The annual PMA show just finished up so I'm here to give you my thoughts on the announcements. Canon released some new point and shoots none of which are really any different than what they've been shoveling out for the last few years. Video has gotten better on the SX series and the model numbers have grown on the SD series but overall not very exciting. The one theme that seemed to be consistant was manufacturors releasing water-proof cameras. There seems to be a trend that every manufacturor wants at least one waterproof point-and-shoot in their lineup. I bought my Sanyo E-1 for that purpose but have only taken it underwater once. The nice thing about waterproof cameras is you don't have to worry about rain, sand and dirt as they are sealed. This I've enjoyed.

I think the real surprises for the show were from Samsung and Ricoh, two manufacturors that hang out on the fringe. Recently there was a comment thread on one of the photo sites about Panasonics GH-1 micro-four/thirds camera and people got a bit testy about these new mirror-less large sensor cameras. It was interesting to see the DSLR crowd take the defensive position that the SLR folks took when things started going digital. The DSLR crowd said a mirrorless camera will never replace one with a mirror becauseand as such the micro four thirds cameras were nothing more than point and shoots. If engineers can get contrast detect focus as fast as DSLRs and they create an "optical" viewfinder with a really high-res screen and by "zooming" in on a small section of what the sensor sees to create penta-prism focusing functionality I don't think DSLRs have a prayer. The advantages of getting rid of the mirror is one less mechanical piece, the camera body can be flatter and the lenses can be smaller all around. In the future (and I predict) large sensor point and shoots will replace DSLRs. I give DSLRs 5 years.

In that vein the two cameras I'm going to talk about are the Ricoh GXR system and the Samsung TS500. Neither of these cameras compete with the micro four thirds (after that long introduction) but occupy the space of the Canon s90, G11 and Panasonic LX3 which all of you know I've been considering as my new point and shoot.

The Ricoh GXR system is a very interesting concept where the sensor and lens are one piece. That sort of makes sense because you'd be able to have a lens/sensor combo optimized for certain functions. Say a small cmos sensor and lens aimed at doing video or a large sensor and fast lens designed for action and or low light shots. This is exactly what the GXR is. There are two options at this point - a backlit cmos sensor with 28-300 mm zoom lens (model P10). The back illuminated sensor should help in low light situations as more light hits the sensor if it's reversed. The zoom isn't particularily fast but thats not really it's purpose. The other choice is a 28mm fixed lens with a APS-C (gag, cough) sensor (model A12). The APS-C size of sensor is what's used in most all DSLRs except for a couple of high end Canons which use the full frame sensor. The lens on the Ricoh is fairly fast so in combination with the sensor you should be able to take photos in the same level of light as any DSLR. It also does full speed HD video.   Both lens/sensors take photos in raw and have anti-vibration control. I'm sure that in time there will be a bunch of lens/sensor combos coming out.  In addition they have the S10 which has a small CCD sensor with a 28-75 zoom. I'm going to wage a guess that these cameras will be expensive and we're also back to "Now I have to buy my lenses from one company" which we see a lot in the SLR/DSLR realm. Interesting concept.

The other camera of interest is the Samsung TL-500 which you can think of as the result of  Panasonic and the Canon getting waisted and spending the night in the back seat of a 64 Chevy Impala. Look at the specs and you'll see what I'm talking about.


  Canon S90 Canon G11 Panasonic LX3 Samsung TL-500
Lens size 28-105 28-140 24-60 24-75
Lens speed f/2.0-4.9 f/2.8-4.5 f/2.0-2.8 f/1.8-?
LCD Fixed Articulated Fixed Articulated
Sensor 1/1.7 1/1.7 1/1.63 1/1.7
Sensor MP 10mp 10mp 10mp 10mp?
Video res 640x480 640x480 1280x720 640x480
Image format raw raw raw raw

It looks as if Samsung just looked at the Canon and Panasonic cameras and did a mashup. Anyway I'm curious about the Samsung because it looks like an S90 (currently my favorite) with a slightly faster lens and an articulated screen. It's a smaller G11 is what it is. Since Samsung rarely tops the quality charts though I'll be waiting for reviews first before rushing to Amazon.