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mirrorless camera systems


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:

  • ability to use almost any legacy lens ever made including Leica M, and with many, even convert them into tilt-shift lenses via an adapter for use in either still images or HD video, and when used on Olympus cameras, they will also be image stabilised and you have the option of very nice fun art filters – just incredibly awesome creative fun – this is what photography should be all about for most of us!
  • perfect compromise on sensor size for image quality and lens size and weight
  • very nice, and expanding range of dedicated AF lenses from consumer grade (Olympus 17mm f/2.8 pancake) to mid-grade (Panasonic 14-140mm HD lens, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens) to semi-professional grade (eg. Panasonic 7-14mm, 12mm f/2.0, 25mm f/1.4, 45mm f/2.8 OIS macro, etc)
  • ability to use the wonderful Four Thirds lenses such as Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus 50mm f/2.0 macro although AF may be slow or not possible depending on the camera and the lens
  • image stabilised bodies – the Olympus ones
  • flip out and swivel LCD screens with built-in EVF – the Panasonic Gx and GH-x series
  • tilt out LCD screen in a weatherproofed, high end body with built-in image stabilisation and EVF - the Olympus OM-D
  • the best electronic viewfinders available – the Panasonic GH4, the Olympus E-M1/E-M10/E-M5/E-P5/E-PL5
  • the fastest AF for stationary subjects - the current Olympus models

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

  • these cameras have much smaller sensors than the above and thus allow smaller lenses and cameras but will never have the image quality or ability to blur the background as well as those cameras with larger sensors
  • they are designed for portability but the tiny sensor size means very limited ability to grow with these systems as a photographer
  • many may be just as well off using their iPhone
    • Nikon has gone the small sensor route with a 2.7x crop sensor half the size of the Micro Four Thirds sensor, which makes good sense for those wanting even smaller systems if Nikon can come out with nice small fast primes and zoom lenses, but the 2.7x crop factor will further impact usability of legacy lenses, and image quality – both in terms of sensor sensitivity, and in terms of ability to blur the background.
    • introduced in Mar 2014 to compete with the Nikon 1 which has the same sensor size
    • the Pentax Q system uses a tiny 1/2.3“ sensor which is 1/8th the size of the sensor used in Micro Four Thirds cameras and 1/13th the size of the the APS-C format sensor giving a 5.5x crop factor

comparisons of dedicated AF lenses available

  • Not only does Micro Four Thirds have a much wider range of options in camera bodies but their lens range is awesome!
  • Micro Four Thirds clearly as the best range of lenses, and importantly, note the number of wide aperture lenses and the more compact size and lower weight of many of the lenses compared with APS-C sized lenses required for Sony and Samsung.
  • The 2x crop factor of the Micro Four Thirds also means you get more telephoto reach, you can have the reach of a compact 600mm telephoto zoom - twice as much as what is available for Sony or Samsung.
  • NOTE that ALL lenses on Olympus bodies become image stabilised (up to 5EV in 5 axes on the OM-D camera)
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):

  • Olympus 12mm f/2.0
  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8 (rumoured for 2013?)
  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake - all party girls should have this lens!!!
  • Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8 portrait
  • Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro
  • Olympus 75mm f/1.8
  • Olympus 75-300mm lens for sharp 600mm super telephoto in an easily hand held lens.
  • and if the above are not enough you can always play with the Panasonic 7-14mm lens or the fisheye lens for ultra wide creativity, or the 3D lens for stereo video.
photo/mirrorless.txt · Last modified: 2014/04/24 13:35 by gary1