The Large Sensor Compact Market Gets Interesting
New Offerings from Panasonic and Canon at Photokina
This year's Photokina exhibit in Germany is shaping up to be very interesting, especially if you are into the high end compact camera market. With smart phones obliterating the low end of the compact camera market, manufacturers have been looking at the high end as an alternative way to keep the segment alive. So far the leaders in this space have been Sony with the RX100 line and Fuji with it's X30 (and previously X20, and X10). There have been other high end compacts of course, but the it was the RX100 in particular that generated the most interest with its large 1 inch sensor. Well, it now has some interesting competition.
The first is Panasonic with its gorgeous looking new and cryptically named LX100. This is a new high end iteration of Panasonic's LX series of premium compacts. The design is reminiscent of the company's 10 year old, but still a classic LC1 four thirds camera (before it went to micro four thirds) The new camera has a 4:3 sized sensor with 16megapixels, although it uses Panasonic's multi aspect ratio sensor technology, so it's really only 12mp. It also has retro-styled physical controls, a very high quality EVF and a superbly specced zoom lens. The lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-75mm at an amazing F1.7 - F2.8. This is really impressive for a small camera. The real killer feature though can be found in the video specification. The diminutive panasonic shoots 4K Video. Yep, you read that right. And the quality seems to be pretty good too, although I can't find any details of the bit rate used when recording 4K.
I actually have a history with Panasonic cameras. In fact have three of them. My first was one of the early cameras in the LX line, the LX-2 which is still considered a classic. At the time it's claim to fame was a high quality lens, which it certainly had, and a larger than average sensor (again, at the time). It was a good little camera for it's day, and was highly regarded, although it doesn't really stand up to today's cameras.
Canon G7 X
Canon has also come out with a large sensor high end compact camera, and it too is looking pretty impressive spec wise. It features a 20mp 1 inch sensor, whose specifications are eerily similar to the sensor in Sony's RX100 line.
Canon's compact offering is in a smaller body than Panasonic's (at least it looks that way from the photos) and offers a longer range zoom lens, and a tilting screen. The lens is a 24-100mm equivalent, at f/1.8-2.8. The camera has less physical controls than the panasonic and lacks an EVF but it does have a very useful built in ND filter. Canon have posted a nice little video showcasing the new camera's capabilities.
Funnily enough, I have a history with Canon compact cameras too. My very first compact camera was a Canon Ixus. I bought it while on holidays in France one year. (A long time ago) and I still have some of the images I took with it. Again, not great by today's standards, but it was a lovely little camera for its day. I've always liked Canon's compacts thought. The newer ones have really nice colour rendition, so I'm curious to see this once it gets into the hands of real world photographers.
The real wildcard of the recently announced cameras was from panasonic, and it wasn't technically a camera, it's a phone. Panasonic announced the Lumix DMC-CM1 smartphone with a 1 inch sensor and an f/2.8 Leica 28mm equivalent lens. Once again, it seems to be another use of the magical 1 inch 20mp sensor that everyone seems to be using. All this is crammed into a very slim package. It's android powered and has a 4.7 inch 1080p screen (impressive for a camera, and a phone)
It will be interesting to see how this fares in the real world. Spec wise it's impressive, but things like battery life and usability will play a big factor. Still, a smartphone with a 1 inch sensor !!!!
See this story on Tech Crunch for more details.
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