Happy New Year 2012!

We wish our readers a Happy and Safe New Year 2012! It’s been a momentous year, both in photography and non-photography news. In photography news, we saw the compact mirrorless DSLR take its rightful — dare we say, destined — place, first alongside the traditional mirrored DSLRs, then increasingly becoming the DSLR camera of choice for both beginners and enthusiasts.

While in the mind of many, the traditional mirrored DSLR is still “better” than the mirrorless DSLR, many are also waking up to the undeniable fact that a mirror today is wasteful of space, loud, relatively slow and simply unnecessary. The mirror once served its purpose to direct light coming thru the lens into the viewfinder, thus allowing the photographer to see what would be exposing the film.

Today, the mirrorless DSLR allows the photographer to not only do the same thing, but also see exactly what is exposing the sensor and what changes the processing unit would be applying to come up with the final digital image. It’s a more exact image, pending any post-processing you might choose to apply to it. And you can see that image on a high resolution LCD or EVF (electronic viewfinder). Is there still compelling reasons to keep the mirror? Not many, if you ask me.

We believe 2011 was the Year of the Compact Mirrorless DSLR. It is interesting to note that the best compact mirrorless DSLR, according to the majority of the reviewers, comes from Sony (Sony NEX-7) which seems to have regained some of its boldness to innovate fearlessly. We don’t know how much influence the old gang from Minolta may have contributed to that innovation, but we’d like to believe they played an important role.

Is Sony just one step away from repeating the same feat using a full frame sensor? Once again, we’ll hear that Sony itself makes DSLRs which use a translucent mirror, that it’s hard to do, etc. but technically there are really no stumbling blocks anymore to using a full frame sensor, so it’s just a matter of time.

We may be on the brink of a new revolution in camera development, continuing right where we left off when we veered away from film to embrace digital imaging. At that time, digital imaging was still in its infancy and we had to take baby steps to bring us back to the point where film was at its zenith. Digital imaging can now confidently claim to be able to replace film imaging completely.

Other camera manufacturers are right behind Sony: The Olympus (now with the E-P3) and Panasonic (now with the GX1) have of course started and led that revolution all along. The Samsung NX200 shows that a relative newcomer can make an excellent compact mirrorless DSLR — and we expect more good and surprising things from Olympus, Panasonic and Samsung in 2012.

Of course, the News of the Year was the Fujifilm X100 with its beautiful retro look and outstanding image quality. Fujifilm [isn’t it time to drop the “film” part and go back to the beloved “Fuji” name?] is now promising a compact mirrorless DSLR (i.e., an interchangeable lens camera) and that gets all enthusiasts’ heart skipping a beat. As good the Sony NEX-7 is, one thing it lacks is charm. The NEX-7 is a tool, period. The X100 is a beautiful tool.

Of the two camera greats, only Nikon ventured into the compact mirrorless DSLR category, though timidly, taking great care not to intrude into its traditional mirrored DSLR sales. The Nikon 1 System (1 V1 and 1 J1) has the potential of being a great system but time will tell if consumers will settle for a small sensor.

Canon has resisted the lure of the compact mirrorless DSLR so far, though dangling the promise that it is working on a killer model for who knows when. When it does finally introduce its compact mirrorless, will it follow Nikon’s example? Or, will it introduce a large sensor mirrorless? We believe Canon is too vested into its traditional mirrored DSLRs to be that bold. But we fervently hope Canon will prove us wrong.

What’s next for 2012? Besides the rumored Nikon D4 and D800 — two traditional mirrored DSLRs which will apparently set new standards in performance and image quality — all the exciting news will continue to come from the compact mirrorless DSLR category. Which camera manufacturer will be the first to throw caution — and the mirror — to the wind and make all its DSLRs mirrorless? This is really the obvious, common sense way to go. You read it here first.