So this is a post I’ve been wanting to make a while, but I’ve been really too lazy to make one. The thing is Photokina is coming up and a lot of really interesting cameras are coming out, which in my opinion is the first time that we’re seeing any innovation since 3-4 years ago.
First off let me say this, this post will be very confusing to those who don’t follow camera gear closely. And when I mean closely, I mean every single camera that has come out recently including DSLR’s and Mirrorless.
This will be just an exercise for me to organize my thoughts. I get most of my opinions from reading DPreview, and browsing rumors sites such as mirrorlessrumors, and 43rumors. I don’t usually go onto forums since I feel a ton of photographers on there are really ignorant and take bad pictures.
I’ve only been shooting for about 4-5 years, by no means does this make me an expert on anything, but I believe that I have very grounded opinions through using a wide spectrum of the cameras that have been available. I’ve owned the following cameras: D40, 30D, 5D, M6, GF1, EPL2, OMD-EM5, M9P. I’ve tested and returned a Fuji X-pro1.
You know what I’ve found out? There’s really no all encompassing, perfect camera. All cameras have different characteristics, and that’s what makes them so frustrating yet fun at the same time. I do feel like the technology is out there to create one AMAZING camera system, but the market is just so fragmented and new that no company will make it.
These ramblings will be accompanied with relavant images, taken by relavant cameras. Feel free to check out the exif info on flickr if you’re curious to which camera I used for each shot.
-Micro 4/3 and Mirrorless
I was one of the first adopters of micro 4/3′s when the GF1 came out. Mirrorless cameras are fantastic. They’re small, discrete, they don’t get in the way, and they take really decent pictures. At this current point my recommendation for anyone going mirrorless is the Sony NEX 5N.
Wait a sec, why are you recommending a non Micro 4/3 camera?
I really think Micro 4/3′s direction is completely misguided right now. Both Panasonic and Olympus have confused consumers by producing so many different iterations of their cameras in the past 2 years, and they’re continuing to do so.
I’m very sure that a consumer won’t know the difference between the EPL5 and EPM2, actually I’m sure the average enthusiast photographer doesn’t really know the difference between their OMD, EP, EPL, and EPM lines of cameras. And let’s face it the OMD-EM5 isn’t really a digital OM, it’s just another pen camera.
Also I feel that Olympus is scared to release lenses that compete with the current Panasonic equivalent. The only 28mm equivalent lens we have is a crappy 14mm f/2.5 lens from Panasonic. Sure it’s light, but the iq is pretty flat in my opinion.
Also the OMD-EM5 still suffers from really bad banding with both the Panaosnic 14mm and 20mm lenses… ugh…. why hasn’t this been fixed?!?!
The GH3 is a bit of an anomaly. The GH1 and GH2 were hailed as fantastic video cameras with a very small footprint, but here they are making a super beefy pro version of the GH2… I know that they’re targeting the main consumers of the GH2, but doesn’t making a beefy micro 4/3 camera defeat the point of it all? Why not just get a Canon 5D Mark 3?
Also don’t you think a 2x crop sensor is so much less appealing with cameras such as the Sony RX1, Sony NEX C5, and Fuji X-E1 coming out… I really feel like micro 4/3 is in danger of becoming obsolete for high end users. I mean, look at this picture. This is all the bokeh I could muster with a 20mm f/1.7!
The thing is the micro 4/3 market is a great place for beginners looking for a cheap camera that takes better pictures than their smartphone, but I’m already assuming that none of you reading this blog post this far in are one of those.
The only saving grace for this format are the pro quality lenses being made by Olympus. Currently only there is a 12mm, 45mm, and 75mm (24-90-150 equivalents). These lenses are really fantastic, and they just announced a new 17mm f/1.8 which looks amazing as well. I was so impressed with the 12mm implementation, that it had a pull back ring to switch from focus by wire, to mechanical focus. It literally blew my mind that they could make such as lens. Hopefully olympus will make these types of lenses for all the standard lengths.
Sure there are a ton of manual lenses being produced… but the thing is micro 4/3 does not have focus peaking yet! What is up with that?!
In my opinion the Fuji cameras coming out such as the Xpro1 are not bad at all, the thing is I don’t think they’re sexy cameras. For one, all the lenses are focus by wire, which makes manual focus just so crazy bad… Also the aperture rings are electronic, which means that when you change the aperture at the front… the blades don’t move at all. Along with poor EVF implementation, the fuji xpro1 is just a powerful camera with crappy MF and AF, which makes it not a very good tool for street photography or capturing the decisive moment. It’s like a crappy 5D mk2.
The Sony NEX line in my opinion has the best mirrorless implementation so far. They have a 1.5x crop factor which makes mounting old manual lenses a lot better vs using a micro 4/3 camera with 2x crop. They actually have focus peaking… for those using manual lenses, and despite being so slim, they have a wonderful, fantastic handgrip.
-Entry Level Full Frame DSLR’s
Full frame cameras have been long sought after by almost all photo enthusiasts, but the thing is they have been at a price point quite out of reach for most people over the last few years.
The announcement of consumer focused, full frame cameras such as the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D doesn’t really come as much as surprise to me. I knew that eventually digital SLR’s would come back to being “full frame” just like the 35mm film SLR cameras of the past which were all technically “full frame.”
I mean the whole crop vs full frame war was only started due to the fact that companies could not make a cost effective sensor that was as large as a piece of 35mm Film. Explaining that some sensors have a 1.5 or 1.6 crop to new camera adopters has been a real pain in the ass over the past few years.
Finally we can see more people being able to grab a full frame camera and use lenses how they were meant to be, and perhaps put an end to this dilemma created by a limitation of technology. My roommate Waytao has a really good point, that now days photography is pretty much up to the photographer… since now almost anyone can grab a fantastic full frame camera and a some decent sharp glass.
-The future for gear junkies…
With all these amazing cameras coming out, it really seems like the playing field is being leveled, and your true ability as a photographer will be tested in this new sea images taken with great gear.
The thing is, there is still an escape path for crazy gear obsessed folk like me, who shoot mostly natural light, who try to distinguish their look with the gear they use.
I’m going to say it now. M mount lenses are the future. Invest in them now before they become CRAZY expensive.
Canon and Nikon lenses are so… boring. For example look at Canon’s selection of 50′s… we have a 50mm f/1.8, decent, but completely plastic and toy like which makes the photographer want to look at the 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.2. The f/1.4 is really soft at under f/2… with a really unique hazy look that is very unappealing. The f/1.2 is a huge chunk of glass that has notoriously slow autofocus and a soft center.
Look at Leica’s range of 50′s. The 50mm f/2 Summicron which is AMAZINGLY sharp at f/2, the Summilux… which is ridiculous at f/1.4, and the Noctilux which is sharp even at f/1 or f/0.95. The noctulux produces images so unique and beautiful that they keep me awake at night.
The thing is you have more choices than just Leica… you have really awesome offerings from both Zeiss, Voigtlander, and small companies such as MS Optical. The image above of the 2 fixie chicks, was almost UNTOUCHED in ACR/CS6… the files are absolutely mindbogglingly sharp.
The most exciting camera that I’ve seen ever… is the new Leica M. Why? Because it’s going to completely rock the socks off anything made in the past.
Until now the only full frame camera that could accept M mount lenses has been the M9, which in itself is great camera during the day, but it has HORRID high iso limitations. I find myself trying not to shoot at anything above iso 800.
A lot of people have been giving me flack for getting the M9P, which is such a crazy expensive camera. The thing is, in my honest opinion, I’m taking the best pictures of my life right now, and I need to have the best camera possible to use one. If you haven’t used a Leica M… it’s like no other camera. The controls all make sense, the focus is insanely fast even though it’s manual focus only, and the lenses just produce outrageously sharp images with a unique feel.
It’s not a camera for everyone. For one all lenses are manual focus, there’s no auto/P mode, and the real kicker is that you’re using a range finder window to frame your images versus a mirrored or live view image like in a DSLR. This means that a lot of your images, unless you compensate yourself, will be off by a little bit if you don’t know how to use the camera well.
The thing is, the new M will have live view (WITH FOCUS PEAKING!!), allowing you to have the option to frame your pictures using an actual representation of the scene. The regular optical viewfinder will still be in the camera, which means that you don’t lose all the perks of having a rangefinder, which are being able to see a subject wonder into your frame lines, and having very precise focus even in the most dim lighting.
What’s more is that the new accessory port will allows us old Olympus pen users to reuse our EVF2′s which are fantastic, yet again! So glad that I didn’t sell mine. I can’t wait till I can tilt the EVF upwards and focus a Leica M camera at my waist similarly to a medium format camera! (I REALLY CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS >_<!!!!)
So when I say that Leica’s are like pure photography leading from you brain to your hands, what do I mean?
- Your aperture and shutter speed are clearly visible from the top of the camera.
- Lenses come with a fantastic focus markings which make focusing by estimating distance a breeze, which is amazingly important in street photography.
- With Leica’s there’s no sense of seeing a scene and miss it due to autofocus hunting. It’s up to you, and you can focus super fast with Leica’s really unique split prism implementation.
- Metering is simple, responsive, and clearly stated in the view finder. You can see a scene, bring the camera up to your eye, and instantly, with 2 hands, change your exposure settings to obtain a correct exposure.
- M mount lenses are eyeball slicingly sharp at all apertures, and have their own unique/pleasing look.
Huge cons of Leica’s:
- Horrible close focusing distance, which makes macro/food photography is extremely hard.
- Slow FPS, makes shooting sports really hard…
- Manual focus only… makes shooting moving things and tracking movement difficult.
-Point and shoots
As a guy who likes to take tons of pictures of food and such, I’ve started to pair the M9 with a high end point and shoot such as the Canon S95. They’re fun, quick and snappy, making them a great paring to any camera in my opinion. A lot of photographers that I follow closely are starting to use the Sony RX100 or Ricoh GR4 along with their main cameras.
A friend has asked me if I think point and shoots are dead. I don’t really think so… recently there have been a lot of P&S cameras that are clearly better than the iPhone camera. The thing is, I don’t think the average consumer will yearn for that difference in image quality or usability. In the end I think low end point and shoots will start to fall off the spectrum, while high end and unique point and shoots such as the water/weatherproof ones made by Olympus will still have their place in the market.
I still think gear matters. A lot.
Best the best gear reviews:
I’ve yet to come across better resources for camera reviews. The reviewers at DPReview are fantastic photographers that go very indepth into every camera now. Also, I’d like you to take note that Kai does a lot of trolling when he sees useless Camera iterations (T2i -> T3i -> T4i), but recently you’ll see that he’s been doing more serious reviews due to all the cool cameras coming out.