Trying to pick a mirrorless system...

Started Oct 2, 2012 | Discussions thread
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randomtangent
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Trying to pick a mirrorless system...
Oct 2, 2012

Hi all,

Long time reader of DP Review, first time poster.

For a long time I've been in the market for an ILC. Professionally I shoot a D3s - mostly weddings - which I love to bits, but I think that's part of my problem. Without wishing to get into a partisan debate about shooting styles - we all have our own preferences - I love shooting in purely ambient light where possible (particularly when shooting events like weddings or parties or gigs). To me, it gets me closer to a faithful rendering of the experience of being there, and with a longish lens it lets me shoot candids without attracting attention to myself. Well, above and beyond the attention a huge pro body generally attracts anyway. Whilst I won't be using the ILC in a professional context, I've found it hard to give up the D3s's speed and staggering low light capabilities when making pictures purely for my own amusement too. Every time i come close to dropping money on a mirrorless system, i bottle it, fearing that i'll still just end up taking the d3s "in case" i need to shoot in dim ambient light.

That said, in reality I just don't take my camera anywhere with me. Travel, trips, family events, parties with friends - it stays at home. It's too big and inconvenient and ostentatious, and i need it in full working order for paying work. I want something small. Obviously I'm not expecting full frame, D3s performance in a compact body. I'm prepared to sacrifice performance for portability. It's just a question of degree.

Anyway, on to the choices:

Sony NEX

Has an APS-C sensor, which in principle i like - bigger photo sites, better SNR etc. However, the 7 has too many pixels for me. I just don't need them, and cramming that many on to the sensor offsets the advantage of its size. I think i read somewhere that the pixel pitch of the nex7 sensor is the same as the nikon 1 series. Obviously you will get a the benefit of pixel averaging when resizing the image for web etc, but in any case, 24 mp is way more than I need. The nex 6 therefore seems like a great option. Problem is: lenses. Camera bodies come and go, lenses are for keeps. There isn't much choice, and there are some duds.

m43

In this category, I had picked out the Olympus OM-D E-M5. In fact, I had pretty much decided on this camera due to what seemed to be high iso performance which was competitive with the nex, plus all those great m43 lenses. Problem is, the DXO mark scores for the sensor came out the other day, and seem to show that the claimed ISO sensitivity is way way off. Sometimes by as much as a stop in raw! I checked the review on here, and downloaded the ISO 6400 full size images from the RAW comparison widget page of the review for both the nex 5n and the oly om-d. Assuming these were shot under the same light, the oly is f6.3 and 1/1600s, whereas the nex 5n is f8 and 1/1600s. Sure enough, 2/3 of a stop dimmer for the same iso. So, whilst in the pictures it looks like the oly pretty much matches the aps-c sensor in the 5n for detail retention at high iso, it is getting an unfair advantage from over estimating its sensitivity. Again, this is assuming those test shots were done under precisely the same lighting conditions. Obviously, offsetting this inconsistency is the fact that there are some great fast lenses available for m43. So, one can shoot wide open on the 20mm panny for example, at a 40mm equiv FOV, and get as much DOF as 20mm for the same aperture on FF.

fuji x-mount

Not the X-pro1 necessarily, but more the upcoming X-E1 (not sure i've got the dashes in entirely the right place there) which will have, presumably, near identical image quality given the same imaging pipeline. My main concerns here are the lack of lens choice - although, tbh, i'm far more interested in primes on my mirrorless cam rather than zooms, and whilst there are only 3, the fuji xmount primes are extremely well reviewed - and the troublesome x-trans raw format. ACR output looks particularly naff. Indeed, in the fuji review on dp review, whilst the high iso shots look remarkably clean, they also look a little blurry and smudged when converted with ACR - almost watercoloury - as if, despite noise reduction being off, they have indeed been noise filtered. Definitely looks a little fishy. I have read other reports online of very little colour detail being present in the images too. Either the x-trans colour filter pattern captures less colour detail information than bayer, or the raw files are just particularly difficult to demosaic well, or the people who make raw converters just haven't had the time or the practice that they've had on the bayer format - in any case, since i shoot in raw and use ACR via LightRoom as my raw converter, this is potentially a deal breaker. I love the idea of the x-trans sensor and its lack of AA filter for luma detail. And it's dynamic range and SNR seem (potentially) great. But if i can't preserve my workflow, or find an equally hassle free one, I'm not sure this is an option. I'm also concerned about speed - the xpro1 has very long write times - and the AF has come in for some criticism. No good being able to shoot in really low light if the camera wont focus reliably in low light.

So, there you have it. Sorry for the long and verbose posting, and thanks for reading if you made it this far. Really I'm looking for some personal experience in using any of these systems/cameras day to day. What are your real world experiences with them, especially if you shoot the sorts of things i want to? Really, i want my mirrorless camera to be a jack of all trades, with perhaps a bit of bias towards low light shooting. So a bit of wildlife, a bit of macro, a bit of landscape work, a bit of candid, street-style shooting, a bit of low light work at gigs or whatever. I would be interested to hear if people use the oly om-d in low light and find its performance acceptable. Does it go low enough? Or do you find yourself wishing for that little bit more?

Fujifilm X-E1 Fujifilm X-Pro1 Nikon D3S Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sony Alpha NEX-7
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