MIRRORLESS CAMERAS UNDER $900
My take on MIRRORLESS cameras under $900: Fuji X, Olympus 5, Samsung NX.
July 1, 2013
The competition in mirrorless is heating up, as choice expands. 2013 is starting out as a good year for mirrorless cameras. But with gaps in information and missing reviews, it's difficult to pin these cameras against each other. We the photographers, the customers, want to make informed choices. For this reason, I'm going to do away with a couple of misconceptions, and try to fill in a few gaps.
I'll talk about the image quality of the newer Samsung NX series, Fujifilm X,and the latest Olympus sensor.
But first, lets shed a couple of misconceptions on Fuji versus Olympus versus Samsung:
On this site we can find tests of an older generation Samsung sensor that was found in the NX200, paired with an earlier version of the 18-55mm kit zoom, both from 2011 - and we're in 2013. That sensor was replaced with an improved version, found in the NX210, NX20, NX1000, and continues to be used in this year's NX1100 and NX2000 budget models. The 18-55mm kit zoom is now at version 3, and a sharper 20-50mm lens has also been introduced. The latest sensor, of course, is the one in the NX300. Dp.review offers no review with up to date image test information on the Samsung cameras that are available in the channel today. Regarding Fujifilm, there is some confusion about the XTrans sensor, original version in the X100, and the version 2, of the X100S. Rest assured, that despite the "II" designation missing from the X-E1 and X-M1, these contain the latest up to date sensor technology, not suffering from the aura problem of the original x100. As for Olympus, who managed a tour-de-force with the sensor in the OMDEM5, they offer that same great sensor in other 2013 models as well, namely the EPL5, EPL6 and EPM2, making this sensor accessible to those seeking a sub-$900 camera.
Now, let's fill in the gaps. For this, we need identical test lab situation for all these cameras/sensors. And I've found it on another site. Sorry DPR - this is not a plug for another site, but an alleviation of reader frustration with your backlog.
Before we move on to the images, allow me to direct you to what I've found to be things you can look out for, helping to spot some important differences, in sharpness, contrast, and color pattern handling.
Top-Left: look at the "flower" of cloths - you'll see sharpness or washed-out patterns in the greens, red, and pink cloths.
Bottom-Left: 1. look at differences in dynamic range in the salt shaker - if the crystals are washed out or clear, and the detail in the peppercorns. 2. look at the image on the Fiddler's bottle.
Bottom-Right: 1. "Pure Brewed Lager Beer" bottle label sharpness. 2. the white cloth details (sometimes washed out)
Center-Right: in the "proportional scale", look for sharpness, contrast, and hints of chromatic aberrations (color fringing on the edges of the characters). White balance can be adjusted and changed in each camera, so don't worry about that too much.
Here are the links- they open in new window - right-click to open in new tab:
Fujifilm X-E1 (as a reference also for the X-M1)
Olympus E-PL5 (as a reference also for the OMDEM5 and EPM2)
Samsung NX20 (2012 sensor)
Samsung NX300 (2013 sensor)
Many will be surprised at that the winners are not the ones we may expect. Enjoy.
Or if you wish to cut through the chase:
Top-Left: Fuji has trouble with the red and pink, while doing well with the white cloths. Olympus has trouble with the white cloths, a little bit with the pink, but does well with the others. Both Samsungs are in-between these two with the whites (ie: not that good), the NX20 struggles with the red pattern, but the NX300 does well with all cloths except the white.
Bottom-Left: 1. Salt crystals very clear with the Fuji and NX20, almost as good with the Fuji, not as distinct with the NX300 and rather washed out with the Olympus. Peppercorns are completely soft with the Fuji, good with the NX300, and very sharp with the Olympus and NX20 (which seems to have incorrect color balance set). 2. Bottle label ("Fiddler's"), from sharpest to softest: NX20, NX300, Olympus, Fujifilm.
Bottom-Right: Bottle label ("Lager") and cloth under cup: here the NX20 is clearly the sharpest, although with the least pleasing colors (white balance not set right). But are very close the NX300 and Olympus, while the Fujifilm is a little blurred.
Mid-Right: the NX20 is significantly sharper, followed by the NX300, then the Olympus, with the Fujifilm being a bit soft.
Overall, the Fujifilm seems to be softer in the most places, compared to the other cameras. Considering that the Olympus has a smaller sensor, it performed admirably well. Although the NX300 has colors that are more pleasing, approaching those of Olympus, the NX20 seems to have the most sharpness and contrast overall - although that comes at the cost of perfectible white-balance (which isn't as dramatic to fix as a lack of sharpness for example).
Hopefully this little writeup was of help to some of you. Feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions.
PS: I'm sorry I didn't talk about Sony. Their great sensors speak for themselves, while their lenses have mixed feelings in the community. I haven't owned a Sony in years, and for this reason, I'm abstaining from comment. Besides, you already know that both the 16Mp and 24MP Sony sensors defend themselves quite well, regardless of the label on the camera body, so long as you put a good lens in front of them.
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