NEW CAMERAS, BUT IS ANYTHING REALLY NEW?

We are now on the eve of the hoped for shopping season and the trade shows that precede them. But many of the digital camera makers are already on-line with announcements of what new to find in the stores shortly.

Digital photography is still a new phenomenon, but many of the photographers who have converted from a 35mm to a dSLR camera have done so, and the marketplace is looking for new enticements, but still closely associated with the camera concepts that have been familiar for the last 50 years. Most people don’t stray far from what they are familiar with and many of the pure digital prosumer concoctions of this last decade did not catch on and even the high-end of point and shoots look much kick a film camera of a generation ago.

The companies that are putting the most effort into capturing a larger market share, and have the resources to offer new cameras are largely adaptations of what has already been accepted just with added capabilities and more attractive physical handling. What really inspired me to look at what’s new more seriously is one new Sony Alpha 55 dSLR, with a feature that is really not new at all. This new dSLR has a fixed pellicle, partially transparent reflex mirror that does not move, shades of the Canon 35mm Pellix and later EOS version the Canon RT. But Sony being one of the most serious producers of video cameras has a new reason for a translucent-fixed reflex mirror, this new dSLR is really a mix between a digicam and a still camera. The viewfinder fed by the reflex mirrored image is much like those found on current digital video cameras. In other words you can virtually switch directly from still image to video photography using the same viewfinder.

Will this new Alpha 55 with its translucent, fixed mirror have the same limitations and potential problems that the Canon RT that is in my own seldom-used closet of goodies has? Probably some factors like the effect on exposure and the brightness of the viewfinder image was easily resolved digitally, but is this new Sony pellicle microscopically thin, delicate, hard to clean that must be protected with great care? But with my Canon RT in a studio or on locations using multi head electronic flash lighting, I found my RT’s greatest advantage was I could see the flash fire and illuminate the subject through the lens for each exposure. But that is a minor advantage, what the Sony does is allow a single TLR viewfinder that works for both stills and video. So the limited appeal of Canon’s pellicle film cameras may not adversely affect the Alpha 55 because it has a new purpose to make a dSLR an effective video camera.

I am much less impressed with the Sony Alpha Nex the new interchangeable lens point and shoot. If I had one I know I would use a HoodLoupe Pro as part of the viewfinder, but then the camera’s small size and low weight would be compromised. Then I wouldn’t be shooting like the ugly weekenders I see every days as I drive through a local tourist trap. In other words the Alpha Nex is still just another P&S camera with a new gimmick, interchangeable lenses.

But what both of these new cameras and the Panasonic versions indicate to me is the market attachment to old film cameras may be loosening a little, we are getting old some of us; and finally the industry might have some luck designing a digital camera free from the constraints of the past half century of tradition. I just hope they are more amenable to serious camera handling then the current P&S cameras, it is almost embarrassing to see people taking pictures with a camera at half arms-length weaving about trying to frame and fire the shutter to get a snapshot.

Now that this old curmudgeon has had his rant, will the camera industry surprise me with something I could say I really need that, yet this fall?

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