During CES, there were major product announcements from Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony. Many of the popular DSLRs and ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) models were present on the show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, as well as the nearby PMA@CES (Photo Marketing Association Inter-national) event, which took place concurrently at the Venetian.
The imaging marketplace continues to mature, with DSLRs remaining the prosumer and professional choice. But increasingly, DSLRs are being challenged by compact cameras with similar functionality. Companies like Olympus are focusing more on their ILCs than on their DSLR offerings. ILCs are generally more affordable, easier to use, more compact and seem to appeal to a wider range of users. Other camera companies, such as Nikon and Fujifilm, are jumping on the ILC bandwagon. Canon, meanwhile, announced a fixed-lens model with a DSLR-sized sensor.
The ILC market is also maturing. The lens systems and accessory lineups are expanding. Various accessories for video recording and adapters for fitting non-system specific lenses were on display at the show.
Compact point-and-shoot models are either focusing on the "tough" segment, with water- and dust-proofing materials and rugged build, or are integrating popular smartphone features like the ability to run apps and perform in-camera photo editing. Samsung's "connected" point-and-shoot line can connect to the Internet via built-in Wi-Fi to upload images to popular photo sharing and social media services.
For 2012, the annual PMA Expo merged with CES. Most major camera companies had their exhibits on the main floor at CES, while accessory and pro vendors exhibited at PMA&CES, which ran concurrently at the Venetian Hotel.
There is an increase in zoom capacities in smaller point-and-shoot bodies from Panasonic and Olympus, which are maintaining their slim size while offering users up to 24x optical zoom. Premium features such as improved stabilization, higher-resolution HD video and touch-enabled screens are trickling down into cheaper models.
Video cameras are also undergoing an evolution and becoming more multifunctional. Now that most smartphones and still digital cameras can manage to take HD video, we are seeing manufacturers expand functionality and connectivity.
Sony's new handheld Bloggie video camera has added Wi-Fi capability, while its HDR-PJ260V HandyCam has a builtin LED projector that can project video up to 100" on a wall or a screen.
Many of the major camera and imaging companies had impressive booths at the show floor, while smaller booths for photo accessories as well as lighting and studio-specific equipment filled the PMA@CES show area at the Venetian. Here are some of the products that made a big splash at CES and PMA.
Nikon D4 Full Frame DSLR
Nikon got things started by announcing its D4 full-frame DSLR, which will cost $6,300, for the body, only when it comes to market in February.
Designed for commercial photographers or serious enthusiasts who take action or wildlife photography, the D4 is also geared towards video. It accepts video-optimized XQD memory cards as well as CompactFlash cards.
The D4 has maximum ISO of 204,800. It can capture 10 frames per second at full 16.2 megapixel resolution, and can shoot 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second with full manual control.
Nikon also announced a $530 AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 prime lens that, in tandem with the D4, should enable detailed shots in very dim conditions.
Unveiled a year ago, Fujifilm retro-styled X100 gathered a lot of attention in 2011, despite having a fixed moderate wide-angle lens. Later in the year, the company launched the X10, similarly styled, but with a zoom lens and smaller sensor. Toward year-end, there was widespread speculation that Fujifilm was planning an interchangeable lens camera. And this appeared at CES 2012.
Fujifilm's new interchangeable lens camera has a large APS-C sensor; analog controls for shutter speed, exposure compensation and aperture; superb build quality and striking retro cosmetics.
The X-Pro1 rides the tide of Fujifilm's popular retro-shooters. All three cameras are reminiscent of vintage Leica rangefinders. The X-Pro1 is reassuringly solid with a premium design and treatment. Its precision milled controls, which include analog-like wheels for shutter speed and exposure compensation, feel firm but responsive. Handling and grip are good. The XPro1 feels like a professional tool that can stand up to heavy use.
One of the larger cameras in this class, the X-Pro1 is built around a 16MP APSC- size "X-Trans CMOS" sensor. Fujifilm says the new sensor uses new technology to minimize moiré and false colours.
The hybrid optical/digital viewfinder lets users switch between an electronic and optical view of the scene in front of them. In optical mode, the camera sets magnification according to the mounted lens.
At launch, there will be three prime lenses for the camera's new X-mount: the XF18mm f/2 R pancake wide-angle lens, the XF35mm f/1.4 R fast prime lens and the XF60mm f/2.4 R Macro lens. Continuing the analog theme of the system, the lenses have aperture dials. It's an unconventional lineup to say the least, lacking any zoom or true telephoto lenses.
Pricing for the body is expected to be around $1,700, with the lenses costing around $650. The Fujifilm X-Pro1 comes to Canada in February 2012.
Canon's New Advanced P&S
Canon remains the only major camera company without an ILC system. At CES, it didn't announce an ILC, but it did announce a new fixed-lens camera with some ILC-like features.
With its fixed zoom lens, advanced controls, and ability to shoot RAW files, the PowerShot G1 X is reminiscent of Canon's enthusiast-oriented PowerShot G12. The big difference is the G1 X's large 1.5" 14.3-megapixel sensor. Measuring 18.7x14mm, it is bigger than a Micro Four Thirds sensor and almost as large as DSLR-class sensors.
Canon is the only major camera maker that hasn't jumped on the mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera bandwagon. But at CES, it announced the PowerShot G1 X, a fixed-lens camera whose 1.5" sensor is comparable to those in ILCs and consumer DSLRs.