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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 video while providing dSLR level still image quality.

The future is mirrorless design cameras and this is where most of the R&D will go into over the next 10 years and during this time we will see a major decline in dSLR sales, although dSLRs will probably still remain for many years given the extensive amount of product already in the marketplace.

In 2018, a major change occurred when Canon and Nikon as well as Panasonic decided to join the full frame mirrorless camera marketplace with new systems which will be compatible with the old dSLR flashes and lenses (Canon and Nikon - Panasonic has never had a FF dSLR), although new natively designed lenses would be expected to perform better in terms of size, image quality and AF performance.

A feature of these mirrorless cameras is that they have been designed with much shorter sensor to lens mount distances thanks to the absence of the mirror, and this means:

  • adapters can be used to adapt nearly all legacy dSLR lenses (albeit with variable AF or OIS functionality)
  • lens can be designed completely differently to old dSLR and SLR designs for higher image quality and smaller designs (this particularly applied to wide angle lenses but not so relevant to telephoto lenses)

The mirrorless camera systems can be divided up based upon the sensor sizes each with their own set of benefits and compromises - from smallest to largest as follows:

  • the 2x crop sensor Micro Four Thirds system
    • these cameras are generally more affordable, but unlike the APS-C cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony, their cameras are usually full of incredible functionality and high levels of weathersealing combined with some of the most optically superb lenses ever made
    • this system is now very mature with over 10 years of lens development allowing for the widest native lens range of any mirrorless system in 2018
    • the image quality suffices for 95% of use and they make perfect travel kits thanks to their size and weight
    • to have the same depth of field (DOF) and field of view with similar high ISO performance as a 35mm full frame just use a lens with half the focal length and half the aperture, thus:
      • if shooting a full frame 85mm portrait lens at f/2.4, as most photographers would do for the desired depth of field (DOF), one can use an Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens at f/1.2 with 2 stops lower ISO to counterbalance the aperture
      • if shooting a full frame telephoto at 400mm f/5.6 for relative compact shooting, the current Canon dSLR full frame L pro lens weighs 1.35kg, is 257mm long and close focus is 3.5 while it lacks any image stabiliser, in comparison, the far better corrected, sharper Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm F2.8 Power OIS lens gives the same DOF, same FOV, similar low light image capability but with at least 5EV image stabiliser, only 175mm long, weighs 100g less, focuses MUCH closer to only 1.2m, has a much better AF mechanism optimised for mirrorless, as well as rounded blades. If Canon, Nikon or Sony do make a new full frame mirrorless system version of this lens, it is unlikely to be shorter or lighter than the Canon, and likely to be much more expensive than the Canon.
    • these cameras fall into 5 main groups:
      • video-optimised cameras:
      • pro sports cameras:
        • the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II is an incredibly versatile camera and provides the best long telephoto reach capabilities for size and price and has acceptably good AF tracking at 18fps as well as the best image stabiliser out there
      • enthusiast weathersealed compact cameras:
      • beginner budget cameras:
        • the Olympus OM-D E-M10 mark III camera voted by DPreview in Dec 2018 as one of the top 3 beginner cameras
        • these smaller versions combined with the compact, light pancake and other lenses are great for travel
      • compact cameras without viewfinders
        • combined compact, light pancake lenses will fit into purses or larger pockets
  • APS-C / DX 1.5/1.6x crop sensors
  • 35mm full frame sensors
  • medium format sensors

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 Sony FE full frame
fisheye Oly 8mm f/1.8 no, converter or 3rd party MF no, only 3rd party
14-28mm 7-14mm f/2.8 pro; 8-18mm; 10-18mm f/4 = 15-27mm 12-24mm f/4; 16-35mm f/2.8 and f/4
18mm no no 18mm f/2.8
24mm 12mm f/1.4 premium 16mm f/2.8 pancake 24mm f/1.4 perhaps the best 24mm ever made
28mm 14mm f/2.5 pancake; 15mm f/1.7 Sigma 19mm f/2.8, Sony 20mm f/2.8 pancake ($350) 28mm f/2
35mm 17mm f/2.8 pancake ($259), 17mm f/1.8 ($599), 17mm f/1.2 pro 24mm f/1.8 $1000 35mm f/1.4 or f/2.8
40mm 20mm f/1.7 pancake; Sigma 19mm f/2.8 no 40mm f/2
50mm 25mm f/1.2 pro; 25mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 Sigma 30mm f/2.8 (45mm) or Sony 35mm f/1.8 (late 2012) 50mm f/1.4 ($US1800) or f/1.8
90mm portrait 45mm f/1.8 = 90mm; 42.5mm and 45mm f/1.2 pro 50mm f/1.8 OIS = 75mm 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8; 100mm STF
macro 45mm f/2.8 = 90mm OIS, 60mm f/2.8 = 120mm 30mm f/3.5 = 45mm 50mm and 90mm f/2.8 macro
135-150mm wide aperture 75mm f/1.8 no 135mm f/1.4 or f/2.8
24-70mm wide aperture 12-40mm f/2.8 pro no 24-70 f/2.8 or f/4
24-100mm weatherproofed Oly 12-50mm macro no 24-105mm f/4; 28-135mm f/4 $US2700; 18-110mm $US4600
24-200mm weatherproofed Oly 12-100mm f/4 pro no 24-240mm f/3.5-6.5
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 no
28-80mm zoom several 18-55mm = 27-83mm 194g 60mm long 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit
70-200mm wide aperture Pan 35-100mm f/2.8 HD X (2012) no 70-200mm f/2.8 or f/4
100-400mm zoom Pan 50-200mm OIS f/2.8-4 Pan 45-175mm f/4-5.6 OIS 210g 90mm long 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OIS = 83-315mm 345g 108mm long 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 1.4kg 205mm long unextended $US2500
10x zoom Pan 14-140mm OIS Oly 14-150mm = 28-300mm 18-200mm = 27-300mm, 524g 99mm long (Power Zoom $1200) 24-240mm f/3.5-6.5
200-600mm Pan 100-300mm OIS Oly. 75-300mm no no
200-800mm Pan 100-400mm OIS no no
300mm Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 pro no no
400mm Pan 200mm f/2.8 pro no 400mm f/2.8 $US12000
600mm Olympus 300mm f/4 pro no no

comparison of current high end bodies

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):

photo/mirrorless.txt · Last modified: 2019/05/12 23:46 by gary1