Is the DSLR dead?
Rumours that the next Panasonic m4/3 camera will be a L1 Rangefinder lookalike.
People talking about selling off entire Nikon & Canon DSLR systems to buy a GF1 + 20mm lens.
There does seem to be an increasing antipathy to the black plastic identikit DSLR. (Did you think this was going to be objective?) There also seems to be a return to the photographic values of previous decades. Retro design, small light cameras, fast large aperture primes, are all marketed as cutting edge. I suppose there is a limit to the amount of increasingly similar APS-C sensor DSLR's with slow cheap kit zooms that you can offer for sale. Though this doesn't seem to have put Sony off! The "hottest" new cameras of recent times, in terms of media attention and discussion as opposed to sales, have been the Panasonic GF1, Olympus E-P1 and the Leica M9. Not exactly what you might have expected for the start of 2010.
Having said all that, what camera comes out top for sales, worldwide? Well its the Canon 500D. This is not to say that its not a decent camera, it is. I bought one and it takes really good pictures. However it is one of the nastiest and cheapest feeling picture taking machines you could ever pick up. For what it does - 14MP, HD video etc. its incredibly good value - and its sales reflect that, but it seems that many other people don't actually want that anymore.
Our technology, toys, gadgets, whatever we choose to call them, are important to us. They are important to us in the way that they can define who we are, or at least who we think we are, or even who we want to be. Some of us have to have the latest mobile phone, an iPod, an iPhone, a netbook etc. etc. New phones don't make better phone calls or texts than the old ones or an iPhone, other MP3 players are just as good as an iPod and netbooks are just small, low spec laptops. I found myself looking at a red netbook in a computer store, thinking that looks cool, it would match my G-series cameras! I very nearly bought one for that very (stupid) reason.
In terms of cameras we seem to have reached some sort of megapixel ceiling. People are gradually realising that 12-14MP is probably enough. Theres not a lot of benefit to be gained from adding more. Canon to their credit have actually reduced the no. of pixels in their latest super-compact the G11, citing improved picture quality as the reason. I'm sure that some other manufacturer will attempt to cram 18-20MP onto one of those tiny sensors, but the trend does seem to be away from the MP numbers game.
Its now more about features, funtionality and style. HD video and Live view are a must. Though once again Sony don't seem to have got the message yet! There's also a realisation that people are actually concerned about ease of use and quality. There's an awful lot of patronising, derogatory nonsense written about the "point and shoot snapper" which usually consists of something like - "Oh they don't want anything complicated - they just want to press the shutter" Yes simple, like mobile phone menus, uploading tracks to your iPod, assembling Ikea furniture - the first and last of which are complete mysteries to me! So for everything else we do complicated but for cameras we want something a deaf, dumb and blind gerbil could operate. Its nonsense. For starters have you ever looked at the range of compact cameras? Its huge and unbelievably complicated. People often ask me for a camera recommendation & if its a compact they want, I usually refer them to the dPreview site. But even they can't cope with the ever increasing profliferation of these things, which seem to getting smaller and smaller. So just choosing one involves major research.
I believe that everyone who owns a camera wants to take good pictures. Why wouldn't they? I also believe they are looking for the best that they can afford and are also looking for something that looks and feels good. If a combination of retro styling and space age technology fills these needs then so much the better. If that retro look brings with it an appreciation of photography and its possibilities then thats a good thing. It won't take long for people to realise what they can do with a 20mm f.1.7 lens as opposed to an 18-55 F3.5-5.6. Given enough converts the tyranny of the black plastic identikit DSLR may be nearing an end.