The appeal of a cheap, full-frame camera
Before the end of 2012, we may see two new full-frame cameras enter the Australian market.
Far from being expensive multi-megapixel monsters, these SLRs won't break the bank.
According to a number of reports from rumour sites, Canon and Nikon are working on entry-level full-frame cameras. While that might sound like a bit of a contradiction in terms to many photographers, it definitely makes a lot of sense from a marketing and consumer demand perspective.
Full-frame digital cameras are often seen as the Holy Grail of photography, with a sensor size that's almost equivalent to a 35mm frame of film. There are plenty of other advantages as well, such as the focal length of a lens actually equating to the field of view, rather than having to multiply it by the sensor's crop factor.
With interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) nipping at the heels of entry-level SLRs, manufacturers need a point of difference to help convince photographers to keep buying.
At the moment, many people upgrading to a digital SLR are being lured away by the call of ILCs thanks to near-equivalent image quality, video capabilities, APS-C sensors and very fast continuous shooting speeds. The decision of what camera to buy at this level is being fought, much more, on size and form factor issues, than ever before.
It's likely that a photographer who makes a primary investment in an ILC won't be going back to the world of SLRs, unless they plan to turn professional. Therefore, for buyers who do start with an entry-level SLR it makes sense that a cheap full-frame camera would present a great upgrade path, so buyers know they can keep getting another feature as their needs progress — which is, in this case, a full-frame sensor.
Looking at each manufacturer's SLR line-up, there is a decent-sized gap that would be plugged nicely with a cheaper full-frame model.
In Canon's range, the proposed camera could sit between the 60D and 5D Mark II (at the time of writing, the full-frame Mark II was still being sold). The 7D, or its possible successor, would be considered the "high-end" APS-C model for sports and high-speed photography.
In Nikon's range, it could slot in neatly between the D7000 and the D800, the latter camera being positioned more towards studio shooters, given its 36-megapixel sensor.
It's likely that these hypothetical cameras would be made to a price. This means that there could be a restricted range of features, such as a weaker AF system compared to other full-frame cameras. To many photographers who lust after the merits of a full-frame, but find the extra bells and whistles in many high-end bodies too overwhelming, this compromise could be the camera that warrants bringing out the credit card.
Would you invest in a full-frame SLR if the price was right?