This is another topic inspired by my friends thinking about getting into serious photography. When I say serious photography, I don’t mean getting a compact Coolpix or Powershot and taking snapshots of random events, people, and places in your life. I mean getting an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) or d(igital)SLR where you can control everything about the camera, and where it is up to you to take properly exposed and carefully composed images.
So let’s say you’re like my friend– thinking about seriously getting into photography. I’ll explain in an upcoming post why I (heavy-heartedly) recommend going digital over analog, but let’s say you are planning on getting a digital camera. You’re really just trying to decide between the EOS 50D and the D40 when you hear about a new kind of camera: EVIL. It’s kind of a silly acronym that stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. The Electronic Viewfinder part of that means it’s more like a compact camera, in that a prism and mirrors don’t reflect the light from the lens to the viewfinder (like in an SLR) but rather the sensor is constantly recording information and the scene is shown on a screen somewhere. And I don’t think I need to explain what interchangeable lens means.
Why should you worry about this kind of camera? Well, another blog thinks it is promising enough to provide 5 Reasons to Ditch your dSLR. No offense, but I would disagree with them. They’re five reasons are:
1. “They’re small.” This is really the only thing they have going for them. Yes, they’re closer to the size of a compact than a dSLR, so they are more portable. But put on a 200-400mm lens and suddenly the whole package is just as big as a dSLR, probably with worse weight balance.
2. “They take great pictures.” This is debatable. I have friend who think iPhones take “great pictures,” but I would still take my D2x over an iPhone any day. Furthermore, this point is based on the fact that they have larger sensors, similar to those in dSLRs, rather than the miniature kind in compacts. But if sensor size were the only contributing factor to image quality, why are there five cameras in the Nikon dSLR line with the same, DX size sensor? And why do their prices range from $500 to $1700?
3. “You can change lenses.” You can do this with a dSLR too. This is not a new benefit.
4. “They’re fast.” So are dSLRs. Again, nothing new.
5. “They don’t scream ‘Look at me!'” This is just another way of saying “they’re small.” Because they don’t have a mirror, they are admittedly quieter as well, but these two benefits don’t outweigh…
As of right now, there are only two EVIL camera lines out there: Olympus Pen and Sony Nex. The first big con is that they are so new that there are relatively few lenses available for either. But more importantly, the cameras in these lines retail for about $600-1200. This is the price range for a decent dSLR, which is fine if you accept the EVIL camera as a product of comparable quality. But take a look at the Sony Nex 3 (images from this CrunchGear page on Nex-3 features:
The thing simply looks like someone jammed a lens on the front of a compact camera. In many features, it resembles a compact more closely than a dSLR as well. First of all, I notice that there’s not actually a viewfinder; you’re taking the photo through the screen, like a compact. Secondly, the only important controls on the camera are the shutter button and the wheel on the back, which means the only way you can control ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and other such things generally considered critical to serious photography is through screen menus and options. Most dSLRs have easily accessible wheels and controls dedicated to changing these settings on the fly.
In short, EVIL cameras, at their current stage, seem like a step up from compacts, but definitely not like dSLR competitors.
So why am I giving them any attention at all? Because this could all change if Canon or Nikon took a crack at them, and it just so happens that rumor has been circulating about a Nikon EVIL camera after one of their patents showed up on the internet a few days ago.
Unfortunately, all we have is that patent (which includes some more images and a low quality Google translation of the patent’s text, which seems to focus more on an internal, protective barrier that will close automatically to protect the sensor when the lens is removed). The patent seems to show an EVIL camera with a true viewfinder, in which optics reflect and magnify the image from a small internal screen. This is all we really know about the camera.
The expectation is that it will be officially announced at Photokina on September 21-26. However, it may not go into production until 2011.
So is it worth waiting until 2011 to get your first camera? Or, if you’re not a beginner, is it worth waiting until then to upgrade your body? Until the end of September, there’s no way to know what kind of features these cameras will have– whether they will more closely resemble dSLRs or just compacts like the current models– or whether they will be outrageously expensive or not. There’s not even any guarantee that they will be announced at Photokina; they might just be concept models planned for production in 2012 or later.
This makes me say no: it’s not worth the wait. Right now, we can’t know how long the wait will even be, and though EVIL cameras might end up “revolutionizing” the industry, they might also end up being an expensive way of doing nothing new. If you really want to get into photography, you should not hesitate to buy a dSLR. I don’t think you have to worry about them becoming obsolete any time soon, and most of your lenses and gear should eventually be usable on EVIL cameras, even if they do end up taking over the world.
What are your thoughts on EVIL cameras? Have you used the Sony Nex or Olympus Pen? What were your impressions? How did they compare to professional or pro-sumer dSLRs? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions!