Table of Contents
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 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:
- the Panasonic GH5 video-optimised stills camera has long been a favorite amongst videographers
- pro sports cameras:
- 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
- these have historically been the poor man's domain aimed at those who could not afford the full frame dSLRs, and the main companies such as Canon, Nikon and Sony have marketed these systems accordingly - with general poor feature sets and build quality and very average lens quality and range.
- Fuji has been the main player in this domain to actually create high quality cameras AND lenses, albeit both being quite expensive.
- example systems include:
- Samsung NX mirrorless camera system - now discontinued
- Canon EOS-M EF-M mirrorless system - NOT compatible with the new full frame Canon R full frame and APS-C mirrorless camera system lenses!
- Sigma Foveon
- 35mm full frame sensors
- 35mm full frame has historically been the medium which the pros have resorted to, providing a great compromise between image quality, shallow depth of field (DOF) capability, high ISO performance for low light, weight, size, cost and speed of use, being ideal for areas where medium format functions poorly such as sports and wildlife.
- this sensor size also allows higher resolution sensors which will be needed for 8K video, and this is perhaps the main reason Panasonic has entered this marketplace
- the leader of the pack in 2018 is the Sony a7 III full frame mirrorless camera (and for higher resolution work, the Sony a7R III full frame mirrorless camera) while it is expected that the newly introduced Nikon Z full frame mirrorless system, Canon R full frame and APS-C mirrorless camera system and Panasonic S full frame mirrorless system systems will take a few years to develop while the Leica SL-system full frame mirrorless digital camera system is a high end expensive system compatible with the Panasonic system.
- these cameras fall into several categories:
- low light, low resolution video-optimised cameras
- 8K video cameras:
- coming in 2019
- general purpose cameras
- the 24mp Sony a7 III full frame mirrorless camera, Nikon Z6, Canon R, Panasonic S1, Leica SL
- high resolution landscape / studio / fashion cameras designed mainly for tripod work or studio lighting
- the 45mp Sony a7R III full frame mirrorless camera, Nikon Z7, Panasonic S1R
- 60mp Sony and 75mp Canon in 2019?
- sports cameras with fast burst rates and high performing AF tracking
- the 24mp Sony a9 full frame mirrorless camera
- medium format sensors
- these have largely targeted professional landscape, architect, fashion, or studio photographers wanting the ultimate in color fidelity and tonality who not only can afford these expensive systems but don't mind the weight and size and slower use that are characteristics of these systems
- Fuji is currently the main player in this marketplace and is driving prices down and affordability up with their Fujifilm GF medium format mirrorless digital which will eventually encourage many 35mm pros to migrate up to their systems
- the main alternative to Fuji are Hasselblad X series medium format mirrorless cameras and Phase One XF series full frame medium format mirrorless camera system
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|
|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
- for 2018 full frame models, see full frame mirrorless camera systems
- for 2012 models, see mirrorless cameras in 2012
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 17mm f/1.8
- Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake - all party girls should have this lens!!!
- Olympus 25mm f/1.8
- Olympus 45mm f/1.8 portrait
- Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro
- Olympus 75mm f/1.8 - one of my favorites for portraits and bokeh
- Olympus 75-300mm lens for reasonably sharp 600mm super telephoto in an easily hand held lens.
- if you have more money, then the superb, weathersealed pro lens are fantastic: