Why My Next Camera Will Be Mirrorless Pt. II


Sony RX1

Sony RX1

So as the title implies, this is a follow-up to the “Why My Next Camera Will Be Mirrorless” post written in July of 2012. Back then, I hadn’t purchased the Canon 5D MKIII yet and Canon had not yet released its own mirrorless camera; and I had my eye on the Sony NEX-7 with its 24 megapixel, APS-C sensor. With interchangeable lenses, I was considering the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 lens. Then everything changed when Sony announced the RX1.

First, let me say, that I as I indicated in the post, I did indeed get the 5D MKIII. I need it for my profession; shooting interiors. But I never got excited about it. It’s a tool that I need for work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great camera and I wouldn’t part with it…but it’s a tool none the less. The RX1 is the first camera in a long time that I can remember actually being excited about.

You may have heard by now that the RX1 is the world’s first full frame compact camera. That’s right, it packs a 24MP full frame sensor in a small body with a fixed 35mm f/2 lens. Just how small is it? Do a Google image search of “RX1” and you’ll see some images of it in people’s hands.

The reviews have been off the charts. Steve Huff did an extensive two-part review of the RX1 and calls it one of the best cameras ever. Additionally, you can read reviews at Pop-Photo with lab test results and it was rated right up there with the Nikon D800. Here’s another in-depth review calling the RX1 “the best lightweight digital camera I’ve ever put my hands on, and has become one of my favorite cameras ever. Period.”

Why am I so excited about this camera? As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, I want a camera I can travel with that has the quality of a DSLR but not the size and weight. I have some trips planned this year, including a 2-week visit to Italy in the Spring. I really don’t want to lug around my MKIII and worry about it getting damaged, lost or stolen. Yes, I have insurance, but if something happens to it, I can’t go right back to work when I return from the trip. It’s my bread and butter. The iPhone and compacts just don’t have large enough sensors to produce quality results. That’s why I was looking at the NEX-7.

I do have a few concerns; not the least of which is the $2800 price tag. I could save money and get an NEX (I’ve read the NEX-6 is slightly better than the 7). OR, I could just buy a lens; perhaps a 24-105 or 35mm for my Canon. But I don’t think I would get the same results from the NEX and the second option still has me travelling with a big DSLR.

There is no viewfinder; you compose images from the LCD screen. You can buy an optical or electronic viewfinder, but those are really expensive. Even the lens hood is an optional and expensive accessory.

I also worry about the fixed 35mm lens. Will I be restricted? It’s a classic travel photography focal length; just not one I am used to.

Having said all that, I am not saying YOU need to go out and buy an RX1. But it occurred to me that if someone asked me what camera they should buy, I would tell them to get a mirrorless camera. The average person thinks they need a DSLR, but that’s just not true anymore. I would point them to the popular Olympus OMD-5 ranked by readers of Digital Photography Review as the 2012 Camera of the Year; ahead of the MKIII and D800! I would tell them about the new line of Fuji X-series cameras. I would still recommend Sony’s NEX line. Yes, Nikon has a line but it’s been met with lukewarm reception; and Canon’s foray into the mirrorless party with the EOS-M is likewise less than inspiring. Speaking of mirrorless party, check out this video which kind of sums it up:

There will always be a need for DSLRs among professionals. But the parent who wants to take pictures of their kids or a tourist on vacation doesn’t really need one. I think mirrorless cameras fill the space between the cell phone Instagramer and the pro shooter. Someone who just wants a good camera without the size, weight and price (the RX1 excluded on that count) of a DSLR.

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Why My Next Camera Will be Mirrorless: Part 1


Sony NEX-7

Sony NEX-7

I’ll admit I was a little late to the mirrorless party. I’d heard about Micro 4/3rds, EVIL, MILC, etc. and I was just too busy or too arrogant to pay attention. I figured anything with a small sensor wasn’t worth my time. In truth, my next camera will be the Canon 5D MKIII; I still need the full frame capabilities for my profession.

My interest in mirrorless cameras came from a desire for a system I can use for my personal use. I hate lugging around a big DSLR when traveling and a point-and-shoot or iPhone just doesn’t get me the quality I need. Enter mirrorless cameras: small form factor with a sensor larger than point-and shoots; in some cases just as large as a DSLR.

In case you’re new to this too, let me go over a few things. First, terminology:

  • Micro 4/3 (four-thirds) refers to the size of the sensor. Check out “Size Matters in Photography” for an explanation on sensor sizes.
  • “EVIL” stands for “Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens”. Most mirrorless cameras do not have an optical viewfinder, but an electronic one instead.
  • MILC stand for “Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera”.

In case you don’t know how a DSLR works, check out the diagram below:

DSLR Cross Section

Image from Vimeo Video School

When you look through the viewfinder, you can see through the lens because light bounces off a mirror which gets reflected off a prism and then through the viewfinder. When you click the shutter, the mirror flips up and light hits the sensor directly. This is why your viewfinder goes black when you press the shutter.

The prism inside a DSLR is also what makes it so bulky. The mirror is, of course, a moving part which fails after time. That’s why cameras are rated at certain “shutter actuations” or the number of shots you can take. Most are in the 50,000 to 150,000 range. Some high-end DSLRs are rated at 200,000 actuations.

So naturally, a mirrorless camera does not have a mirror or a prism which allows for a more compact body. It also means super fast frames per second, because there is no mirror that needs to flip up and reset before the next shot.

As I mentioned before, I am looking for something I can travel with that’s small enough to pack but that has DSLR-like quality. The guy who created the Instapaper App recently blogged about transitioning from DSLRs to an iPhone. When he wanted high-resolution images for his retina display he found the iPhone images just were not good enough. My first reaction was “did you really think the tiny sensor in an iPhone would give you quality good enough for a retina display?” My thoughts were echoed in this Cult of Mac article. But I also felt empathy.

On a recent trip to St. Thomas I decided not to bring my DSLR. I took pictures with my iPhone primarily so I could quickly share photos on Facebook. I also used a Canon Powershot 310HS when I wanted a little better quality. Below is an image from my iPhone 4S:

Charlotte Amalie Harbor

iPhone 4S:  f/2.4, 1/15, ISO 800.

I find the noise from the iPhone to be unacceptable, even in broad daylight at ISO 64.

St. John

iPhone 4S:  f/2.4, 1/3000, ISO 64

Look at all the noise in the sky. It’s only slightly better on the Powershot (granted it was at ISO 1600).

St. Thomas

Powershot 310HS:  f/3.2, 1/8, ISO 1600

It all has to do with the size of the sensor. A bigger sensor, among other things, will allow for less noise (up to a point). The Sony NEX-7 (pictured at the top of this post) has a 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor; the same size found on most consumer Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

I really believe we are at a point where the market is going in three directions: One is DSLRs, the other is small cameras with larger sensors. Everything else is taken by camera phones because they are so accessible. But anyone who wants quality photos will fall in one or both of the other camps. Check out this blog post about a CNBC reporter forecasting the death of point-and-shoots.

The New York Times recently reviewed the new Sony RX100 and David Pouge raved about the 1-inch sensor on a tiny body. Some of the comments and even a blog attacked him for his praise; but they miss the point. What Pouge is saying is that a sensor that big on a camera small enough to fit in your pocket is going to rival other point-and-shoots with smaller sensors.

Now, mind you, you can’t fit most mirrorless cameras in your pocket due to the size of the lenses. But that’s something I like: big sensor, big lens, small body. Small and light enough for me to pack on a trip.

I credit well-known photographer Trey Ratcliff for enlightening me to the possibilities of mirrorless cameras. He makes a very good case in his “DLSRs Are a Dying Breed” blog post. Definitely worth a read.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to mirrorless cameras; from Olympus to Sony and even Nikon. Fuji made a big splash with its X100 and X10. Now, Canon is rumored to introduce a mirrorless later this month. Some have interchangeable lenses and others do not. The sensor sizes also vary, so you’ll have to do some research.

For a good primer on mirrorless cameras, check out this guide by Neo Camera.

So if you’re looking for a camera that’s small enough to carry around but will still deliver DSLR-like quality, I suggest you take a look at mirrorless cameras. It’s what I’ll be carrying on my next trip.

You can read Part 2 of this blog by clicking here

Nikon, Sony, Scott Kelby Launch New Products


Nikon P7100

Ok, so if you read yesterday’s blog, you know Nikon and Scott Kelby planned big announcements a day after Canon announced new point and shoots. I really wonder if the Nikon and Canon PR people hang out; you know, maybe have lunch or meet for drinks. It would go something like this:

Nikon: Hey, when are you announcing those point-and-shoots?

Canon: August 23rd. Why?

Nikon: Oh, shoot, we’re rolling out new point-and-shoots too.

Canon: Well, should we flip a coin to see who goes first?

Nikon: Nah, you go first. We’ll just announce ours the very next day!

Canon: Well that’s jolly good of you…. OMG, look who just walked in! It’s Sony.

Nikon: Pfft. Don’t make eye contact.

Canon: Crap, they totally see us. They’re coming this way. Act natural.

Yes, despite fever-pitch speculation about a new DSLR, Nikon updated it’s P7000 with the P7100 as well other Coolpix point-and-shoots. Read more about it here:

Nikon Rumors

PDN Online

Not to be left out of the party, Sony refreshed it’s DSLR line, introducing four new Alphas including one which it calls the “fastest continuous autofocus” with 12 frames per second at 24 megapixels.

Sony Alpha 77

 

Lastly, Scott Kelby let the cat of of the bag on his big news. I read yesterday that the announcement would not be Nikon related and “rdavisphoto” commented on my blog yesterday telling us to get our IPads ready. It turns out, Kelby is launching a new magazine designed for the IPad aimed at teaching photographers about lighting. Check out the video:

 

So there you have it. Those are the big announcements. Now we can all go back to grinding our teeth until Canon or Nikon update its DSLRs. There are still a few months left in the year and the latest rumor is to expect a Canon 5D MKIII in October.

Damn, here comes Olympus…pretend you don’t see them!

Nikon News Items


Nikon P7000

I’ve got a slew of various Nikon-related news items for you today.

  • First up, Nikon seems to have discontinued its SB-600 flash. This link takes you to the SB-700 at B&H with a note about the discontinued product.
  • In other Nikon news, the price of the P7000 dropped to about $379. This undercuts the Canon G12. In case you don’t know, those models are like a hybrid between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR. They don’t have interchangeable lenses and are smaller than DSLRs; but they have many of the same shooting features and even a hot shoe to mount a flash.

In a comparison at SnapSort.com, The Canon G12 and S95 edge out the P7000; but it really depends on the features you’re looking for and the price difference might lead some to choose the Nikon.

  • Ever wanted to see what’s inside your Nikon camera? Ok, probably not ’cause that would mean breaking it open! But check out these images.  It appears to be from a foreign Web site and the captions on some of the pictures note different camera models.
  • If you’re into rumors here are two items of interest. First, Nikon could announce as early as February a new Coolpix camera. It’s thought to be the P500 with an extra wheel for faster zooming, a 36x zoom and a 12MP sensor designed for low-light photography made by Sony.

Another Nikon camera with a Sony sensor could be a mirrorless camera announced in April. This camera will reportedly target pro users.

Canon Lens Prices, Cheap P&S Cameras and A Must See Short Film


Sony W510 Camera
A month or so ago I read an article that asked whether point-and-shoot cameras were going the way of the 8-track; some obsolete technology replaced by something better. That “something” is smartphones. Everyone, it seems, has one and the phones feature cameras. So not only do people always have cameras on them, but with apps they can alter and edit the photos.

Well, it looks like camera companies are responding by slashing prices. Check out this article which states some cameras with more features are selling for less than $100.

What do you think?  Less demand means lower prices. Is this a last gasp?

Speaking of prices, a fellow photographer posted this interesting tidbit on Facebook. If true, it looks like Canon will be increasing the prices on their lenses come February 1. Honestly, the lenses I want are so expensive, a few extra bucks doesn’t make that much of a difference! Sad, huh?

In other news…I started reading the PetaPixel blog last fall and in December I was added as a contributing writer. Well on my twitter feed yesterday I saw something from Westcott Co. linking to a short film posted on the PetaPixel blog. So I check it out and it was from June of last year, but it was new to me.

It’s a short film called “Leave Me” by Daros Films. It centers around a broken Canon DSLR and a husband trying to reconnect with his wife. It is powerful, moving and very creative…