This blog is by the photography enthusiast for the photography enthusiasts. There will be articles about basics of photography and also about the current happenings in the photography world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Which mirrorless camera should I buy?

        This is a tricky question. When you buy any interchangeable lens camera then it is assumed that you will stick with the same camera system for many years until something revolutionary happens in the camera market. So, you need to decide this once and for all and that is pretty difficult. Choosing a camera system requires a prior knowledge of some basic specifications and thereby the pros and cons of different systems. In the last article I explained the most important difference between a DSLR/Mirrorless and point & shoot cameras lies in the sensor size and in the lens interchange ability. Unfortunately all  mirrorless cameras do not host the sensors of same size and hence you cannot make a fair comparison between them. But, if you know what properties you want in your camera then it is fairly straight forward. So, let's look one by one.

1. Olympus/Panasonic micro 4/3 cameras:

        These two companies started all this mirrorless business and hence they are surely the market leaders. Their cameras are fairly tiny compared to DSLRs but they host a smaller sensor than the DSLR sensors. But, the sensor is quite big compared to the point and shoot which is a benefit in low light performance and some other aspects like the ability to defocus backgrounds though it is not as capable as DSLRs. So, the image quality is in between of compact point & shoots and DSLRs but it is more close to DSLRs. There are some very advanced cameras like Olympus OM-D EM-5 which are very well received by the reviewers and photography enthusiasts. OM-D EM-5 is by far the most capable camera of this system and is also pricey (priced at 1.5-2 times that of entry level DSLR) but most beloved camera. Olympus has Pen series of cameras and Panasonic has cameras with G series in this section. The other advantage of these cameras is that they host in body stabilization system which compensates for the hand shake to get sharp images. The autofocus system is by far the best among other mirroless cameras (except Nikon). This camera system has wide range of lens collection with some very fast, optically sound prime lenses which makes this system very much interesting for street photographers.

Pros: small and lite, lenses are also small compared to DSLR lenses due to smaller sensor, best and fast autofocus system, best in body stabilisation
Cons: small sensor size and hence not so good low light performance

2. Sony Nex series:

            This is the second most well received and beloved camera system after Olympus. And the biggest advantage of Nex series over micro 4/3 systems is the sensor size - they host a DSLR sized sensor in small bodies. The bodies of Nex cameras are very much similar in size to the micro 4/3 cameras but the lenses for this system could not be made as small as the lenses of micro 4/3 system. The Nex cameras use very latest Sony sensors and hence their low light performance is extremely good and it even beats some entry/mid level DSLRs in that domain. The sensor market is completely dominated by Sony now i.e. almost every camera manufacturer now uses Sony sensors and hence Nex cameras get added advantage of their latest technology. The other advantage of all the mirrorless cameras in general is that almost any lens made on Earth can be used on mirrorless cameras using adapters in manual focus mode and Sony's Nex cameras have better functionality like focus peaking which is very useful with these manual lenses. The cameras have / can accept the best electronic view finder in the market.

Pros: large sensor and thereby good low light performance and better background defocus, better functionality for manual lenses, best electronic view finder
Cons: The native lens collection for this system (that is the lenses that work without adapter) is not as good as micro 4/3s and autofocus is a little bit sluggish but is is supposed to be better in the latest models such as Nex 5R and Nex 6

3. Fuji X series - X-Pro 1 and X-E1:

            Sony was the first camera to make large sensor mirrorless cameras which is followed by Fuji and Cannon. Fuji made enthusiast/pro centered cameras which are very great in their own respect. They used lots of control buttons and dials with their first mirrorless X-Pro 1 which makes it very capable camera. Fuji came of with some very innovative features in this camera. They used a different colour filter array on their sensor which delivers very sharp images which is unbeatable by any DSLR/mirrorless on the market (except few pricey cameras like Nikon D800E). They used a hybrid view finder which is unique and very well received. They came with lots of prime lenses which are very good in image quality. So, in all they centered this camera around photography enthusiasts/pros which already know photography tools. They have came up with a cheaper and less complicated system X-E1 this year which is direct competitor to Sony's Nex 7. The biggest flaw in their system though was very slow autofocus system which is claimed to be improved by the latest firmware update of the camera. The other advantage of these cameras is that they can produce photos which look similar to photos taken by film cameras which is liked by many established photographers.

Pros: Nice build and good controls, nice set of lenses, unbeatable image quality,hybrid view finder, 
Cons: slow autofocus, large in size, expensive, not suitable for beginners

4. Cannon EOS M:

            Cannon recently came up with their mirrorless camera EOS M which is very similar to its DSLR brother EOS 650 D. The large sensor has same benefits over micro 4/3s as Nex and Fuji's X cameras. The camera can use Cannon's extensive DSLR lens collection via adapter. This is a big advantage for cannon DSLR owners. But, the size advantege of mirrorless camera is lost if an adapter and DSLR lens is used with it. The native lens collection is very much limited for this camera as the system is new.

Pros: large sensor, usability of cannon lenses with autofocus
Cons: native lens collection is very much limited, no view finder, little bit overpriced for its category, autofocus system is not at par

5. Nikon 1 system:

            Nikon came up with their mirrorless cameras in exactly opposite mindset of the Fuji company. Nikon targeted basic point and shoot upgraders who wants a advanced camera with better image quality than their compact cameras but does not want the complexity of the DSLR camera functionality. So, Nikon came up with their 1 system with sensor even smaller than the micro 4/3 cameras but still larger than normal point and shoot. So, these cameras are more close to point and shoot cameras than DSLRs in terms of image quality, low light performance, etc. But, they brought the best autofocus system into the mirrorless market which gives some extraordinary properties to these cameras like object tracking and 10 frames per second burst mode. This is by far the most advertised mirrorless camera.

Pros: Small and light, more like a point and shoot, small lenses, very fast and accurate autofocus
Cons: small sensor, small native lens collection

6. Samsung Nx cameras:

            The Nikon 1 is the most advertised mirrorless camera system and Samsung is the least advertised system. But, they have very interesting cameras and lenses. The advantage of Samsung Nx cameras is the sensor size is same as DSLR cameras. But, Samsung did not made its camera smaller and its size is quite similar to DSLRs and this is probably the most disadvantageous thing for this system. But, the lens collection is very good for this system.

Pros: large sensor, nice and extensive collection of lenses
Cons: Bigger than the other mirrorless counterparts, poor battery life

            I hope I have explained you the pros and cons of each system to you to make a decision. But, it is always better to compare cameras one to one and read lots of reviews about the cameras you are interested in. This article will just help you to start your research about latest cameras in the market. I will recommend to visit following sites to compare your desired camera properties.

Recommended cameras:
1. Sony Nex 7
2. Fuji XE-1
3. Olympus OM-D EM-5

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