Mirrorless Roundup 2011
Several factors have combined to make the Beginners' class the most competitive of the Mirrorless camera market. The main one is the camera makers' belief that there is an un-tapped market of buyers who would like to get better pictures than their compact camera can offer but who are put off by the size, cost and perceived complexity of DSLRs.
This has led to manufacturers trying to produce cameras that are as easy to point-and-shoot as a compact, with few potentially intimidating external controls at prices that slightly undercut even the cheapest DSLR. The fact that Mirrorless cameras are compact cameras with larger sensors and interchangeable lenses, just as much as they're DSLRs without a mirror and viewfinder, means they offer a familiar shooting experience for the upgrader audience.
The result is that the Beginners' category has been the one in which it's hardest to select a stand-out product. The three cameras we discuss here are all very good, offering DSLR image quality and compact camera ease-of-use at a competitive price. Panasonic, Olympus and Sony all offer their most compact models for around the $500 mark. And, given they're all based around sensors that also appear in much more expensive Mirrorless and DSLR cameras, they offer similar image quality to the high-end models.
The models we won't cover here are Nikon's J1 and V1, which are covered last in this roundup. Nikon is adamant that its cameras target a market neglected by its rivals (though it's by no means clear precisely how it's distinct from the one these beginners cameras are aimed at), but more importantly, they're different in that they do not use DSLR-sized sensors. As such they offer a different balance of features and weaknesses, so are discussed elsewhere.
Olympus PEN E-PM1
71% + Silver Award
Although the difference couldn't be described as 'stand-out,' the PEN Mini is, by a whisker, our choice of the current Beginners' camera bunch. In the end, the PEN's small body size, coupled with the clever, collapsible kit lens and excellent out-of-camera JPEG image quality give it a tiny bit of an edge.
Like all the cameras here, the E-PM1 offers plenty of control if you want to take it (at its heart, very little separates this from the much more expensive E-P3). Getting the most out of the camera involves un-hiding a potentially overwhelming menu, but with the promise of greater customization than its peers.
As a point-and-shoot, however, the PEN offers a nice balance of size, price and capability - it can't compete with the Sony's sensor in terms of absolute image quality but its reliable exposure, excellent color and creative 'Art Filters' mean you can easily get the most out of the camera.
|Olympus PEN E-PM1 Sample Gallery|
Also worth considering:
74% + Silver Award
The C3 is Sony's least expensive NEX camera but still built around one of the best sensors on the market at the moment. The NEX's user interface has been greatly improved, with a simplified operational mode that allows you to adjust settings based on the result you want, rather than getting bogged-down in jargon.
The excellent sensor means that the C3 is capable of the best image quality in this group but the limitations of the beginner-friendly i-Auto mode (and specifically it not allowing you to exceed ISO 1600) mean that the novice user won't always be able to access its full potential. It's only this and the relatively bulky kit lens that prevents it being our recommendation.
|Sony Alpha NEX-C3 Sample Gallery|
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3
The Panasonic GF3 is the simplest and most compact-camera-like Micro Four Thirds camera yet. Like the other two cameras here, it offers the bare minimum of external controls but, unlike its rivals, it also offers a touch-screen interface. This makes it probably the easiest of the three cameras to take control of, should you decide you want to regularly influence what the camera is doing. Its beginner-friendly Intelligent Auto mode also offers a simple, results-orientated interface for changing shooting settings.
The GF3 is also unique in this company in that it features a built-in pop-up flash, meaning you don't have to remember to carry around a little accessory flash unit as you do with the Sony and Olympus models. As with the Olympus, the GF3 can be used with any of the increasingly wide range of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds system. Sadly the GF3's standard kit zoom isn't collapsible like the PEN Mini's (It is available with the retractable Lumix X power zoom but this pushes the cost beyond those of these peers).
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 Sample Gallery|
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|2014_1211_140657AA by old shutter bugger|
from The Bride
|Overloaded by NZ Scott|
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|Barley by Will B Milner|
|APPLE & ROACH by TX Photo Doc|
from Delicious - Unpalatable
Take a quick tour of Nikon's new D850 in our 'First Look' video and find out what makes this new pro-level DSLR so exciting. Hint: a lot of things.
Nikon appears to have pulled out all the stops for its D850. It combines high resolution and speed: a full-frame 45.7MP BSI CMOS sensor capable of 7 fps bursts. The D5's 153-point AF system, a tilting touchscreen and 4K/24p video are also on board. It arrives in September for $3300.
The Nikon D850 is a 45.7MP full-frame DSLR that can shoot at seven frames per second. Supporting this is an autofocus system lifted wholesale from the company's pro-sports D5 model. Add in a bigger viewfinder and full-width 4K capture and you've got a lot more than a warmed-up D810.
Cinema equipment powerhouse Arri has introduced a new line of full spectrum neutral density filters that drawn on its years of experience creating internal filtration systems for its ALEXA Mini and the AMIRA movie cameras.
The 'pocket powerhouse' Godox Wistro AD200 flash just got a new accessory. Now, you can swap out the speedlight or bare bulb heads for a 3.6-watt LED lamp.
Photographers Andrew Studer and Ted Hesser captured some of the most iconic images of this week's eclipse, showing a climber standing in the middle of the glowing corona. This is the story behind those images.
Intrigued by those ultra-cheap, fast lenses coming out of China? This video review of the $550 Sainsonic Kamlan 55mm F1.2 lens points out some of the performance you sacrifice to save an almighty dollar (or $800).
Canon has expanded its PIXMA TS-series Wireless Inkjet printer lineup with five new models, two of which contain an improved ink system that adds a sixth color ('Photo Blue') to help reduce graininess and improving overall quality.
Oprema Jena is on a roll. After a wildly successful Kickstarter to bring back the legendary Zeiss Biotar 75mm F1.5 lens, the company is sweetening the pot by resurrecting the Biotar 58mm F2 as well.
Nikon has issued a delay and apology regarding their 100th Anniversary D5, D500, and Triple Lens sets. Due to a logo issue, the company is being forced to delay shipments until October.
Yet another reason to always shoot Raw. These two shots are actually the same photo, photographer Dan Plucinski simply pulled up the shadows in post.
The Galaxy Note 8 is the first Samsung smartphone to feature a dual-cam setup. The 2x tele lens allows for a background-blurring portrait mode and comes with optical image stabilization.
Cloud backup service CrashPlan has announced that it will permanently shutter it's "for home" service by the end of October. If you use CrashPlan to back up your photos, you'll want to find an alternative ASAP.
Equivalence is much-discussed, but still often misunderstood. Here's a simplified explanation of the concept of equivalent apertures, which is just another way of talking about light received by your camera.
Try your hand at this blind portrait shootout between the Canon 1DX Mark II, Nikon D5 and Sony a9. With all bias removed, you might just rank your favorite camera brand worst.
Photo sharing site 500px has just added support for wide-gamut color profiles such as AdobeRGB and ProPhotoRGB, even allowing users to filter their searches by color profile.
DJI just released a mandatory firmware update for the DJI Spark. If you own a Spark and don't update your firmware by September 1st, DJI will remotely ground your drone.
Affordable flash manufacturer Godox has updated its smartphone app so that it can be used to control all of its wireless X flash units, not just the A1 smartphone flash.
Western Digital's new My Book Duo external desktop storage system offers up to 20TB of storage capacity, and comes with RAID-optimized WD Red hard drives.
Version 1.04 of the Sony a6500 firmware can be downloaded from the Sony Support website now.
Not sure how to choose your first drone? In this article, the second of a 3-part series, we discuss what factors you should consider when deciding what drone is right for you.
NASA photo editor Joel Kowsky didn't just capture the solar eclipse from his vantage point in Wyoming, he also managed to capture the ISS buzzing across what remained of the sun.
In these videos, talented photographer and filmmaker Daniel DeArco breaks down several tips that will help flash photography newbies start experimenting with artificial light.
Photographer and master potter Steve Irvine makes incredibly intricate, functional ceramic pinhole cameras that look like robots and monsters.
Chinese gimbal manufacturer Gudsen has released a firmware update for its Moza Air that lets you control the direction and angle of the head remotely just by moving a small handlebar-mounted control unit.
Curious how the Sony a9 performs underwater? Our friends at Backscatter took the camera diving off the Baja California coast, to find out how it handled shooting great white sharks.
While most of the DPReview crew put away our cameras and just watched the celestial event, Rishi decided last-minute to hack together a rig and capture a few shots.
Defunct Russian camera maker Zenit is making a comeback, and they're planning to release a full-frame mirrorless camera in 2018.
The days where you're more or less locked into premium or first-party flash units has gone. They're less than $50 now, so there's one less excuse not to get one. Here's our case for adding one to your kit, and a few pointers to get you going.
If you're shooting the solar eclipse here's a hint: don't fry your camera's sensor. Use a proper solar filter that offers at least 16 stops of light filtration, along with UV and IR filtering. More important? Don't look at it unless you've got solar filters. Sensors can be replaced, your retinas can't.