Like the compactness of a point-and-shoot camera, but want the visual punch of a DSLR? In the past we’ve seen point-and-shoots with various attachment options – for example the Sony Cyber-shot series of point-and-shoot cameras has been offering attachments like a wide angle lens, telephoto lens, photo filter set, and underwater camera case for years – but none have offered the true versatility of a real DSLR.
The gap between these two realms is shrinking fast. Some define the new kid on the digital photo block as a “hybrid camera,” while others call it a “power point-and-shoot”. So what makes this new category of camera so special? Compared to traditional P&S cameras these new cameras allow for better ISO (light sensitivity), smaller lens aperture (the amount of light allowed into the lens), and some even boast compatibility with the Micro Four Thirds System (allowing for changeable lenses). Olympus recently released a statement about the E-P1 camera saying it is: “…The world’s smallest 12.3-megapixel interchangeable lens system camera that blends the high-quality still images of a DSLR with HD video, stereo Linear PCM audio recording and In-Camera Creativity within an ultra-portable body.”
These cameras are smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts, mainly due to the camera’s lack of a mirror box in favor of an ultra-precise electronic viewfinder. The cameras are expected to provide point-and-shoot enthusiasts with control over depth of field and other areas lacking from the P&S platform while maintaining the flexibility of a small camera. In fact the CEO of Samsung Digital Imaging Company, Sang-jin Park, said: “We estimate that the hybrid digital camera market will be over 20 percent of the global digital still-camera market by 2012.”
We’ll see some versions of the new high-end point-and-shoots on the market later this year and they are expected to be in the $600+ price range. Companies planning to be in the first wave of power point-and-shoot manufacturers include: Panasonic, Samsung, Olympus, Leica, and Sigma. It will be interesting to see where this new genre takes us.