The rumormill turns ever-onward. Apparently, both Nikon and Pentax's upcoming mirrorless camera systems will use very small sensors. Point-and-shoot small. If this is true, it's an interesting perspective on the market, because there is only one way to read this. Basically, Nikon and Pentax are saying that the real money is to be made in super-cheap interchangeable lenses. Olympus, in its marketing incompetence, seems to be bumbling in that direction, seeing as all of the m4/3's lenses that they have available are all aimed at the mid-to-low end.
Perhaps of greatest importance is that it seems to indicate a desire to avoid cannibalizing sales of their own SLR cameras. I've talked about how we should avoid buying Canon and Nikon because they don't want to take risks. Well, this is an example of them not taking a risk. They have their established SLR cameras, with which they command 40% of the market, and instead of competing with themselves to better future-proof their market share, they're content with letting Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, and Samsung try to dethrone them.
Still, even though I think it's an idea born of a desire to not compete with themselves, as opposed to blazing a new trail, this holds some interesting promise. First, we must change our perspective when looking at cameras. I come from an enthusiast/pro perspective, as such, seeing lenses for m4/3's that cost $300-$500, I think "what a deal!" But if I put myself in the shoes of someone coming from any other perspective, paying as much for a single lens as it costs to buy an entire, high-quality, point-and-shoot camera is ridiculous! In this sense, Penkon stands a better chance of capturing sales from the club-shooting, Facebook crowd.
But even then, I find the whole idea of a super-small interchangeable lens system no more than a novelty. I think that Olympus and Panasonic were correct to target enthusiasts and not the club crowd, because they will always be interested in size and style over quality. No matter how small they make the lenses, a compact camera will be smaller. So who will buy this system? Buyers of current super-zooms? That seems like a lot of work to capture a very small part of the market. And if they think that there are super-zoom owners with enthusiast aspirations, why not just make better super-zooms? And doesn't Nikon already sort of make a camera for them in the P7000?
Fundamentally, Olympus and Panasonic created cameras that act as replacements for SLR cameras, Penkon want to create cameras that act as replacements for point-and-shoots. With small sensors, they can create lenses that are super-super-compact, and sell them for $100. While I would never consider buying one, and don't think that their target demographic would either, it will be interesting to see to what degree the market bites. It's quite a gamble.