Last week, Nikon casually kicked a small, DSLR-shaped pebble off a cliff when it announced its Nikon 1 camera. In doing so, one of the major names in consumer cameras has started an avalanche that could potentially wipe the consumer-grade DSLR from the market.
For the past few years, up and coming camera manufacturers have been pushing interchangeable lens cameras with electronic viewfinders (occasionally nicknamed EVIL cameras) to compete with the likes of Nikon and Canon's consumer-grade DSLRs.
Unlike traditional DSLRs, these new models lack the internal mirror mechanisms of an SLR, instead capturing images directly onto the camera's sensor, which is then displayed on an electronic viewfinder.
The lack of two mirrors in the camera allows this new breed of camera to be smaller and lighter than DSLRs, making them an ideal camera for photography enthusiasts wanting to step up from a compact camera. The freedom to use different lenses depending on the situations offers the flexibility of an SLR, but without the weight and bulk.
But while the likes of Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and Samsung have all released their own EVIL camera models, the fact that the traditional rulers of camera land stayed away from the new format meant DSLRs still have a prominent position within the market. Access to the hundreds of Nikon and Canon DSLR lenses has kept both companies at the top of the marketplace.
But last week, that all changed when Nikon announce the Nikon 1.
Available in two different models - the J1 and the V1, the Nikon 1 is essentially just another EVIL camera, with interchangeable lenses and a compact, lightweight body. The difference is that it has the power of the Nikon brand behind it. Well, that and an adapter that offers support for Nikon's wide range of Nikkor lenses.
With Nikon jumping on board this new digital technology, leaving only Canon to exclusively push the DSLR format, the consumer shift away from DLSR cameras has officially begun. While it's unlikely that EVIL cameras will ever replace DSLRs for professional-grade photography, it will make a severe dent on the entry level DSLR market.
The move also puts an enormous amount of pressure on Canon to enter this new segment of the market with its own EVIL camera. So far, the company has resisted the urge to release a mirror-less interchangeable lens model, but with each passing month, the headstart they’ve given the smaller camera companies is getting bigger and bigger.