loved the idea behind the GXR, but a lot of people were highly literate in photography and they already had a collection of lenses,’’ Shock says. ‘‘ They wanted to be able to use those lenses with this camera.’’
When it launches in September, the GXR lens mount will accept M mount lenses from brands including Leica and Carl Zeiss.
Ricoh also plans to expand its camera system further, showing some possibilities including a GPS unit, projector and even a printer that could be added to the camera body. Photo enthusiasts should brace for even more compactsystem cameras.
Sony will add a faster, slimmer camera to its Alpha NEX line next month in the C3 ( as reviewed) that comes with a 16-megapixel resolution and a price tag of $849.
And Olympus, the company that kicked off the trend, is tipped to reveal new cameras in its popular PEN range in Sydney tomorrow.
More traditional camera makers are joining the trend for the first time, too.
Pentax will launch a lensswapping camera named Q in September with a 12-megapixel resolution and a pop-up flash, and high-end camera brand Leica will launch its take on compact system cameras at the Photokina expo in September next year.
Two of the biggest names in cameras have yet to show their hands in the compact systems market, however.
Nikon and Canon are yet to participate, although Canon spokesman Andrew Giles says the company has considered it.