Watching the compact high quality camera market is like watching a boxing match. It used to be Canon and Nikon in the ring until Nikon tucked it's tail in and ran. Panasonic promised to take the crown but after releasing the Lumix LX1 and Lumix LX2 people almost stopped listening to them because the photo quality was so poor. They came back with a knockout with the LX3 and turned out a camera with absolutely wonderful photos and low light performance in addition to it being very compact (more so than the Canon G10). A bit of history is probably in order. Canon had the G series which slotted nicely between the point and shoots and the DSLRs with full manual control, articulated screens and a bunch of other goodies. They also had a camera that slotted between the G-series and the point and shoots again - the S series. The S series had the G series' large sensor, a wide angle lens, manual controls and came in a much smaller body. It wasn't as nice to hold or use because it was compact but the quality of the photos were great. Canon cancelled the S series when the G7 came out thinking that the market was getting pretty crowded and Nikon had been K.O.ed in the 5th round anyway. The one thing I like about competition is it makes companies get off their collective arses and do something. The Panasonic LX3 takes photos as nice as the G10, has all the controls of the G10, has a faster lens (but less zoom) and is about half the size of the G10. Smaller is better in my book since I like to keep my camera in my pocket so Canon as turned the way-back machine to 2003 and reintroduced the S series and at the same time the G11 is a bit bigger and has the articulated screen again. The S90 will duke it out with the LX3 and the G11 will be for a different customer, one that wants more physical controls, an articulated screen and more zoom.
Another interesting thing they did was lower the pixel density of their sensor. We all know that lower pixel density makes for better photos which is why DSLRs have really big sensors and the same Megapixels as point and shoots. They have lower pixel density thus increasing the amount of light hitting each one. Panasonic when introducing the LX3 was trying to combat the worst low-light performance of any decent Point and Shoot (that would be the LX1 and LX2 I'm referring to) so the put a really fast lens (F2.0) on it and increased the size of the sensor but kept the same 10MP. It's harder to market 10MP on a $500 camera when a $60 Barbie cam
era has the same but the more discerning enthusiast knows the difference and the LX3 has been a hit. Canon pulled the same trick out of their hat, they actually lowered the MP from 14.7 to 10 on their new cameras! They actually dropped resolution to lower pixel density and increase low light performance.This is a good trend. The G10 already takes DSLR quality photos at ISO 100 so I can see Canon wanting to push that up to the 200 and maybe 400 range. It will not be able to match a DSLR no matter because their sensors are 4x bigger at least. The camera that really intrigues me though is the S90, it has the same sensor as the G11 and a faster lens. Maybe it's low-light performance would surpass that of the G11 and almost match that of the LX3. If so then that's my camera because it's even smaller and lighter than the LX3.
Thank you Canon, you are listening.