This Changes Everything Award for 2009

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The Biggest Introductions in Digital SLR History

  • 1991 – Kodak introduces the 1 Megapixel DCS for $25,000
    Why? The first digital SLR, it proved the concept was possible and got the attention of other manufacturers.
    The initial response: None. Nobody noticed. Less than 1,000 were sold.
  • 1994 – The Apple Computer Quick Take Camera
    Why? You could make a 640 X 480 blurry image with the brick-shaped (and sized) camera. But at $749 people could actually afford one, and some did.
    The initial response: mostly laughed at and considered a toy. (Full disclosure: I had one and it got me started in digital photography, so I may be hugely prejudiced here. At the time I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.)
  • 1999/2000 – The Nikon D1 and Canon D30 SLRs
    Why? At 2.75 and 3.25 Megapixels, you could actually make reasonable prints, nearly as good as film at 5 X 7. For the first time, digital SLRs were practical and useable.
    The initial response: “Why would you spend that much when film is so much better?”
  • 2003 – The Canon Digital Rebel (300D)
    Why? A 6 megapixel camera for under $1,000. For millions, their first SLR.
    The initial response: overwhelmingly positive, really.
  • 2003 – The Canon 1Ds
    Why? At 11 megapixels it produced images arguably as good as film, perhaps better. Digital SLR became competitive with top-end film SLRs.
    The initial response: Generally positive except for legions of film shooters doing comparisons trying to show film resolved more detail and everyone who was rather shocked at the price.
  • 2005 – The Canon 5D
    Why? The first affordable full-frame camera, when digital seemed headed for a 1.5 crop standard size.
    The initial response: Largely “not a professional camera” and discussions of its shortcomings, with a strong smattering of “full-frame isn’t needed anymore.”
  • 2007 — Nikon D3
    Why? The first time a manufacturer did not increase megapixels, but rather increased ISO performance and dynamic range.
    The initial response: Generally positive except for some defensive comments from fanboys of other brands.

Honorable Mention:
Some really great technology that, while wonderful, doesn’t really change the landscape overall would include image stabilization (in body and lens), the Micro 4/3 format, and the digital rangefinder camera. Autofocus was pre-digital, so I don’t consider it eligible.

  • Fausto

    I believe that - thanks to m43 - 2009 will be seen as the beginning of mirrorless interchangeable lens photography. Mirrorless will most probably replace DSLRs as the dominating interchangeable lens camera technology within the next couple of years. But then - there's no reason why my guess should be any more accurate than your's.