I know this kind of discussion really belongs in the Samsung forum (but in SLR or in compact?). But I wanted to get opinions from those that hang out in this forum.
One of the biggest things to come out of PMA pre-show so far was Samsung's announcement of a mirror-less APS-C camera called NX. The lens mount wasn't explained, but people so far seem to either think they will continue using Pentax, or create a new system. Looks like a neat idea, and makes me wonder about the future of SLR. People talk a lot about if FF will replace APS-C, or if the two will continue along side each other, but in addition to that question, we have the 4/3s system, and now a couple of mirror-less SLR-type cameras.
I think a large percentage of SLR owners buy an SLR to use them as high-end point and shoot cameras. I think most of us that spend the time in this forum aren't that way, but instead fancy ourselves as high-faluten "Photographers." We don't care much about size, we think on-camera flash is the devil, and lug around a heavy bag full of glass.
But this market of high-end point and shoot owners, that used to be filled by EVF super-zooms, is probably very important (and profitable). I think this may also be an area that the big electronics companies, like Samsung and Sony, have a lot of interest.
Sony's low end cameras are perhaps oddly some of the biggest of the entry level cameras, but with features like the real working live view, obviously are somewhat aimed at these high-end point and shoot users. I'm curious what others think. I still kinda doubt that mirrored cameras will go completely away anytime soon, but I expect these mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic G1 and the Samsung NX to replace mega-zoom EVF sales, and also things like the A200 and D40. Perhaps the APS-C sized sensor will go to those, and FF sensors will stay in the mid and pro-level cameras.
I don't know, but it is fun to wonder about.
Seems to me there are a few issues here, size, weight and money.
My A700 seems to be a reasonable size for me, I can wrap my hands around it, get a good firm grip and it's in line with what I've got used to over the years, the Minolta 9000, so it feels nice and familiar and there is room to put the LCD and all the buttons and control wheels without it being too cluttered. Would I prefer it smaller; Not really! If you look at the A900 with it's FF sensor, the overall size is not much different and is mostly accounted for by it's huge pentaprism, so size is dictated by ergonomics rather than sensor size. It may be that people with smaller hands will prefer a smaller camera but again, that's ergonmics.
As far as money goes, I suppose that the APS-C and the four thirds systems have the advantage in that the cameras and lenses are smaller, lighter and presumably cheaper to make. However, I'm pretty sceptical about it; I doubt that the smaller size makes more than a 10% manufacturing difference and if you look at Olympus prices neither camera or lenses seem to be particularly cheap. I think the prices charged are all about Marketing and profit margins anyway. The lightweight lenses certainly make a good case, though.
So, does the FOUR THIRDS format make it's case as a worthwhile replacement for your DSLR? One disadvantage in the 2x crop factor sensor (and the 1.5x APS-C for that matter) is the Depth of Field issue. In order to achieve the 40° viewing angle of a 50mm on full frame you need a 34mm on the A700 and a 25mm lens on the Four Thirds system so ....
A900 50mm f4 at 10 feet. DOF = 2.94 ft
A700 34mm f4 at 10 feet. DOF = 4.36 ft
e420 25mm f4 at 10 feet. DOF = 6.34 ft
and it's the same story at any focal length; if you want to isolate your subject with a stunning Bokeh, forget the 2x crop factor system. Of course, it may be an advantage in Macro photography where the DOF is razor thin.
Then there's the sensors to consider and simple math tells you that a full frame sensor will capture four times as much light as a 2x crop factor sensor, and that means a better signal with a lower noise ratio. Practically speaking, a good "big one" will always beat a "good little one".
So will I be swapping to a 4/3 camera? Not on your Nellie, I want the A900.
That doesn't mean there's no place for the others. A P&S or better, the Olympus 420, is desirable for it's portability but in addition to, not instead of.
Sony et al don't just want to sell you "a camera", they want to sell you a P&S, a bridge camera, a 4/3, an APS-C DSLR, a Full Frame DSLR and anything else they can think of, just not all at once. And they'll probably succeed because, "you know it makes sense", don't you?
Sensor and features on the new Sony DSC-HX1 sound awesome!
Wow, looks like an amazing camera. I don't get the sensor size. Is it in between P&S and APS-C size?
Peek, I don't think people like us will be interested in a micro 4/3 or other smaller camera, instead I think its a different group. Of the few people I know that have SLR's, most bought an entry level camera (Rebel/D40/A300) and got the kit lens and just shoot in AUTO. I think those people are going to be very interested in this type of stuff.
Right now we kinda think of cameras as being either P&S, or SLR. I think the trend is that there are going to be 3 tiers. SLR for serious amateurs and professionals, mirrorless SLR for people interested in great quality, but maybe less weight, and P&S for everyone else. Some of the people currently shooting P&S will move up to mirror-less, and some of the people currently shooting SLRs on AUTO may move to the mirrorless.
I think the vast majority of advanced amateur and professionals would prefer to shoot full-frame. The DOF and light gathering advantages you mention are very important. There are cases that APS is a benefit (sports and wildlife are commonly mentioned) but in most general cases, FF is better. I don't think anyone knows yet if the SLR market will stay split, or go totally full-frame, but I think that this mirror-less SLR gap camera market could eat up a lot of the low end APS sells, and give the manufacturers reason to go totally full frame.
I never understand those 1/2.4" or whatever camcorder smaller camera sensor sizes..... not sure. It's definitely a lot smaller than APS-C. It's crop factor is 5.6X! :D