David Pogue writes today about affordable, bigger-than-pocketable, cameras with reasonable ISO 800 images. That made me think about how the digital camera market breaks down at the end of 2010. There are about 5 markets left today, cameras like the Canon G series are being replaced by these newer cameras.
- iPhone 4 and equivalent
- Very compact simple cameras. (Canon, everyone else)
- Non-pocketable smaller-than-SLR fixed lens cameras (Canon, Panasonic, Samsung)
- SLRs (Canon and Nikon)
- MILC - Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (everyone but Canon and Nikon)
The first category is dead. Why buy an ultra-compact when you own an iPhone 4 or the equivalent?
So that leaves 4 "camera" categories for 2011-2012. The middle two occupy the same two niches that have existed since the 1960s ...
- iPhone 4 and equivalent.
- Non-pocketable smaller-than-SLR fixed lens cameras -> same niche as the film rangefinder
- SLRs (Canon and Nikon) -> same as film SLRs
The last category is the interesting one. We've been expecting the MILC for the past decade, so it's hardly a surprise. Manufacturers are now ready to chop the prism and the mirror. By 2012 Nikon and Canon will have MILCs that work with their current lenses, and low end SLRs will fade away.
More than the SLR is at risk; MILCs can be much smaller than the an SLR. That doesn't leave much room for the "rangefinder". So by 2017 we'll have only two categories;
- iPhone 8 and equivalent
- MILC (Canon and Nikon)
Next year I expect to replace my 4-5 yo Digital Rebel XT with a 2011 model that bloody well better shoot ISO 1200 as well as my current camera shoots ISO 400 . That will almost certainly be the last SLR I'll buy.
 More pixels means I can use less optical zoom, so larger F-stop, so the overall light sensitivity per end-image pixel is greater than the ISO difference alone. Needless to say, I'm not impressed with megapixels. I want photons.