Table of Contents

mirrorless camera systems

see also:


Mirror-less interchangeable lens digital cameras are the new force in digital photography providing novel designs, more silent and compact camera kits designed for live view and HD video while providing dSLR level still image quality.

The clear leader in this genre is the 2x crop sensor Micro Four Thirds system pioneered by Panasonic and Olympus which offers the widest range of legacy lens compatibility of any camera system, while still having a range of optimised AF lenses designed for that sensor size including the wonderful Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake, the compact, high quality 7-14mm ultra-wide lens, 12mm f/2.0 wide angle, 45mm f/1.8 portrait, 60mm f/2.8 macro and the awesome 75mm f/1.8 short telephoto prime lenses. The differentiating benefits of Micro Four Thirds include:

Ricoh offers an interesting design alternative with its GXR system in which each lens has its own sensor permanently attached to it and designed to match the expected usage of that lens. This may suit a few people but its main downside is that as sensor technology becomes out of date, you not only have to change the sensor but the lens system as well, which is likely to mean a more expensive longer term cost - assuming Ricoh does continue development.

Then there is the expected range of APS-C sized sensor camera systems which I feel defeats the purpose behind this genre – that of enabling smaller lenses with versatility of using any legacy lens even with tilt-shift adapters such as is possible on the Micro Four Thirds system:

small sensor cameras

comparisons of dedicated AF lenses available

lens in 35mm terms Micro Four Thirds Sony NEX Samsung NX
fisheye Pan. 8mm AF fisheye; Rokinon 7.5mm MF fisheye no, converter or 3rd party MF no, only 3rd party MF
14-28mm 7-14mm f/4 premium 10-18mm f/4 = 15-27mm 12-24mm f/4-5.6 = 18-36mm
24mm 12mm f/2.0 premium 16mm f/2.8 pancake coming 2012, 16mm f/2.8 pancake = 26mm
28mm 14mm f/2.5 pancake Sigma 19mm f/2.8, Sony 20mm f/2.8 pancake ($350) no
35mm 17mm f/2.8 pancake ($259), 17mm f/1.8 ($599) 24mm f/1.8 $1000 20mm f/2.8 pancake = 32mm
40mm 20mm f/1.7 pancake; Sigma 19mm f/2.8 no no
50mm 25mm f/1.4 premium; Sigma 30mm f/2.8 (60mm) Sigma 30mm f/2.8 (45mm) or Sony 35mm f/1.8 (late 2012) 30mm f/2.0 pancake = 48mm
90mm portrait 45mm f/1.8 = 90mm; 42mm f/1.2 coming 2013 50mm f/1.8 OIS = 75mm 45mm f/1.8 = 68mm only
macro 45mm f/2.8 = 90mm OIS, 60mm f/2.8 = 120mm 30mm f/3.5 = 45mm coming 2012, 60mm f/2.8 OIS = 96mm
135-150mm wide aperture 75mm f/1.8 = 150mm (one of the best lenses ever made) no coming 2012, 85mm f/1.4 = 136mm
24-70mm wide aperture 12-35mm HD X f/2.8 no no
24-100mm weatherproofed Oly 12-50mm no no
28-80mm collapsible zoom Pan 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS premium = 28-84mm only 27mm long 16-50mm OSS 30mm long collapsed 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 = 32-80mm 119g 40mm long collapsed
28-80mm zoom several 18-55mm = 27-83mm 194g 60mm long 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II 198g 65mm long
70-200mm wide aperture Pan 35-100mm f/2.8 HD X (2012) no no
90-400mm zoom Pan 45-200mm OIS = 90-400mm Pan 45-175mm f/4-5.6 OIS premium = 90-350mm 210g 90mm long 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OIS = 83-315mm 345g 108mm long 50-200mm f/4-5.6 OIS = 77-308mm 417g 101mm long
10x zoom Pan 14-140mm OIS Oly 14-150mm = 28-300mm 18-200mm = 27-300mm, 524g 99mm long (Power Zoom $1200) 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OIS = 32-320mm
200-600mm Pan 100-300mm OIS Oly. 75-300mm no no
300mm Pan 150mm f/2.8 coming 2013-14 no no

comparison of current high end bodies

feature Olympus OM-D E-M5 Panasonic GH-3 Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX7 Samsung NX200 Canon EOS-M
weatherproof metal quiet body yes yes no no no metal
crop factor 2.0x 2.0x 2.0 x 1.5 x 1.5x 1.6x
flip out touch screen yes tilt and touch yes swivel and touch flip and touch tilting no touch fixed no touch fixed touch
OLED screen yes yes yes no yes no
touch screen to AF and take photo yes yes yes no no ?
AF speed fastest of any camera medium medium-slow?
AF subject eye detection yes no yes no no no
built-in EVF yes yes accessory yes OLED no no
built-in IS 5EV 5 axis no yes no no no
silent IS during movies for all lenses yes no yes no no no
IS assist magnified MF in EVF all lenses yes no yes no no no
peaking assist manual focus no maybe coming no yes no no
flash sync 1/250th with new flashes 1/160th 1/250th 1/160th 1/180th 1/200th
flash exposure compensation 3EV ? 3EV ? 2EV ?
built-in flash bundled, plug in yes yes yes no bundled
remote TTL flash yes yes yes yes no yes
OOC jpeg colours excellent v.good excellent v.good v.good v.good?
exposure compensation 3EV 5EV 3EV 2EV 3EV 3EV
fastest shutter 1/4000th 1/4000th (1/16000th in video) 1/4000th 1/4000th 1/4000th 1/4000th
longest timed shutter 60sec + timed BULB to 8min 30sec 60sec 30sec 30sec 60sec
megapixels (if you really care) 16mp 16mp 16mp 24mp 20mp 18mp
ISO range (if you really care) 200-25,600 125-25,600 200-25,600 100-16,000 100-12,800 100-25,600
high ISO performance good+ good+ good + good+ good + good+
burst rate 9fps, 4.2fps with AF 6fps 8fps 3fps, 10fps special mode 7fps 4.3fps, 1.2fps with tracking AF
uncropped 16:9 stills no no no no no no
HD 1080 video 30p/60i 20mbps .MOV 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p 72mbps .MOV 30p/60i 20mbps .MOV 24p/60p 28mbps AVCHD 30p only (mp4) 24/25/30p
HD 720 mjpeg 50/60p 50/60fps 30fps mjpeg 60p 17mbps AVCHD 50/60p 30/60p mp4 + 0.5x slowmo
ext.mic port via accessory yes yes yes no yes
IR remote control no no no yes no ?
opt. full control grips with 2nd battery yes yes no no no no
opt. underwater housing yes no no no no no

Clearly the BEST mirrorless camera in terms of versatility, functionality for the enthusiast photographer and compact AF lens availability is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.

If you want the best videography the Panasonic GH-3 is the way to go.

Perhaps the best reason to buy Micro Four Thirds over the competition are the following compact Micro Four Thirds lenses combined with 5EV IS of the OM-D, which are all under $1000 each (some under $400):