Small cameras, as objects, have always defined the extremes to me. Either the small camera was cheap or it was super-fancy. It was either a throwaway cardboard disposable or a super well-crafted minute Minox spy camera.
Since the 80s camera makers have been building a new “middle” market for cameras, mostly by adding the pro features to the consumer models. With the digital revolution, which fostered the professional shift towards extensive after-camera retouching, mixed with a greater digital-cultural shift towards “democratization” of the image arena, all types of cameras have become attractive to everyone.
Imagine gaggles of tourist groups lugging RED cameras around? I know lots of folks who want one, and even if they could afford it they wish it were at least half the size. Imagine pros relying mainly on their short-field focus pocket cams? I know pros that wish the smaller cameras could do more. Pop photo heroes such as Chase Jarvis are evangelical about using their iPhone cameras. It was through the postings of Miami-based pro photographer Brian Smith that I learned about the NEX from Sony. Not from my geek pals, co-workers, or neighbors. And yes, it’s a small camera, probably aimed for the consumer point and shoot market, but Brian states,
“This small camera is going to be HUGE…I love this camera because it’s small enough that I can carry around all the time. It won’t replace my DSLRs, but I can keep it with me all the time for a grab shot that I might have otherwise missed. Best of all, for street photography it allows you to shoot without attracting attention. This camera really raises the game.”
(NOTE: I don’t have any relationship with Sony (or Minox or any other camera manufacturer). I’m merely here to report from the undertone that there is buzz about this camera and the needs it seems to be fulfilling.)
The NEX contains the same digital sensor as most Sony DSLRs, allows for interchangeable lenses (though it seems you can only buy one at a time), and un-ironically are just about half the size of their DSLR counterparts. The Imagine Resource blog has a nice side by shot of the NEX next to a Rebel. It’s as if the Sony team took out their carving tools and chipped away all the unnecessary parts, leaving just enough room for the LCD, battery, and lenses.
The prices for Sony’s NEX camera and lenses are similar to those for their DSLR line, from $550 and up. Plus it has full HD video recording, auto focus, etc. (doesn’t everything now? I expect my toaster to have HD video).
Maybe it’s not a pro’s camera, maybe it is? Maybe it’s just another step towards getting consumers to shell out a few extra Benjamins to be more like the pros. But with more consumers acting like pros and more pros making magic with consumer cameras, maybe Sony has found the new playing field, the bridge, to where all artists and consumers can have access to the features they all really want.