Swimming With The Fishes

Interesting article over at byThom (Size Matters? July 25) on the rumors that Nikon is planning its compact mirrorless to be a 2.7x crop sensor, i.e. smaller than 4/3 sensor but right in the midlle between APS-C and tiny compact. This new 2.7x crop sensor will mean smaller than APS-C DSLRs cameras and better than compact image quality.

Could Nikon build a wickedly innovative and top end “compact” with that format? You bet they could. […] A Coolpix P300 on steroids isn’t a product that most of you reading this Web site would be interested in, is it?

That got me to thinking. If Nikon sees the target market for its compact mirrorless to be those desiring something better than the Coolpix P300, then perhaps it does make sense.

There is also the sense from traditional DSLR camera manufacturers that they need to offer their own version of compact mirrorless to compete directly with the increasingly successful micro 4/3 compact mirrorless DSLRs.

However, I can’t help wondering if there may be a flaw in this reasoning: see, from the impressive improvements we have seen the micro 4/3 compact mirrorless gain in recent years, it seems to me they do NOT see themselves as below the APS-C DSLRs. Though they certainly are competing with the compact digicams, they also see themselves (with their high-end models) as on the same level — and competing — to dethrone the traditional DSLRs. In other words, in an ideal 4/3 world, there are no more mirrored APS-C DSLRs, for the mirror is redundant (didn’t you get the memo?). And if the 4/3 mirrorless don’t succeed, then I guess other camera manufacturers with an APS-C mirrorless probably will. Obviously, anything smaller than 4/3 won’t ever be able to compete with the APS-C DSLRs.

I am also wondering if some of the camera manufacturers planning a compact mirrorless offering may not be making a mistake with their target market. I may be totally out of left field on this issue, but it seems to me that the compact mirrorless target market is not simply another rung for the consumer to climb on the way to DSLR heaven. Rather, it’s made up of serious and even pro photographers who have (re) discovered the joy of a small, compact and fast camera with superb handling and exceptional DSLR-level image quality. They will not be satisfied with anything less. Is that a wrong understanding on my part?

Message to any camera manufacturer concerning a potential compact mirrorless offering: do you see yourself swimming with the fishes? Like the Old Spice commercial might say: Look again, they are not fishes — they are sharks.