Com­pact sys­tem fans are in for a treat this Christ­mas, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Nicholson

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Lat­est thing in cam­eras is tipped to blitz Aus­tralia.

THEY are smaller, lighter, smarter and they’re pre­dicted to be the hot- ticket pho­to­graphic item this Christ­mas.

Com­pact sys­tem cam­eras are grow­ing both in mod­els and in pop­u­lar­ity, with pre­dic­tions that sales will dou­ble in Aus­tralia this year.

In­dus­try ex­perts say the mar­ket has also re­ceived a ‘‘ sub­stan­tial boost’’ from the en­trance of lead­ing pho­to­graphic house Nikon, which launched its first com­pact sys­tem cam­eras here last month.

An­other highly ad­vanced model is also ex­pected from Sony soon, while Olym­pus has just launched its third Pen cam­era of the year and Pana­sonic de­liv­ered ‘‘ col­lapsi­ble’’ lenses for its new mod­els.

But man­u­fac­tur­ers warn more ed­u­ca­tion may be needed for con­sumers to em­brace the tech­nol­ogy, and en­thu­si­asts could de­rail the trend with a de­bate about tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions and cam­era la­bels.

Pana­sonic launched the first com­pact sys­tem cam­era in 2008, with Olym­pus de­but­ing its modern Pen cam­era the

fol­low­ing year. This new type of cam­era made it pos­si­ble to swap lenses and achieve high qual­ity im­ages, while us­ing a cam­era body sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than a dig­i­tal SLR. It cut weight and bulk by re­mov­ing the cam­era’s in­te­rior mir­ror and de­liv­er­ing a smaller sen­sor that re­quired smaller lenses.

Photo Imag­ing Coun­cil of Aus­tralia ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Paul Cur­tis says the weight loss made the cam­eras at­trac­tive for keen ama­teurs look­ing to ad­vance their skills as well as ad­vanced shoot­ers look­ing for a travel- friendly cam­era.

Olym­pus pro­fes­sional photography man­ager Lu­cas Tan ex­plains that sav­ings, as well as ad­vance­ments in new mod­els, are con­vinc­ing more peo­ple to buy com­pact sys­tem cam­eras.

The brand launched three Pen cam­eras this year, with the cheap­est and small­est the Pen Mini out in Septem­ber. But it is the most ad­vanced model that is a main­stream hit, he says.

‘‘ There are peo­ple who are ask­ing for the Pen E- P3 in stores we never thought we’d sell it to,’’ Tan says.

‘‘ We thought we would range it only in photo spe­cialty stores but now the top 25 Har­vey Nor­man stores also carry it.’’

But Aus­tralia has been slow to fully em­brace the new cam­era type.

Com­pact sys­tem cam­eras now make up 45 per cent of all in­ter­change­able lens cam­eras in Ja­pan, 40 per cent in Hong Kong and 30 per cent in Korea.

‘‘ In Aus­tralia you’re look­ing at com­pact sys­tem cam­eras hav­ing about 9 or 10 per cent mar­ket share, but that’s steadily grow­ing and we see very strong growth into Christ­mas,’’ Tan says.

Pana­sonic Lu­mix group mar­ket­ing man­ager Alis­tair Robins says Aus­tralian sales ap­pear to be a year be­hind those in the UK, where com­pact sys­tem cam­eras have just claimed 20 per cent of the mar­ket. ‘‘ As a re­sult, we’re now ex­pect­ing [ Aus­tralian sales] to dou­ble in the com­ing year,’’ he says.

A spate of new cam­era re­leases is likely to fur­ther ig­nite those sales.

Nikon launched its first two com­pact sys­tem cam­eras in Septem­ber: the J1 that it touts as the small­est CSC model avail­able, and the V1 that prom­ises a shoot­ing speed of 60 pho­tos per sec­ond. But the mod­els have been crit­i­cised for hav­ing a smaller im­age sen­sor than oth­ers ( 13.2x8.8mm).

Af­ter launch­ing its NEX- 5N cam­era re­cently, Sony is al­ready tout­ing a new topof- the- range model in the NEX- 7 due later this year. It prom­ises a 24.7- megapixel sen­sor, OLED viewfinder and gen­er­ous APS- C im­age sen­sor.

While the de­bate over sen­sors is likely to fuel fierce de­bate by en­thu­si­asts, Robins says ‘‘ for con­sumers it’s re­ally about the out­put from the prod­uct and what pho­tos it pro­duces’’ that will mat­ter.

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