At a recent Canon event in Byron Bay (disclaimer: Canon paid for my transport and accommodation costs), I had the chance to get some hands-on time with a number of new consumer camera models; one point and shoot, pocket-friendly model, the Ixus 220HS, and two DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras, the EOS 1100D and EOS 600D respectively.
While digital cameras are still a relatively recent phenomenon seen against the entire history of photography, for that brief history the line between the casual happy snapper and the more interested photographer has been more or less maintained by the type of camera you chose to use. Happy snappers could get adequate pictures from point and shoot models, while those who yearned for more control or specific types of photography would make the costly trip into DSLRs.
All three of the cameras that Canon showed off subvert that kind of thinking. The $1099 600D and especially the $699 1100D are unashamedly “entry level” DSLRs with a lesser price point than more fully featured DSLR bodies, but equally more of a focus on automatic shooting, scene filters and an approach that is best described as “hand holding”. If you’ve never used a DSLR before, you can still take very good photos with these particular cameras.
There’s still clearly a price gap between the point and shoot models. It should also be noted that those prices for the DSLRs are without lenses; you’ll pay more for those, but then lens flexibility is a key function of any DSLR. Still, $699 for a DSLR with limited capabilities is pretty cheap. The best way to convey that? Canon’s top of the line DSLR body, the EOS-1D Mark IV, currently retails for a wallet busting $7299. It’s quite a lot more camera for your money, as you might expect.
At the same time, the $319 Ixus 220HS features some of the same creative filters you’ll find on the $1099 600D, albeit with less scope for tinkering, and naturally no prospects of adding different lenses down the line. As point and shoot cameras have become distinctly better, pushed both from below by mobile phone cameras and from above by the shrinking prices of DSLR models, the appeal of having something that easily fits in your pocket and still takes quite good photos is still present.
So what’s caused this shift in people wanting better cameras rather quickly? Mostly, that has to be a prime function of them being digital cameras. In the film past, you’d have to wait (and pay) for processing in order to ascertain whether a photo was any good. These days, wait a second or two, and you’ll know if it’s any good and delete it forever if it’s not. That’s opened up photography for a huge number of people who otherwise were only casually interested, and as it’s done so, they’ve become more aware of the upsides (and downsides) of particular camera models.