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Canon announce a new mirrorless camera – the Canon EOS M6 – essentially an M5 without EVF

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Canon have just announced a curiously named budget mirrorless camera – the M6 which is a cut down version of the M5 as there is no viewfinder built-in – but at least it is optional (a non-tilting 2.36Mdot EVF-DC2) – in a similar manner to the Olympus PEN series.

It is similar to the Canon EOS M5 but without the EVF, and instead offers flip up self LCD screen, and an additional dial on the top plate to make it more ergonomic.

Like the M5, it offers an “electronic version of 5 axis image stabilisation in combination with lens OIS” – BUT this only works in video mode and should not be confused with the sensor shift 5 axis image stabilisation offered by Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Pentax.

It will be available April 2017.

Specs:

  • 24mp APS-C sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase-detection on sensor
  • 7fps (9fps with AF lock)
  • shutter speeds 30sec to 1/4000th sec
  • flash sync 1/200th sec
  • exposure compensation limited to ±3 EV
  • AE bracketing limited to ±2 EV
  • built in flash GN 5m at ISO 100
  • DIGIC 7 Image Processor
  • 5 axis electronic IS which will work with lens based optical IS – “Combination IS system” BUT only works in video mode
  • 1080HD 60p video 35mbps (24mbps at 24p)
  • stereo mic
  • 3″ 1mDot TFT touch screen tilts up 180deg and down 45deg
  • smartphone remote control via Bluetooth
  • WiFi, NFC
  • USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • NOT weathersealed
  • Canon EF-M lens mount
  • 343 g (0.76 lb / 12.10 oz)
  • 112 x 68 x 45 mm (4.41 x 2.68 x 1.77″)
  • RRP $US780 body only

They are then offering this with either a EF-M 15-45mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens or a EF-M 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens – both disappointingly f/6.3 lenses but presumably designed to be as compact as possible for an APS-C camera.

It seems Canon is still struggling to catch up with the technology offered by its peers such as the far more affordable Panasonic GX850/GX800 which also has a selfie mode with flip up screen and in addition has 4K video not just 1080HD video, or the Panasonic GX85/80 with built-in EVF, 5 axis IS, 4K video and weathersealing.

More information on the Canon EOS-M mirrorless cameras and lenses on my wiki page.

Canon, I am still waiting for true sensor-based 5 axis image stabilisation, and preferably in a mirrorless full frame camera!!!

Oh yes, and Canon announced a new mirrorless camera – the Canon EOS-M5

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Apologies for the delay in posting about this camera given I have a huge collection of Canon pro gear, but in comparison to the Olympus E-M1 Mark II announcement, this camera is so under-whelming, but guess that is what we now expect from Canon.

Yep, sure, it is Canon’s best mirrorless camera but that isn’t saying much!

Oh well, here goes the specs for those die hard Canon users who think it may be useful, although on specs it probably should be better compared to the original budget level Olympus E-M10 of 2014 than a 2016 E-M1 Mark II camera as here:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon EOS M5
Price at Amazon.com  $US $US1099?
sensor 20mp 2x crop 24mp 1.6x crop
Weight 574g, weathersealed, freezeproof, WiFi remote
427g WiFi remote
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm 115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6 mm
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 2-4 EV OIS in stills, “digital IS” in movies
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/4000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/200th, ?no slow sync, 3 levels manual
exposure compensation range and AE bracketing ±5 EV AE bracketing ±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
+/- 3EV (+/- 2EV bracketing)
EVF 2.35mdot, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time
2.36mdot, 22mm eyepoint
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1.6mdot, tilting touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port
1080HD
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF; 60fps with S-AF
7fps with C-AF, 9fps with S-AF to max 26 jpegs
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF  121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF
45pt Dual Pixel CDAF/PDAF, face detection
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual SD card slots Yes No
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Number of dedicated CDAF  lenses > 40  5 EF-M STM (incl 1 macro)
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299  EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM(18-36mm)
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740  EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM(29-88mm)
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-200mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter  EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM (88-320mm)
“50mm” standard prime lens 25mm (50mm) f/1.8, 136g, 41mm long, 0.24m close focus, 46mm filter, $US349 (also other options such as Oly 25mm f/1.2)  EF-M 22mm f/2 STM (no OIS!) (36mm)

Nice camera if they introduced it in 2011, but well behind the scene now.

But at least they haven’t given up on the mirrorless system like Nikon has done with their Nikon 1 system.

The new Sony a7R II – finally a full frame mirrorless that almost does it all – a game changer indeed!

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

In my last post I compared the current Sony full frame mirrorless cameras with the Olympus OM-D cameras, and had to conclude that for most people, the Olympus OM-D’s were probably the way to go given that each Sony camera had significant issues, not least the lack of lens selection.

But today, Sony has really upped the ante with their newly announced Sony a7R II NEX E-mount full frame mirrorless camera which hopefully addresses many of my concerns and in addition adds faster AF for Canon lenses plus internal 4K video!

Now that is pretty cool and Canon and Nikon should be worried – very worried indeed!

The specs beat their new Canon 5DS hands down assuming one is not going to quibble over 50mp vs 42mp, and beats the Nikon D810E dSLRs.

Sony now make 40% of all digital sensors and Canon is falling so far behind in the mirrorless and video race, it will take something special from them to pull back the lead.

Nikon use Sony sensors so potentially this sensor will find its way into their dSLRs, but neither Canon or Nikon have added sensor-based image stabilisation and this is a real issue for them, nor can they offer accurate, fast AF on a person’s eye via Eye Detection AF, let alone 4K video functionality as is implemented on this camera.

This may be THE BEST camera for your Canon lenses (although you do need to buy a AF adapter such as a Metabones adapter) – as long as you don’t need super fast AF for sports, etc.

image courtesy of http://www.eoshd.com

Sony a7R II specs:

  • world 1st back illuminated full frame sensor for improved high ISO sensitivity and faster data processing (3.5x faster than the a7R)
  • 42.4 megapixels gapless design with anti-reflection coating
  • ISO range 100-25600 (extended: 50, up to 102,400)
  • Fast Hybrid AF system
  • AF response time improved by 40% over the a7R
  • Eye-AF now allows C-AF tracking of closest eye with specific face preferenc via registration
  • fast, accurate C-AF at 5fps even with fast moving subjects
  • 399 on-sensor phase detect AF sensor points covering 45% of the frame = 67% coverage in each direction (larger than dSLR AF coverage)
  • 25 on-sensor contrast detect AF points
  • 5fps burst rate for 22 frames
  • 500,000 shot rated shutter – by far the best specs in the industry
  • 50% less shutter vibration than in the a7R
  • electronic front curtain shutter to reduce shutter shake
  • shutter speeds 30sec – 1/8000th sec
  • flash sync 1/250th sec
  • metering to -3EV, exposure compensation -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps)
  • no optical low pass filter for optimal sharpness and clarity (although this may cause some moire in videos – to be tested)
  • 3″ tilting 1,228.8k dot LCD screen (tilting up 107° and down 41°) and uses WhiteMagic technology which doubles the brightness of the display but still not touch sensitive
  • 4K video
    • internal UHD 4K 3840 x 2160p at 30/24 fps in XAVC S format at 100Mbps and 4:2:0 sampling at 8-bit
    • Super 35 without pixel binning or full frame read-out format
    • customisable picture profiles
    • S-Log2 Gamma – “squeezes up to 1300% more dynamic range into the video signal then traditional REC709, for increased post-production flexibility”
    • S-Gamut
    • time code – standard ‘Record Run” mode that only advances the timecode when recording, as well as “Free Run” timecode that advances the timecode even when not recording
    • clean 4:2:2 uncompressed video HDMI output
    • sensor based IS – hopefully now better optimised for video – but will it compete with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II’s amazing IS in video?
    • 3.5mm microphone input jack
    • compatible with the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter for recording professional balanced XLR audio signals with phantom power and adjustable mic/line inputs
    • 3.5mm headphone jack as well as real time audio levels for a visual reference
  • 1080p video 60fps XAVC S7 codec at 50Mbps
  • 720 120p slo-mo video
  • silent shooting mode
  • 0.78x EVF magnification with 100% view coverage plus 4-lens system with double-sided aspherical elements for comfortable viewing and diopter – 4 to +3 m
  • magnesium alloy body with weathersealing
  • improved ergonomics – larger grip, re-shaped shutter button and moved forward
  • and taking a leaf from Olympus:
    • the same 5-axis image stabilization system found in the Sony a7 II – my dreams are coming true indeed!
    • the ability to assign any of 56 functions to any of the 10 customizable buttons for a more personalized setup
    • the Olympus mode dial locking system
    • Picture Effect modes: Posterization (Color, B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.
    • Creative Style settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia (all with +/- 3 step contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustment).
    • Face Detection is available to base exposure and focus on up to eight recognized faces. Furthermore, Eye AF can be used for even greater precision by maintaining critical focus on a subject’s eye – I do love this feature on my Olympus cameras
    • sensor dust reduction system as is now standard in most ILC’s
  • sweep panorama
  • WiFi and NFC connectivity
  • PlayMemories Camera Apps are supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.
  • battery: NP-FW50 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack
  • optional AC-PW20 AC Adapter
  • 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4″ / 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm
  • 22.05 oz / 625 g incl. battery, card
  • $US3200
  • availability said to be August 2015

What makes it a better camera for Canon and Nikon lenses than their dSLRs?

  • 4K video
  • sensor based image stabiliser which works on all lenses – much reduced need for a tripod for portraits with the 135mm f/2.0L lens in low light
  • at least as good, if not better image quality – Sony sensors generally have better dynamic range than Canon ones and this sensor should not be an exception
  • far better manual focus functionality thanks to full time Live View with magnification and focus peaking – awesome when using tilt shift lenses – and they become image stabilised
  • more accurate portrait AF with Eye detection AF – although we will have to see if this works on non FE lenses
  • more accurate AF as uses focal plane PDAF sensors
  • no mirror so less camera shake and no need for clunky mirror lock up modes
  • can use the EVF in either stills or video mode and the video hopefully will have excellent sensor based image stabilisation and thereby allow better run and gun video work without need for heavy, expensive stabilisation rigs
  • PDAF covers more of the image frame
  • C-AF tracking still not quite as good as Nikon’s 3D tracking but perhaps better than Canon’s iTR distance priority tracking
  • WiFi control

Compared to Canon 5Ds R

Similar resolution, burst rate, shutter speed range,

Sony a7R II Canon 5Ds R
Price at Amazon.com $US3200 $US3900
ISO range 100-25600 (expandable to 50-102,400) 100-6400 (expandable to 50-12800)
Weight 625g 930g
Size 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm 152 x 116 x 76 mm
EVF YES NO
LCD screen tilt screen fixed
HD video awesome image stabilisation 50Mbps 1080 50/60/24pp and 100Mbps 4K 30/24p, stereo mic, headphone port 1080HD 30p/24p average implementation and quality, no EVF and thus must use LCD screen; mono mic; no headphone port, no uncompressed HDMI out
sensor based image stabilisation 5-axis 4.5EV IS No
Manual focus support in viewfinder magnified view, focus peaking AF confirm
AF in view finder mode fast, accurate on sensor 399pt PDAF, 25pt CDAF, Eye detection AF fast 61pt PDAF (5 double cross, 41 cross) requires microadjustment for each lens but proven for sports
AF lamp Yes No, need speedlight attached
flash sync 1/250th sec but no PC port? 1/200thsec
Radio TTL flash No Yes
Sweep panorama Yes No
silent electronic shutter Yes No?
shutter rating 500,000 shots 150,000 shots?
battery life 290 shots 700 shots
CF and SD memory card slot No Yes
USB 3.0 No Yes
WiFi and NFC Yes No

What’s missing?

  • LCD screen is not touch sensitive – this is very useful on Micro Four Thirds cameras, and I would miss it
  • radio remote TTL flash
  • lossless RAW files – current 14bit lossy RAW files do show some posterization – firmware update may address this
  • whilst PDAF is more accurate, PDAF capabilities in low light is not as good as on dSLR
  • PDAF initial AF lock not as fast as a dSLR when using very out of focus telephoto lenses
  • timelapse recording? – via PlayMemories App?
  • USB 3.0 (still only 2.0)
  • colour rendition may not be as good as peers – Olympus jpeg engine is renown for its colours
  • none of the nice Olympus long exposure and low light options:
    • timed shutter to 60secs
    • Live BULB
    • Live TIME
    • Live Composite
    • Live Boost I and II for better EVF viewing
  • of course, the dedicated lens selection is currently very limited, but at least now, it promises to give faster AF for Canon lenses
  • not compatible with TTL flash from other systems such as Olympus, Nikon or Canon – perhaps one day they will be universal remote TTL flash capability, but this seems a way off yet

Conclusion:

I still believe that the Olympus OM-D cameras are a better fit for MOST people who just need a high quality, light, compact, versatile weathersealed system.

But for the pros and enthusiasts who don’t mind the extra size, weight and cost (~$US4000 for basic kit)  and are wanting high resolution, image stabilised full frame, or the serious videographers wanting high quality 4K video, then this camera is indeed a game changer given that it has all these capabilities without being absurdly expensive!

It also provides an option as a 2nd system to go along with your everyday Micro Four Thirds system, although an alternative to this role could be the newly announced Leica Q which is a 24mp full frame fixed lens camera with a superb 28mm f/1.7 lens and a very quiet leaf shutter which allows flash sync at 1/500th second – a great combo for street photography as well as shooting groups at weddings outdoors or indoors with flash fill in.

Finally, will it live up to the hype and the specs?

Formal testing and user experiences will be required to answer a few questions such as:

  • how good is the image quality from the sensor?
  • how fast is the AF with Sony FE lenses and with Canon EF lenses?
  • how good is the video quality?
  • how effective is the image stabiliser for video?
  • how good is the ergonomics and handling?
  • are there any gotchas yet to be revealed?

Time will tell if this camera is the gem it appears to be.

Which mirrorless in 2015 – Sony full frame or Olympus OM-D?

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Mirrorless cameras are fast becoming THE camera type of the future thanks to the removal of the mirror which is holding back dSLR cameras from the many benefits of the new EVF world – in particular, the every increasing technological changes which in nearly all aspects have addressed the benefits of an optical viewfinder while adding in so many other benefits.

But which mirrorless camera system to buy?

I am going to discount the Nikon 1 system as the sensor is really too small for enthusiasts wanting a good compromise in size vs image quality vs shallow DOF.

For simplicity, I am also going to discount the APS-C cropped sensor systems (eg. Sony NEX, Fuji, Samsung) as they generally have larger lenses and very few are well designed for the cropped sensor cameras, and really, if you are going to have the larger lenses, you may as well go the whole hog and get a full frame camera. That said, many may find these cameras give them the compromise they need, particularly, the Fuji X system with their very nice lenses such as their 56mm f/1.2 portrait lens.

That leaves us with compact, light, less expensive, Micro Four Thirds 2x crop sensor cameras (Panasonic, Olympus, Kodak and Black Magic cameras) vs the relatively new Sony NEX FX cameras.

Micro Four Thirds vs Sony FX mirrorless:

The main reasons to consider paying all that extra money and carrying heavier, larger cameras and lenses for a full frame system include:

  • more capabilities of achieving even shallower depth of field – perhaps 1-2 stops more shallow
  • ability to use full frame lenses at their native field of view
  • some niche $2000-$3000 lens options only available in full frame as yet, such as 17mm tilt-shift, 14mm f/2.8 ultra-wide capable of taking filters, 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2
  • access to higher resolution sensors to allow even larger prints
  • access to sensors with even better high ISO performance

But these Sony full frame cameras come at a cost:

  • larger and heavier kits
  • more expensive cameras and lenses
  • images are generally less sharp away from the centre
  • very small range of dedicated AF lenses
  • current lenses generally have poor close focus limits and smaller apertures compared to Olympus options
  • shallow depth of field is often your enemy
  • high resolution images will generally require use of a tripod
  • high resolution sensor cameras create much larger RAW file sizes and use up more space on memory cards and your hard drives
  • range of camera options is much narrower
  • less hand holdable telephoto reach
  • equivalent telephoto reach lenses are MUCH bigger, heavier, more expensive and require tripods
  • only one Sony camera has 5 axis in-body image stabilisation and it is not as effective as the Olympus OM-D/PEN implementation
  • none of them can compete with the video image stabilisation of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
  • none of them will allow 1/3rd sec sharp hand held wide angle shots such as the Olympus cameras – eg. night time or when using ND400 10x filters in bright sun for blurred water effects
  • none will allow hand held night urban shots with adequate depth of field (compared to the Olympus OM-D’s and lenses such as 12mm f/2.0)
  • none of them have the handy functions of the Olympus cameras such as 60sec timed exposures, Live TIME, Live Composite exposures
  • each of the 3 current Sony FX cameras have gotchas which may prevent one from achieving what is hoped for:
    • ergonomics are not quite there
    • shutters are very noisy
    • the LCD screens are not touch sensitive
    • no timelapse recording
    • the Sony a7R 36mp camera has poor image quality at certain shutter speeds as one cannot use an electronic 1st shutter and thus is subject to shutter shake, no in-body IS, and only has 25 CDAF points and no PDAF, while flash sync is a miserable 1/160th sec while burst rate is a slow 4fps but would make a great landscape camera
    • the Sony a7S 12mp “low light”/”video” camera has RAW compression artefact issues, poor dynamic range, low resolution, no in-body IS, and only has 25 CDAF points and no PDAF, while burst rate is only 5fps but does make a great low light video camera
    • the Sony a7II 24mp camera finally has in-body IS, and PDAF with good dynamic range, but noise at high ISO, and only 5fps but does provide a way of image stabilising those Canon and Nikon prime lenses whilst retaining full frame characteristics although you do lose fast AF.

Let’s compare the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II vs Sony a7II:

These are relatively close in functionality, both offering IBIS, WiFi, weathersealing and similar resolution.

Olympus OM-D E-M5II Sony a7II
Price at Amazon.com $US999 $US1698
Weight 417g 600g
Size 124mm x 85mm x 44.5mm 127 x 96 x 60 mm
EVF eye sensor auto switching issues with eye sensor auto switching
LCD screen articulating touch screen not touch sensitive
HD video awesome image stabilisation 50Mbps 1080 50/60p better video quality but IS not as good
Burst rate 11fps 5fps
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF fast 81pt CDAF (need E-M1 for PDAF) 25pt CDAF, 117pt PDAF
Hi-Res mode Yes, 40mp No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Sweep panorama Individual shots stitched Yes
Auto hand held HDR Yes No
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299 16-35mm f/4, 518g, 99mm long, 0.28m close focus, 72mm filter, OSS, no MF clutch, less sharp, distortion and CA worse, $US1348
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 24-70mm f/4, 426g, 95mm long, 0.4m close focus, 67mm filter, OSS, no MF clutch, very soft away from centre, complex distortion, $US925
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-200mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter 70-200mm f/4, 840g, 175mm long, 1-1.5m close focus, 72mm filter, OSS, no MF clutch, no teleconverter, soft corners even stopped down, $US1498
“50mm” standard prime lens 25mm (50mm) f/1.8, 136g, 41mm long, 0.24m close focus, 46mm filter, $US349 (also other options such as Leica-D 25mm f/1.4) 55mm f/1.8, 281g, 64mm long, 0.5m close focus, 49mm filter, excellent optics, shallower DOF, but poor close focus and expensive $US998

Just look at those 3 main zoom lenses, the Olympus zooms offer better edge-to-edge sharpness, less distortions, substantially better close focus, and extra stop of light which partly addresses the shallow DOF and high ISO capabilities of the Sony full frame sensor, whilst being less expensive and offering the lovely manual focus clutch, and for the telephoto, the option of a 1.4x teleconverter.

The Sony zoom lenses being f/4 to allow a more compact, lighter and affordfable solution than the usual f/2.8 full frame lenses does not get you into the comfort zone shallow depth of field full frame f/2.8 zoom lenses and thus would miss the mark for portrait, fashion and wedding photographers who really do need the f/2.8 aperture.

Not only that, but Micro Four Thirds offer over 40 dedicated AF lenses in their system, while Sony only have 6 to date, and none of these are fisheye (let alone f/1.8 fisheye as with the Olympus), only 2 primes, and no macro lens. Micro Four Thirds has some lovely, compact lenses optimised for fast CDAF such as:

  • 8mm f/1.8 fisheye
  • 12mm f/2.0
  • 17mm f/1.8
  • 20mm f/1.7 pancake
  • 25mm f/1.4 or f/1.8
  • 42.5mm f/1.2
  • 45mm f/1.8
  • 60mm f/2.8 1:1 macro
  • 75mm f/1.8 (my favorite)

Olympus will also be bringing out their much anticipated 300mm f/4 super telephoto which will give hand holdable 600/840mm telephoto reach impossible to obtain on the Sony system as it would require a 600mm lens and they are big, heavy and expensive, and NONE are optimised for CDAF and face detection AF as the Olympus will be.

In addition, a 0.72x focal reducer on an Olympus OM-D combined with a Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L lens effectively gives you an image stabilised 200mm f/2.8 lens in full frame field of view and depth  of field characteristics, and it should not be too long before we see these with faster AF.

If you don’t like the video quality of the Olympus cameras, there are always the Panasonic GH-4 4K camera and Black Magic video cameras.

Furthermore, you can carry the Olympus E-M5 camera and a few prime lenses in your jacket pockets!

I think I have just convinced myself not to head down the Sony route even though there is the tantalising prospect of the very shallow depth of field options – I think I can manage this aspect with focal reducer adapters!

HOWEVER, the 36mp Sony a7R may be worth it for landscape photographers wanting to make larger prints and who are willing to carry a tripod for every shot, and avoid those shutter speeds where shutter shake is problematic – so it would be great for waterfalls, blurred water seascapes, etc and much more affordable than a Nikon D810 dSLR or Canon 5DS dSLR.

 

The 1st 3 chapters of Khen Lim’s 10 chapter treatise on the history of the Micro Four Thirds system – now online

Friday, October 4th, 2013

As promised, Khen Lim will be contributing to my photography wikipedia.

Here are the first 3 chapters of his incredibly detailed and insightful treatise on the history of mirrorless cameras and, in particular, the Micro Four Thirds system.

Click HERE to take you directly to the 1st chapter in which he describes the advent of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and how this will be a disruptive technology to the photographic industry as a whole.

My view of his line of thinking are as follows:

In 1990, no one would have believed that in a mere 10-15 years, film cameras would be almost totally replaced by digital cameras.

Digital photography was extremely disruptive and forced the closure of many well established companies, even taking down Kodak.

In the beginning of dSLRs, it made sense to create cropped sensor dSLRs ONLY because it was too expensive to create full frame dSLRs.

Cropped sensor dSLRs were clearly seen by both Canon and Nikon as a stop gap measure until the price of full frame sensors came down.

Canon and Nikon clearly demonstrated this by refusing to make high quality pro lenses designed for these cropped sensor dSLRs – only a few of the lenses were of high optical and build quality.

In 2000, few saw that smartphones would consume the low end point and shoot digital camera market – but this is exactly what is happening and many manufacturers are now substantially reducing their exposure to this market.

In 2008, few saw that the advent of mirrorless interchangeable lenses would again change the face of the photographic world, and led by Micro Four Thirds, they are certainly making their mark and over the next decade should consume the cropped sensor dSLR market.

The advances in EVF technology far outpace the advances being made in optical viewfinders, and have now reached a point where they are much more useful than optical for most situations.

These mirrorless cameras offer similar image quality and much more functionality in a smaller, lighter kit than a cropped sensor dSLR kit, and even areas led by dSLRs such as C-AF tracking will soon be completely overtaken by new technologies of dual AF sensor designs coupled with face recognition, etc.

Even now, Sony and Olympus appear to be teaming up to create a new mirrorless full frame system which will need a range of new lenses optimised for CDAF – this indeed will be interesting and very challenging for Canon and Nikon who have an extensive range of lenses but few if any will be optimised for the new technology of mirrorless full frame cameras.

I can’t wait to have bird facial recognition AF with electronic shutters at 40fps for truly awesome birding in 10 years time – this just won’t be possible on optical dSLR systems without resorting to clunky mirror lockup modes and the rear LCD screen. The global electronic shutter mode would not only be fully silent for wedding receptions, etc but potentially allow full output flash at all shutter speeds making over-powering the sun with flash units easy without having to resort to very powerful studio strobes with battery packs. A wedding photographer’s dream indeed!

I suspect also, that having mirrorless full frame system will not only be smaller and much, much quieter, but that they would design the lens flange distance so that many different types of lenses could be fitted, and just as with the E-M1, all would be image stabilised.  Affordable, through the lens live view Leica full frame with image stabilisation, focus peaking and live magnification .. hmmm… delicious indeed.

With mirrorless full frames eventually being more useful than full frame optical dSLRs for travel, fashion, weddings, sports, photojournalism and sheer fun of photography … where will optical dSLRs be … in cupboards like our film SLRs?

I wonder if the future in 15 years will be reduced to 3 main camera types:

  • waterproof, drop-proof smartphones
  • a middle of the road compact – and the best candidate for this is Micro Four Thirds as its lenses will always be smaller than APS-C sized mirrorless
  • full frame mirrorless cameras

Very interesting times indeed and there will be much gnashing of teeth by the losers and the winners will be grinners.
EM-5 compared to dSLRs

Olympus E-M5 size compared to the APS-C based Nikon D3100 with equivalent standard zoom lens fitted Image courtesy of www.camerasize.com

The new Canon EOS 70D dSLR and ramifications of its new sensor technology for the future of camera development

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Those who read this blog will know I am a big fan of mirrorless cameras and believe that they will be the future for most photographers.

Mirrorless cameras such as Micro Four Thirds have several important advantages over current dSLRs:

  • they can be made smaller as they do not need the mirror, nor the pentaprism
  • they are quieter to shoot as there is no mirror bouncing around, and also have far less camera shake at high magnification photography
  • the lenses can be redesigned with shorter sensor to lens flange distances making for simpler wide angle designs and smaller, lighter lenses
  • the shorter sensor to lens mount flange distance allows a greater range of legacy lenses to be usable
  • AF for relatively stationary subjects is extremely fast, accurate and one can even automatically AF on a given eye (using Olympus cameras) almost anywhere in the frame
  • no need for AF microadjustment calibrations
  • use of an electronic viewfinder instead of optical allows more information to be visible without taking your eye from the camera such as live histogram, etc., and allow live magnification with image stabilisation, as well as live boost of low light situations for improved visability (particularly handy for astrophotography and when using legacy lenses stopped down)
  • the electronic viewfinders continue to improve in viewing quality and refresh rates

BUT the current mirrorless cameras have one major flaw – limited or no ability to AF on fast moving subjects, limited tracking AF capability and very slow AF when used with non-CDAF lenses.

Olympus in particular is working hard to develop new mirrorless cameras which address the above issues and also allow fast AF with Four Thirds lenses.

Of all the manufacturers, Canon appeared to have been twiddling their thumbs on this front, even their mirrorless camera – the EOS-M was not taken seriously given that it’s contrast detect AF was so slow compared with the competition, and no new competitive technology had been created since 2009 – 4 long years allowing Nikon to take the advantage in dSLR markets and Olympus, Panasonic and Sony to take the strong lead in the mirrorless sector.

Now, with their announcement of a revolutionary new “dual-pixel” sensor in their Canon EOS 70D dSLR which promises to not only provide contrast detect AF as with traditional mirrorless cameras but also the most capable and fast on-sensor phase detect AF system yet made. If their claims are true, one should be able to use most of the EF lenses and have fast AF with tracking and even face recognition with these lenses anywhere within 80% of the image area in Live View mode.

This is awesome news if the claims are proven and will again give Canon an edge, particularly when they introduce this technology in the mirrorless cameras.

BUT it may be a double-edge sword for Canon who have relied upon its dSLR sales to date.

If this sensor is as good as they state, I for one would want to be using the Live View Face Detect AF with my Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L lens for portraits as the shallow depth of field of this lens makes accurate AF on the eyes difficult with the current optical viewfinder.

Unfortunately with the 70D and other similar optical dSLRs, to use Live View means holding the camera away from your face and looking at the rear LCD screen. This is NOT a good method, particularly when using a telephoto lens when camera shake will potentially ruin your image, not to mention the ergonomics of holding a heavy lens in this manner.

If most people find that this new AF has substantial advantages over the old optical AF system as I suspect may be the case, then they would be best advised to buy a mirrorless version rather than a dSLR version, because there are now almost no reasons to have a mirror in your camera.

It will be very interesting to see how good this new AF system is, and, what will Olympus in partnership with Sony come up with in Micro Four Thirds cameras to compete with it.

Fascinating times.

Now if only Canon will make me a weatherproof, full frame mirrorless with an EVF built-in using such a sensor (even better if they add in-camera image stabilisation as Olympus do) !

Post Script:

It seems that reports on the pre-production model indicate that the AF is NOT as fast for static subjects compared with the current Micro Four Thirds cameras, and the Live View phase contrast is not as good as the optical phase contrast – the question will be – is it good enough for most of us, or just another compromise – time will tell, but at least the AF in movie mode seems to be nice and organic.

Finally…Canon announce their mirrorless system … but it does seem quite under-whelming .. after all this is late 2012 not 2008 and the game has changed

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I own a number of excellent Canon pro lenses including the 17mm tilt shift, 45mm tilt-shift, 90mm tilt shift, 24-105mm f/4ISL, 85mm f/1.8, 135mm f/2.0L which are great companions for my now aging Canon 1D Mark III pro dSLR.

I have been waiting several years now for Canon to show their hand and enter the extremely popular compact mirrorless camera system market.

Luckily for me, Panasonic and Olympus have really progressed their Micro Four Thirds system into a lovely high quality and versatile compact camera system led by the brilliant Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, 12mm f/2.0, 45mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8 lenses all of which I have bought or plan to buy as soon as available (the superb 75mm lens is not on our shores yet).

Yesterday Canon finally showed their hand, and I must say even though it is clearly targeting the entry level consumer market, I felt somewhat under-whelmed by it for the price point being offered and the reportedly slow AF performance.

Their take on mirrorless compact camera system is to go the conservative route with a 1.6x crop APS-C sensor to reduce confusion amongst their users and to potentially give a 1 stop improved capacity for lower image noise at high ISO and shallower depth of field at same field of view and aperture when compared to a 2x crop system such as the Micro Four Thirds.

The massive downside though is that they are now burdened with always having to have larger, heavier lenses which defeats the whole purpose of a compact system – no matter how small you make the camera as Sony discovered, the lenses just look bigger and more awkward to use.

They will also have difficulty matching edge-to-edge optical image quality of the 2x crop sensor with lenses at wide aperture as they will always be fighting the laws of physics on this arena – aberrations increase the further you go from the centre, some at an exponential rate!

Canon perhaps have been wise at least in offering their small well built but mid-level EOS-M camera with a nice small 22mm f/2.0 STM pancake lens with the option of a reasonably compact 3x kit zoom lens as starters to their new system.

Unfortunately, the EOS-M camera seems to have little better functionality than the initial Olympus PEN cameras in 2009 which were plagued by the lack of viewfinder, the lack of built-in flash and slow AF. Most importantly now, the reportedly very slow “Hybrid AF” system Canon has borrowed from the live view function of their 650D dSLR – would seem is so far behind the Micro Four Thirds pack it is just not funny, but in Canon’s favor is that they have until the October release date to try to remedy the slow AF speed and get at least part of the way to the fast AF of Olympus, Panasonic and Nikon.

Canon users with existing EF-S or EF lenses who want to use these on the EOS-M will likely find they will focus slowly as they are not optimised for CD-AF or the “Hybrid-AF” technologies as they do not have STM AF technology built in, and apart from smaller size camera and quieter shutter there are no gains compared to using a Canon 650D dSLR but they would lose:

  • ergonomics to handle the larger lenses
  • built-in viewfinder
  • fast phase detect AF
  • built-in flash
  • marginally faster 5fps burst rate (4.3fps on EOS-M although burst rate with pancake lens in AF tracking mode is only 1.2fps!)
  • articulated, swivel LCD screen
  • remote control
  • +/- 5EV exposure compensation (only +/- 3EV on the EOS-M)

Those wishing to use their EF or EF-S lenses on a mirrorless camera would find much justification in choosing an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera instead, because, even though you lose AF altogether, at the slow AF speeds available on the EOS-M, you may as well use manual focus anyway, and loss of aperture control is usually not a big deal as you tend to want to use these lenses for a specific purpose at a given aperture anyway, and the Olympus gives you some enormous benefits over the 650D or the EOS-M including:

  • optional battery holder makes ergonomics of using these heavy lenses more practical
  • “5 stop 5-axis” built-in image stabilisation
    • allows much easier, faster and more accurate manual focus using magnified view with IS enabled
    • converts ALL lenses into image stabilised lenses even tilt-shift and prime lenses for still images (this is not yet available for movie mode but I expect this will come sooon)
    • allows slow shutter speeds hand held using wide angle lenses for flowing water shots without having to lug a tripod around, or from positions where tripods would be impossible
    • allows hand held infrared photography at low ISO without resorting to costly modification of the camera
    • allows use of long prime telephoto lenses or the 90mm tilt shift lens hand held with fill-in flash at x-sync – great for fashion shoots
  • quiet shutter capable of 9fps burst rates (4fps with IS on)
  • high build quality with weatherproofing of the body
  • built-in high quality viewfinder means
    • you hold the camera to your eye to improve stability
    • you don’t need your reading glasses to operate the camera or review images – try chimping your shots to see if you had accurate focus on an LCD screen without your reading glasses!
    • you have access to magnified view for manual focus, live histogram, full camera settings control and electronic horizon levels all within the EVF
    • you can see the image in bright sunlight
    • you can be more discrete in low light environments such as concerts and weddings without having a distracting bright image show up on your LCD screen
  • tiltable touch screen for easier high and low angle shots as well as tripod mounted and astrophotography work
  • Live BULB mode which can change the way you work in low light and open up new options such as iPhone lighting, fire twirling, moving subjects – seeing the image build up in long exposures can make a difference, plus it makes you more efficient for astrophotography – if you made an error just terminate exposure when you notice it on screen.
  • ability to use the fastest AF currently available on any camera with the lovely 45mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8 lenses
  • ability to have fast AF on the closest eye of your subject – fantastic for portraits and fashion shoots – no more focus then recompose, and far more accurate and faster focusing (when using the dedicated lenses)
  • ability to use any of the 30-40 Micro Four Thirds lenses – the biggest range of dedicated AF lenses in the mirrorless market
  • ability to use the superb quality but slow focusing Four Thirds lenses
  • high quality jpegs straight from the camera – the best colors and among the best dynamic range jpegs you can get in cameras under $10,000
  • high quality 30″x 40″ prints almost indistinguishable in image quality to current full frame dSLR cameras (if depth of field is not part of the comparison)
  • greater hand holdable telephoto reach thanks to the 2x crop factor, complimenting a full frame dSLR very nicely indeed
  • greater depth of field at low ISO when shooting hand held shots at night for urban landscapes or at dusk for normal landscapes or waterfalls when you really want everything sharp!

Of course, if high quality video is your main thing, and you want a mirrorless camera, then one can’t really go past the Panasonic GH-2 or its forthcoming replacement, the GH-3.

I will await pricing on the newly announced Kipon EOS-Micro Four Thirds lens adapter with full electronic control of aperture as I just can’t see the Canon mirrorless camera system without built-in image stabilisation being the future, but for many it may be a useful tool.

Canon it would seem has been worrying that introducing a mirrorless camera system would consume their profitable dSLR sales – well on this initial offering, I don’t think they have much to fear!

As an entry-level camera for users who ONLY want to use a pancake lens or 3x zoom, and have no interest in adding fast AF wide aperture lenses in the near future, then the EOS-M with pancake lens does offer some reasonable competition to the likes of Olympus E-P3, E-PL3, E-PM1, Panasonic GF3, GF5, GX-1 as it does offer good video, a touch screen, great build quality, hot shoe and perhaps better image quality, and if the pancake lens proves to be sharp with nice bokeh, then the $899 may be very reasonable price point.

It is essentially the same price as an Olympus E-P3 with its 3x zoom kit lens but the E-P3 has fast AF, optional EVF, pop-up flash and built-in IS while the EOS-M has a higher resolution larger sensor and LCD screen, and 24fps HD video.

I would be hoping that Canon follow this up with some real killer cameras with features similar to the Olympus E-M5 and lenses but if history repeats, I would not be too optimistic on the high quality lens front, after all, there is only one reasonably high end EF-S lens to support their cropped sensor dSLRs and they have been around for over 10 years now.

NOTE to Canon – you MUST have fast AF to appeal to almost anyone in 2012 – even if you only have 2 dedicated lenses, no EVF option and no IS built-in.

Seems I am far from alone on my opinion on the EOS-M strategy – just Google the web for a multitude of similar opinions such as Kirk Tuck‘s.

Canon introduce a large sensor compact fixed lens camera – the Powershot G1X – but is this what upgraders really want?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Canon have just announced the Powershot G1X “compact” camera with a 14mp 18.7mm x 14mm sensor about the same size as Micro Four Thirds (its active region may actually be smaller than that on a Panasonic GH1 or GH2)  and in 4/3 aspect ratio but with a fixed 28-112mm equivalent f/2.8-5.8 image stabilised zoom lens.

It has some nice features including:

  • the large sensor and 14bit RAW capture for high image quality
  • metal construction
  • compact lens about the same size as the Panasonic Lumix X 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS powerzoom but with more telephoto reach.
  • 4 stop image stabiliser
  • flip out, swivel, hi-resolution (920,o00 dots) LCD screen
  • built-in flash with sync speed up to 1/2000th sec – nice but this flash is very limited with its low power output.
  • hotshoe compatible with all Canon EOS speedlights with sync speed 1/250th sec – now that is nice
  • face detection flash exposure compensation
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card support
  • optical viewfinder but not through the lens viewing, but at least there is no black out during burst shots as with EVF.
  • built-in 3 stop ND filter so you can “use wider apertures” but it doesn’t have wider apertures at the portrait end!
  • HDR mode

Canon seem to have totally misunderstood the market with this camera.

It is relatively tall (117mm x 81mm x 65mm) for a compact, and heavy for a compact (534g) and ugly!

Those upgrading from a point and shoot not only want higher image quality but they want much better ability to blur the background than this camera can ever offer, and at $799, most people would be far better off buying a similarly priced and sized, but much more versatile Micro Four Thirds camera with which they can buy nice wide aperture lenses to blur the background with.

So here are a few deficiencies compared with a Micro Four Thirds camera:

  • you can’t change lenses so you will never be able to blur the background nicely as you can’t put a nice 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens  or  use  lovely legacy lenses such as the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4
  • you can’t use a wide angle or long telephoto lens
  • you can’t use a dedicated macro lens – although it has macro mode, it is only down to 20cm
  • it does not have an EVF so you cannot see through the lens with the camera at eye level which means you don’t get to see the effects of ND gradient filters, polariser filters or composing to a different image aspect ratio, or the many other nice features of EVF’s such as magnified manual focus, etc.
  • the LCD screen is not a touch screen
  • burst mode at 4.5fps is limited to 6 shots, to get more you have to reduce burst rate to a miserly 1.9fps
  • exposure compensation is only +/- 3EV not 5EV
  • HD video is limited to 24fps when using 1080i while 720p is only 30fps instead of 60fps and thus slow motion video is not possible
  • it appears there is no manual exposure movie mode?
  • it will be interesting to see how fast the AF is, will it be as fast as the latest Micro Four Thirds cameras which have the fastest AF for static subjects you can get?
  • no zoom ring on the lens, you only have the power zoom lever near the shutter button
  • you need to buy a lens adapter (FA-DC58C  with 58mm thread) to allow use of a polarising filter- what were they thinking?

Well, it is has a much larger sensor (6.3x larger) than its predecessors, the Powershot G12 and earlier, but in this new marketplace of mirrorless interchangeable lens compact cameras at similar price point and size it is most likely aimed at those with a Canon dSLR who want a compatible compact. Even those will be waiting for Canon to come out with their mirrorless system which will presumably have this same sensor.

If this camera had a wider aperture lens, then the high ISO capabilities, built-in ND filter, nice fast flash sync would make this a great camera but to me, the lens lets this camera down.

The first thing I do when I buy a camera is replace the kit lens with a wide aperture lens – you can’t do this with this camera.

Still it may suit some people and I am sure it will take great photos just as a Micro Four Thirds camera will do with its kit lens.

This presumably suggests Canon’s new mirrorless range will be based around this sensor, and if this is so, wouldn’t it be fantastic for everyone if they actually did something sensible and use the Micro Four Thirds lens mount technology so that they have a ready market for their lenses and cameras. Heck they could even negotiate with Olympus and Panasonic to create a unified hotshoe given they are almost pin compatible at present.

Micro Four Thirds users would then have the option of Canon sensor, TTL flash and lens technologies while Canon users would gain access to the lovely collection of micro Four Thirds lenses already available.

Guess I am just dreaming again.

Fujifilm announce a new high end mirrorless camera system with a new sensor design

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The long awaited announcement from Fujifilm has finally arrived.

Their take on a mirrorless camera system is clearly targeting the enthusiast photographer who does not care for taking movies nor need zoom lenses, but who want high quality images using wide aperture prime lenses.

See here for details.

In short, it is based upon a new APS-C sized “X-Trans” sensor which has a new pixel array instead of usual Bayer pattern, and no anti-alias filter which should mean it can capture more detail than comparable traditional sensors with anti-alias filters.

The 1st camera, the X-Pro1 is expected to retail at $1600 body only and there are only 3 prime lenses available, each expected to cost $600-700.

The hybrid optical/EVF viewfinder is designed to change optical magnification to suit each of these 3 lenses, so I would not be expecting a big range of lenses.

That said, their traditional film era choice of lenses may well be adequate for the target audience (in 35mm terms):

  • 27mm field of view at f/2.0
  • 53mm field of view at f/1.4
  • 90mm field of view portrait/macro lens at f/2.4

Clearly they have done their homework on lens choice given the popularity of the following Micro Four Thirds lenses:

  • 12mm f/2.0 = 24mm
  • 20mm f/1.7 = 40mm
  • 25mm f/1.4 = 50mm
  • 45mm f/1.8 = 90mm
  • 45mm f/2.8 OIS macro = 90mm macro

However, personally I would have preferred the following range in 35mm terms:

  • 24mm at f/2.0
  • 35mm at f/1.8
  • 50mm at f/1.4
  • 90mm at f/2.0 with macro
  • 150mm at f/2.0 with OIS
  • 250mm at f/4 with OIS

I presume the optical viewfinder technology may be the limiting factor in providing such a range of lenses.

The Users Manual can be downloaded from Fuji here (pdf).

A few more features:

  • 16mp APS-C sized sensor with no anti-alias filter
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card support
  • only +/- 2EV exposure compensation
  • auto switching between OVF and LCF screen via eye detection as with Panasonic GH series
  • manual switch on front right to switc between OVF and EVF and set the OVF zoom
  • aperture ring on lenses with Auto selection as well
  • for Programmed Exposure Mode, there is no P mode but you set both Shutter dial and Aperture dial to A (but only allows speeds 1/4000th sec – 1/4 sec) – makes good sense
  • all shutter speeds (1/4000th sec to 1 sec ) are selected and visible from the top dial – makes street shooting much easier, for Aperture Priority, set this to A for auto shutter speed
  • for Manual Exposure mode, just chose shutter speed and aperture that is not A
  • for timed long exposures 2-30 sec, set shutter dial to T then use EVF with menu buttons to select actual exposure
  • for Bulb long exposures, set shutter dial to B -can take up to 60 minute exposures but if you set aperture to A, the exposure will be set to 30 sec
  • the shutter button even has a traditional screw in shutter release cable facility – one of the few digital cameras to have this – very nice and retro indeed!
  • exposure compensation is via it’s own top mounted dial and clearly marked – again great for the street shooter or tripod user
  • Macro mode on the rear buttons automatically changes OVF to EVF to avoid parallax error – seems strange to bother, as the type of user for this camera would know to do this anyway!
  • burst mode 6fps or 3fps
  • 2 exposure multiple exposure mode
  • panoramic stitching mode
  • self-timer activated via menu system  or allocated to the Fn button
  • viewfinder displays focus distance as this is not visible on the lenses – perhaps the biggest let down for the street photographer!
  • does not appear to be any manual focus aids other than a single zoom magnified focus enabled by pressing the centre of the command dial
  • ISO 100-25,600 although only 200- 6,400 in RAW mode and Auto but no intelligent ISO as with Panasonic cameras which assesses degree of subject movement
  • 10 film simulation modes including B&W with either Y,R or G filter, and a sepia mode
  • flash sync 1/180th sec, PC-sync terminal as well as hotshoe, no built-in flash, no remote TTL flash, no HSS flash?
  • 1080 and 720 24fps HD video, stereo mic, C-AF, 3x zoom some manual controls but perhaps not shutter speed selection?
  • weght 450g incl. battery and memory card
  • size 140mm x 82mm x 43mm – certainly not as small as the Olympus Pen or Sony NEX cameras

Potentially this is a great camera for many enthusiasts who want high image quality, want to use prime lenses only and only in this range, and who want to be able to see at a glance what aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation they have selected by looking down on the camera. The hybrid OVF/EVF certainly appears to be a very attractive feature but will it be enough to overcome the camera’s other limitations?

Unfortunately for its high price, it lacks the versatility of the Micro Four Thirds system, and the enthusiasts will not be so happy with its lack of manual focus or focus indication functionality, nor its poor exposure compensation range.

Perhaps they should do a deal with Olympus and get in-body image stabilisation, sensor dust removal system, Super-FP HSS flash and remote TTL flash all of which are absent in this camera!

At its price point I would have hoped for a faster flash sync and potentially compatibility with a major brand’s remote TTL flash system such as Nikon, Canon or Olympus.

The HD video capabilities are reasonable but much more limiting than with other mirrorless cameras.

 

Mirrorless camera systems – my dream kit

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

The mirrorless interchangable lens camera systems are the future for most people wanting high quality images in a relatively compact kit.

Finally Nikon has entered the scene but their 2.7x crop sensor to me is just too small to get the imagery I like.

Sony and Samsung with their 1.5x/1.6x crop sensor has marginally better image than Micro Four Thirds 2x crop sensor cameras but have a BIG problem of always having to use larger and heavier lenses because they need to cover a larger image circle, and this makes their camerasless ergonomic to hold, and the kit too large and heavy.

To me, the 2x crop sensor size used by Micro Four Thirds and probably also by Canon, if rumours are correct, is the best compromise on image quality and camera/lens size and ergonomics.

It will be fascinating to see what Canon brings to the table, and I will certainly be looking forward to it given that I own a Canon 1D Mark III and quite a few pro level Canon lenses.

In the meanwhile, we have to look at what is available and to me the first is to consider the lenses.

Of course, most point and shooters will be very happy using the kit lenses but compact cameras such as these really shine when used with wide aperture small prime  lenses which means you can get the low light performance you need, ability to blur the background beautifully, and to shoot at low ISO values where image noise is not an issue.

My dream Micro Four Thirds lenses:

  • Olympus m.Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 – a superb lens albeit not cheap, but has great manual focus capability and provides a nice 24mm field of view in full frame terms while f/2.0 means available light even indoors is possible at ISO 400. It is also optimised for HD video and thus has silent AF which is very fast on the new bodies.
  • Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 – another great lens to replace the much larger, heavier, more expensive Four Thirds version which I currently use – this allows lovely environmental portraits in available light at ISO 400 indoors, is superb for art galleries, shooting at dusk as well as being a general purpose “standard” lens. If you can’t afford this lens, then the cheaper, smaller Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is not a bad compromise although AF is slower and noisier.
  • Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 – a nice “90mm” portrait lens, less expensive than the above 2 lenses but still has near silent HD-optimised fast AF.
  • Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 – a manual focus only lens but relatively cheap (under $300 new) with lovely imagery wide open – it gives almost identical imagery on Micro Four Thirds at f/1.4 as my Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L lens on my Canon 1D Mark III dSLR, but at a fifth the price, and half the weight and size. You will need a cheap adapter for this lens and there is NO auto-focus. See some of my photos here.

My dream Micro Four Thirds camera:

  • I currently own the Panasonic GH-1, but the new generation of Panasonic and Olympus cameras have faster AF as well as a few new features
  • I do not like taking photos by looking at an LCD screen at arm’s length, in general, that is bad photography as it encourages camera shake.
  • I thus will ONLY buy a mirrorless camera with a built-in EVF (eg. Panasonic GH-2 or G3), but I am eagerly awaiting Olympus to bring out a model like their E-P3 or E-PL3 but with 2 features from the new Sony NEX-7 – built-in EVF and peaking functionality to assist manual focus. Why not just buy a Sony NEX7? Their lenses are too big and heavy and they do not have the range of lenses that I would like, and their cameras have an annoying hotshoe (if they have one) while unlike the Olympus cameras, they do not have built-in image stabilisation.
  • Other features that I would dearly love include a faster flash sync as fill-in flash outdoors with wide apertures can really benefit from this.

Supplement my collection of dream lenses with a kit zoom lens, a super tele, a super wide angle and a macro lens and you have a full collection of lenses for nearly any purpose. For fun, you can play with almost any legacy lens ever made, or buy a tilt or shift adapter and play with Nikon full frame lenses for example.