Mid-range Mirrorless camera roundup 2013

One of the most significant developments in digital photography has been the introduction of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. By removing the mirror and optical viewfinder, manufacturers are able to make their cameras smaller, without compromising ergonomics, performance and, in most cases, image quality.

Composing photos on a mirrorless camera is different from a DSLR in that you use the camera's LCD (or electronic viewfinder, if the camera offers it). Instead of using a traditional phase detection system like a DSLR, mirrorless cameras use their imaging sensors to handle focusing. Focusing speeds on the latest cameras often meet or exceed those of DSLRs.

While the mirrorless market started off very slowly, there's now a wide selection of cameras available from all of the major manufacturers. In this article, we'll be covering the midrange models, which have list prices ranging from $749 to $1399 with a kit lens. They include:

Since the range in pricing is so great, we believe there are two groups of people who may be considering cameras in this class. One group wants a more compact, secondary camera in addition to their DSLR, but want more direct control than less expensive mirrorless models offer. The other is the photographer for whom this will be their only camera - someone who wants DSLR image quality and control without the additional size or weight.

On the following pages you'll get a quick summary of each camera, and what we liked (or didn't like) about them).

Comments

Total comments: 209
12
mpix345
By mpix345 (5 months ago)

We have such an abundance of good cameras too choose from that ranking them is pretty much a pointless effort. It really comes down to how a particular camera works for a particular photographer, not which camera is better in some absolute sense.

I'd like to see DPR focus more on the differences between cameras, and what types of photography they are better suited for (or not).

24 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (5 months ago)

From page 1, I thought I would have taken the EM-5.

0 upvotes
Stephen Scharf
By Stephen Scharf (5 months ago)

I'm glad that the Fuji X-E2 is on this list (as the X-Pro1 was on the first list), but I have to really take exception to the "struggles with fine green detail" comment. This might be a bit of an issue with LR or ACR, but it most definitely is not with Capture One Pro or Capture One Express. Both of these applications provide the best RAW conversion of Fuji RAF files, but you never use it in your reviews. As such, you're providing an inaccurate description of what the camera is truly capable of producing.

Also, the comment that RAW support is "patchy" is also inaccurate. By my count, there are ten applications that provide excellent if not outstanding RAW conversion for Fuji X-trans files: SilkyPix, Lightroom, ACR, Capture One Pro, Capture One Express, AccuRaw, Iridient Developer, Apple Aperture, and Photo Ninja. How can *ten* different apps that provide RAW conversion possibly be referred to as "patchy"?

Comment edited 37 seconds after posting
16 upvotes
Combatmedic870
By Combatmedic870 (5 months ago)

I agree.

But they aren't going to use C1....or even silky pic

1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (5 months ago)

@Stephen Scharf - We tried (and published) Capture One's conversion of X-Trans when it was launched. It was a fraction better than ACR at the time but a subsequent ACR update has significantly reduced the difference.

We use a standard converter for our test scene and have settled on what's currently by far the most widely used. We could throw away the idea of consistency and had the time to cherry-pick a different converter for every camera, someone would still decide they prefer a different converter, and accuse us of bias, one way or the other.

That's why we provide the Raw files so that you can run them through your preferred converter and draw your own conclusions.

I have added a little more detail to the sentence about Raw converters.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
9 upvotes
Beat Traveller
By Beat Traveller (5 months ago)

C1 doesn't fix it for me. Anyway, DPR are correct in saying it's only a deal breaker if you pixel-peep.

0 upvotes
Raist3d
By Raist3d (5 months ago)

@Richard- I politely disagree with the assessment that the difference between ACR and Capture One 7 for Xtrans is minor. You get color smear on the reds with ACR that is non existent with Capture one. And the whole green smear is pretty much a non issue now- which in a way makes sense given the Xtrans if anything, has more green photo sites than regular bayer.

I understand the strong desire to settle for one raw converter, but in this particular case the difference is big enough that in doing so, Xtrans is put at a definitive disadvantage if using current Adobe products. The subsequent ACR update you mention just put Xtrans usable with Adobe products. The first attempt was pretty bad with serious color over spill.

The very Silky Pix included now got a revup that is quite competent too.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Asylum Photo
By Asylum Photo (5 months ago)

Iridient and Photo Ninja seem to be tops of the X-Trans converters. I use Iridient on landscape photos and I'm blown away by the detail. It's a shame that Adobe's substandard conversions are hurting Fujifilm.

2 upvotes
Stephen Scharf
By Stephen Scharf (5 months ago)

@RichardButler:

I fully agree with Raist3d. While LR and ACR have improved, C1 has as well since you last did your comparo in the spring. And as a scientist, while I understand the rationale for using a standard RAW conversion application so that "everything is on a level playing field" that would be fine except for the fact that ACR and LR are, by broad consensus, NOT the best RAW convertors for X-Trans RAF files, only Bayer pattern sensors. The results you're claiming the camera produces are an *artifact* of the RAW app you're using, not the camera. You're using a "standard" that does serve the purpose of a "standard" to this camera, as defined by NIST. Standards are meant to serve as a reflection of "the truth", in this case, an accurate measurement. LR and ACR, however, are not fit for purpose as "standards" for X-trans cameras. Also, as Fuji cameara already uses a different sensor design than Bayer, trying to do an "Apples to Apples" comparison is moot right at the get-go.

Comment edited 10 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Stephen Scharf
By Stephen Scharf (5 months ago)

What it comes down to is two things: 1) What the camera is actually capable of producing with respect image quality, using the demosaicing algorithms that produces the most accurate functional response and 2) Accuracy in your reporting. Point 1: You're claiming that the camera has issues with fine green detail, but that's an inaccurate due to an artifact of the RAW app used, NOT the camera. Using C1, Iridient or Photo Ninja, this problem doesn't occur. Point 2: What's more important to your readers? Using a standard RAW conversion app that everyone agrees is not accurate with respect to RAF conversion (therefore, "not fit for purpose") OR using the best application(s) that provide truly the most accurate representation of camera performance? From a journalism standards point of view, many would state is that it's more important to use whatever tool provides the most accurate assessment of camera performance, and thereby give your readers the most informed assessment of performance.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 11 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Beat Traveller
By Beat Traveller (5 months ago)

Stephen, it's hardly a point in the camera's favour if you need to buy specific software to get the best out of it.

I think it's entirely fair that they use Adobe as the baseline. Adobe's output is fairly conservative in its defaults for all cameras, not just X-trans. But most people don't notice it because they didn't have the 'watercolour' artifacts to deal with like the initial X-trans cameras, leading to less overall scrutiny and comparison of the available convertors.

The watercolour artifacts still pop up from time to time, and while they're definitely worst in Adobe, they're not completely hidden in other converters and they even show up in JPGs of the same shot. So it's not entirely down to Adobe, although as they mentioned it's only a problem with landscape photos at 100%.

0 upvotes
dmstraton
By dmstraton (5 months ago)

Adobe isn't bundled with cameras in most cases, so really we all buy specific software - Adobe just has the biggest market share.

0 upvotes
Buena Vista
By Buena Vista (5 months ago)

I sure wish there weren't so many holes in the side-by-side spec comparison, especially for the Samsung. Why not fill in the blanks, dp?

Also it looks as though having a viewfinder is heavily weighted. Why? Not everyone needs a viewfinder, especially given the quality of some of the screens in these cameras.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (5 months ago)

Seeing these comparisons has made us aware of the need for greater consistency, in future. However, it's difficult to provide full specs for those brands that announce cameras without full specifications. Without constantly checking their many websites, (which we don't have time to do), these gaps will occur.

3 upvotes
Jeff Keller
By Jeff Keller (5 months ago)

Unfortunately, Samsung doesn't give us much in the line of specs when a product is initially entered into our database. That said, I've trudged through the manual and attempted to fill in the blanks.

4 upvotes
Naveed Akhtar
By Naveed Akhtar (5 months ago)

not everyone needs a VF?
but some serious people do :)

0 upvotes
welbil
By welbil (5 months ago)

Use a screen in direct sunlight and you'll instantly start wishing you had a viewfinder, no matter how good your screen is.

Not to mention how much easier it is to frame your shot.

0 upvotes
HappyVan
By HappyVan (5 months ago)

Excellent! Timely boost for M43. Market share of ILC is insignificant with big discounts coming.

This will help a lot?

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
HappyVan
By HappyVan (5 months ago)

For Naveed,

Who is "we"? Does that include the sports and wildlife photog? What about the video story tellers? What about the architecture documenters?

Please get a grip on yourself. Right now, MILC represent only 17% market share of ILC unit sales. Will not change soon.

There's plenty of choice these days. DSLR-like M43 competing wth small DSLR. Compact FF and APSC cameras. There's no longer a single 'we'. Never was.

0 upvotes
Naveed Akhtar
By Naveed Akhtar (5 months ago)

We = travellers and photo enthusiast, hobbiest, street photographers etc.. who like to carry lightweight capable and serious cameras (with controls)!

market share is something we least care .. and WE are not in buying or selling business ...

2 upvotes
yslee1
By yslee1 (5 months ago)

http://itswalky.tumblr.com/post/67538032471/and-because-i-know-you-folks-are-gonna-want-this

0 upvotes
HappyVan
By HappyVan (5 months ago)

For Naveed,

One of these days, you're be selling some or all of your gear. Might astonish you how little you get on small brands.

0 upvotes
TN Args
By TN Args (5 months ago)

Funny, I just this week sold my 3 year old semi-pro Big Two camera body, still current model, and got 35% return on investment.

Hardly a reason to avoid any other brands, even if the ROI is lower, it won't mean that many more dollars lost by comparison.

I say let's buy what inspires you and helps your photography in emotional ways not just technical ways. You won't lose that much more money -- and you've had the best fun!

Even hard-nosed pros are moving to mirrorless when the camera suits the job, and they are NOT sticking to the Big Two. These guys feed their kids with the proceeds, but aren't deterred by relative resale values, so why should you and I be, when we are giving a dollar value to the extra fun, too?

0 upvotes
HappyVan
By HappyVan (5 months ago)

For TN Argos,

You might find it painful if your pro glass is worth peanuts when the brand folds like Minolta.

I don't mind a small expenditure on stuff like Nikon One. But, I learned my lesson with the Pany GH1.

0 upvotes
Rob Sims
By Rob Sims (5 months ago)

Should the title of this particular article really have been "Small but serious" when the two recommendations were by far largest and heaviest cameras (400g / 390g) in the group, despite having the smallest sensors?

http://camerasize.com/compare/#478,289

(And before the hordes of m43 users come screaming in rubbishing every other sensor size, I don't disagree with either recommendations, just perhaps the title of the article)

7 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (5 months ago)

I don't disagree with you, it's kinda curious that M43 being the smaller sensor actually has more large bodies as it's high end options... You could say Sony's trying not to overlap with their other lines (A3000 notwithstanding), Fuji and Samsung made conscious decisions to go another way tho.

Some might view this as an advantage though, the same system can span from GM1 to E-M5 to GH3 sized bodies... And lens size is worth factoring in too, the latest Pana 14-42 II kit zoom is tiny and doesn't even extend more than a few millimeters, plus the number of available pancakes etc.

Fuji's primes and the extra lens Fn on Samsung lenses are pretty enviable too tho. This is a pretty hotly contested and quickly evolving category!

0 upvotes
Rob Sims
By Rob Sims (5 months ago)

@Impulses

I agree, it could definitely be seen as an advantage to having one mount span such a large size/weight range, especially as we camera nerds will typically have more than one camera body. I imagine buyers of the OMD-EM1 would quite like the idea of carrying a Panasonic GM1 (+20/1.7) for when they want to go light.

0 upvotes
wombat661
By wombat661 (5 months ago)

Do consider that mirrorless camera will use up battery fast. Add in weight of one or two spare batteries (100g extra for two) to equal shooting all day with DSLR.

0 upvotes
Jeff Keller
By Jeff Keller (5 months ago)

When we say "small, but serious", this is what we mean by "small':

http://camerasize.com/compare/#289,440

5 upvotes
Oleg Vinokurov
By Oleg Vinokurov (5 months ago)

Too small bodies are not really good. Don't count only body size, you can't really use ILC without lenses, right?
Small in this article doesn't really mean the smallest mirrorless camera. GM1 then would be one of top.

1 upvote
Rob Sims
By Rob Sims (5 months ago)

@Jeff Keller

Okay fair enough, it all comes down to relative size. I'm used to lugging around a Nikon D700 + 24-70/2.8 so these are all certainly small compared to that... but in isolation I would still be hesitant to call these two cameras small when they weigh close to twice (400g vs. 280g) as much as some of the other ones in the same group test.

1 upvote
PVCdroid
By PVCdroid (5 months ago)

Weight diff clarification:
DSLR avg w/lens: 4lbs
Rangefinder style mirrorless avg w/lens: 1.25 lbs
Two extra mirrorless batteries (if even needed) = .22 lbs

0 upvotes
88SAL
By 88SAL (5 months ago)

Using metric measurments for the benefit of yourself, the world and consistency? Priceless

0 upvotes
Naveed Akhtar
By Naveed Akhtar (5 months ago)

another troll entering into smallest sensor debate

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (5 months ago)

@Jeff, When some of us say it is not very small this is what we mean:

http://camerasize.com/compare/#289,187

and

http://camerasize.com/compare/#455,490

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
wombat661
By wombat661 (5 months ago)

Battery for E-M5 weights 50g each. Camera is 430g. Together, with 2 batteries they weight 530g. That is about the weight of a compact DSLR give or take 100g.
As for lens, weight of lens is dependent on sensor size. M4/3 lens will be lighter because the sensor size is smaller. Just a compromise on weight versus performance.

0 upvotes
steve mallen
By steve mallen (5 months ago)

So if the OM-D is small, what about the Pentax Q7? I guess it's not classed as "mid-range" for this category...

0 upvotes
Olymore
By Olymore (5 months ago)

Wombat, is the entry level SLR you are referring to weather sealed with a metal body ? Does it shoot at 9fps ? How many of the features of the E-M5 does it have ?
When people compare the larger mirrorless cameras they always compare against the lower end dSLR. Whereas there are smaller and lower spec mirrorless cameras as well.
Compare against a matching spec dSLR and it will be much bigger.

0 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (5 months ago)

I'm kinda surprised that they gave the nod to two M43 models (queue the NEX/X-series/NX fan complaints!), gave the G6 the value nod, and simultaneously made little mention of M43's lens selection... You'd think if nothing else that'd be one of the big reasons to favor M43. I'm sure even the M43 camp will have a PO'd contingent though (queue the GX7 fan complaints!). :p

0 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (5 months ago)

Is there a G6 review still coming btw? Just curious... The entry level roundup should be equally interesting, big potential price spread there too.

3 upvotes
inorogNL
By inorogNL (5 months ago)

@impulses I'll give you fast G6 review :) :
Imagine gh2 with less dials (but more fn buttons) than ad focus peaking, great WIFI control, loads (more) of menu customisasations, silent electronic shutter. One thing I do not like is the EVF eyecup rubber- its very hard ( I have gh2 and my brother G6)

3 upvotes
fanedi
By fanedi (4 months ago)

are there good tips and tricks about pana lumix G6 on the net ?

0 upvotes
DanK7
By DanK7 (5 months ago)

Can I really be the first comment? Need to read the article now...
It's evident that putting these "comparos" together leads to some "apples and oranges" criticism, but at least it makes me look at the options from a different perspective. Thanks, DPR.

Comment edited 14 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 209
12