Are "Prosumer" Cameras on the Way Out?

Canon G6

Back when Digital SLRs were wildly expensive, "prosumer" cameras satisfied the needs of advanced amateurs and some pros. These cameras had many SLR features -- such as hotshoes, filter rings, spot meter, manual exposure, fast lenses, and more. Consumers paid a premium price for these cameras, but compared to the even more expensive DSLRs, prosumer models seemed worth it.

In my recent podcast, Five Must-Have Camera Features, I noted the functions that I would insist on if I were buying a prosumer model today. I discuss these because I'm seeing features that were once standard -- such as RAW mode and a hotshoe -- disappearing from this class. Or is it possible this breed of camera is disappearing all together?

Personally, I like cameras such as the Canon G6 and the Sony Cybershot DSC-R1. But these compact, sophisticated picture machines will cost you between $650 and $900. Some people, such as TDS reader Ben D ask, "Why not just buy a DSLR?"

We've already seen Nikon pull back on building prosumer models. Will others follow such as Canon, Olympus, and Sony? Is it time to choose between a beefed-up compact such as the Canon PowerShot S3 IS ($460, but not RAW mode, hotshoe and other "prosumer" features) or a full-blown DSLR such as the Nikon D50? I'm curious about your thoughts around this...

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Although Canon still lists the G6 on their website, none of the big retailers (B&H, Adorama, Amazon, etc.) are carrying it -- at least not new...

The Amazon link you posted only has used models.

Looks like Canon joined Nikon out the door... Which is too bad, because I have a Powershot A80 (which I love), and I am considering moving up a notch. The S3 IS is nice, but at this point I'll probably just wait for DSLR prices to come down a bit more.

I think it would be ashame to loose the prosumer models. I have a Canon G2 (purchased before the reasonably priced dSLRs arrived on the scene) and a Nikon D70. When I upgraded the D70, I kept the Canon. I like to use the G2 (and have those five features you mention) when carrying a dSLR is inconvenient and I need a good portable that doesn't feel like too much of a sacrifice.

The Canon G6 and Pro 1 are basically discontinued. I've heard conflicting stories on whether they are officially discontinued but they have disappeared from the bebit site in Japan and Canon Australia dropped the G6 a while ago. I bought a Pro 1 about a month ago and at the time the forum posts on dpreview suggested they were almost impossible to find new in the US (there were a few left in Australia).

With no announced replacements there is serious speculation Canon may be exiting this market as well. I think that is a real shame because I would have loved to have a "Pro 2" which was a bit faster and with a few more "modern" features... I can't really afford a DSLR at this point (not once I include some decent lenses!) and the smaller size of these prosumer cameras is very attractive.

(sorry if you made some of the above points in the podcast - I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet!).

I'll submit a grabshot with my Pro 1 one of these days :)
Sydney, Australia

PS there a lot of people on the dpreview forums who absolutely love their Pro1s and don't think the reviews did it justice...

PPS I also have a Canon G3 which I try to carry with me all the time... not as small as a lot of cameras these days but it still takes absolutely gorgeous pictures...

I have a black Canon G2, and it's one of my favorite cameras of all time. Hotshoe, filter ring, RAW mode, great looks, and I can toss it in my backpack as I dash out the door. I agree with Adrian and would love to see an updated Pro 2. Canon was very close with the Pro 1, and an updated Pro 2 would work its way to the top of my wish list.

I really think they're dead... to me, there's really no convenience advantage over a DSLR with a single zoom lens, and I can get the SLR cheaper, and it'll give me better pictures (in general) and a more expandable camera system. But mostly, it'll take a picture when I want one. Not sometime later when the camera finally figures out everything it needs.

There's something immensely satisfying in using an SLR camera and in the instant response of the camera to pressing the "go" button. Digital SLRs free us from the costs of shooting a whole bunch of pictures like that... I can't imagine buying a more expensive camera which doesn't give me that experience.

Back when DSLRs were in the multiple thousands of dollars and prosumer cams were under one thousand, that was different. Now they're the same price, and there's no comparison in camera quality and features, IMO.

From a manufacturers' perspective the pro-sumer models do not make alot of sense any more. They used to be a nice pricepoint between P&S (up to $1200) and Pro DSLRs ($2000-$5000) but now the new midrange has plenty of under $2000 DSLRs down to about $700 for the Nikon D50.

I hear you guys on the pricing issue. But what about the other features, such a more compact form, fast premium lens, movie mode, and vari-angle screen, just to name a few? DSLRs aren't the perfect answer for every situation, are they?

I think that anyone shopping for a serious camera is going to get a much better camera in a DSLR. Anyone not shopping for a serious camera isn't going to spend $600+. Personally, I'd like to see prosumer cameras vanish because I think they're now doing buyers a disservice... and it seems like maybe Canon and Nikon are headed that way. Sony might be stuck selling an overpriced prosumer model because they don't have a compelling SLR, I dunno.

I would much rather have a $600 DSLR and a $200-300 compact digicam than a $900 prosumer model which neither performs like an SLR nor fits in my pocket.

I haven't heard Derricks podcast, yet (I'm backlogged with a bunch of new IT podcasts I found recently), but he mentioned an old addage in one of his early shows that I think is still driving that prosumer niche, and I think it went something like this: The best camera for you is the one you've got with you. I use a Canon S2 IS for its size and features, mostly. I bought it at the new year in order to learn on so that one day I could "graduate" to a big, heavy DSLR that I can leave at home all the time except on special occasions when I'll pull it out to fumble with the unfamiliar controls and show off its lack of a shutter delay.

What kind of a boneheaded plan is THAT?! Well, the second half sucks, doesn't it? I wonder how long it will take to get a camera that may not carry the moniker of 'DSLR' that is small enough to bring with me almost everywhere (yes, I'd still like some heft and shape to it, there is such a thing as 'too small'), yet combines all those features that Derrick mentioned below with the fast lens & lack of an autofocus delay of today's DSLR's? What's your guess? 10 Years?

BTW, since I'm here on the outside, moaning about DSLR's, can someone explain to me, or point me to a link, as to why DSLR's can't pull off a realtime preview without fatal drawbacks, like in Olympus' new model? Isn't there some clever trick with mirrors that they could use if they wanted to? Or some sort of a transparent overlay like I had in that dream one time...? ;-)

Anyway, maybe the answer to the disappearing prosumer niche is simply that the big, clunky, featureless, high-quality-image-producing DSLR's are muscling in, instead of the other way around, as it appeared so recently.

Well, since I bought a Fuji S5600 prosumer for $250, I cannot complain. Certainly not since it features RAW mode and has excellent image quality. Skipping RAW mode from any "lower light usable" camera sounds like very bad to me, since you want to be able to bypass the in camera noise reduction system.
I am sure that an entry level DSLR with a decent zoom lens (e.g. 55-200) would have given me a potentially better picture, but not at the price of $250 for camera plus lens.

Thanks guys,
I recently developed a liking for photography and i own Canon D400. One thing i am sorely missing is a telelens upto 400 mm (i cannot afford one at the current prices of $300+ for just 1 lense.) Now a friend of mine advised me to go in for a prosumer camera which actually gives this telelens feature.
After reading your comments i am confused whether I should take his advice!

Hrmm that was weird, my comment got eaten. Anyway I wanted to say that it's nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer. Thanks.