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Wednesday, 09 April 2014

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As far as I'm concerned, if images taken with a Micro Four Thirds camera from the E-M5 era onwards can't be used in a professional capacity, it's not the camera's fault. :P

Don't forget the EOS M – the Rodney Dangerfield of the mirrorless segment. My first digital camera was the NEX 5N (I was a film hold out) followed shortly by a used a850. Neither sees a lot of use now because I consider the M and its three lenses so highly.

Sony's lens situation is more nuanced, I think, then a lot of people believe. Yes, it's funky and frustrating but with all the mount/legacy/adaptable options it does cover a lot of ground. It just doesn't always do so in the form or price point you want.

Still, Sony should seek treatment for its ADD. Acceptance is the first step on the road to good health.

Fuji and Sony NEX (or ex-NEX, as I now call it)

In an alternate world, Fuji and Sony cooperated and made a single lens mount compatible with both their cameras.

Had that happened, both companies would be stronger and the allure of M43 much weaker.

It really depends on the photographer.

A photographer who specializes in one or two genre's might only use 2-4 lenses regularly. In terms of size, they are all pretty similar in size with micro 4/3's having the smallest lens options. In terms of IQ, the A7 series is simply in a different league compared to the others.

A portrait, landscape, or fine art photographer would likely be better served with the A7 series. A street photographer or event photographer, the EM1. The X-T1 would be somewhere in between the others.

Personally, I think an A7 series is a better purchase in the long run for most users. It would be hard for the other models to compete with 35, 50, 24-70/4 + A7 kit, no matter lenses you mount on them. Add to that the ability to mount other full frame lenses at their native focal lengths and it's just hard to argue the value and results.

[When you say "In terms of IQ, the A7 series is simply in a different league compared to the others," do you know that from direct comparison you did yourself? --Mike]

Not that it matters to me, but why does Samsung always get left out? Is the brand just not taken seriously as a camera manufacturer? Have they just not paid their dues?

As I see it, the spectrum runs from a fairly large selection of smallish native lenses providing very good IQ (m43) to a small selection of largish native lenses providing excellent IQ even at high ISOs (A7). Prospective buyers will have to decide what they value most. If the currently available Sony lenses are all that one needs, then the lack of other non-available lenses is irrelevant. But Sony are not stupid, and they surely realize that the dearth of native lenses is a problem for those who want to buy into their FF mirrorless system. The lenses will come eventually. This is how it is with all new lens mounts.

Addendum to my previous post: The new A7 seems to be a niche camera targeting videographers.

My goodness - this is my current dilemma. I'm ditching my Nikon SLR gear in favor of mirrorless. Size a major reason (I just like small cameras - my favorite a Pentax ME Super), and not to mention less conspicuous as well.

However, the choices are myriad, but none tick all the boxes. However, the Oly EPL-1 satisfied my need for the needs above, and I'm looking for an upgrade. I'm leaning m 4/3, but there are some fantastic options in the others as well, Fuji with it's image quality in low light, Sony with the AF of the new A6000...choices, choices.

And I agree with David, the Samsung product does seem to tick more of the boxes than the others for me. But I'm just not sure they're in it for the long haul. Maybe it's just brand perception?

"[When you say "In terms of IQ, the A7 series is simply in a different league compared to the others," do you know that from direct comparison you did yourself? --Mike]"

Mike, just look at the DxO ratings, and you will see the huge gap between the A7 and any m43 sensor. Moreover, having examined raw files from the E-M1, I can see with that it is OK at ISO 1600 but begins to give up at ISO 3200. Finally, my Sony RX-1 (similar sensor to the A7) is indeed in a different league, and I see no reason to doubt that the A7 is as well. Whether this IQ advantage matters to individual users is a matter of personal choice.

How comprehensive does a lens line need to be in the day of excellent quality at ISO 2400? I see the comment frequently, most often in Sony reviews.
If lenses available cover extreme wide to long tele (say 21 to 1000 in 35mm terms), is that enough? How great a real demand exists for high-speed lenses in the f/1-f/1.4 range?
We remember the "system" photos of the '70s and '80s with lenses lined up like ICBMs, but where were the sales concentrated? Where are photographers' needs concentrated?

>>why does Samsung always get left out?<<
As a Samsung user I don't find this a surprising question and wonder when someone at Samsung will "get it".
Since the slightly odd looking but otherwise delightful NX100 their "rangefinder styled" cameras have not had a viewfinder option and their "SLR styled" NX10,20,30, while giving excellent results with superbly navigable menus, look too much like mini Canon SLRs - totally lacking in the visual style that Fuji has in the X-T1 etc.

Hi again,
since I've been chewing on this for a while, I have a note on sensor size and related "photo possibilities".

One thing really stuck with me when I was trying to learn more about "the meaning of photography". It is about the difference between painting and photography:

"When painting, you choose what to add to the picture, in photography you choose what to leave out."

With a camera, aside from composition, selective focusing is really the key of how we make such choices. And the issue with small sensors is that you have a real hard time achieving shallow DOF.

To achieve an equivalent DOF between FF and APSC, you need over a stop of aperture difference. This can really be an issue: for instance there is no way that you can achieve the look of pictures taken with the A7+55/1.8 using the X-T1+35/1.4. While the former combination is a terrific portrait machine, the latter is just OK. The background will always be lurking in your images more than you want. (The X-T1 also limits your shutter speed to 1/4000, vs the 1/8000 of the a7, further restricting your aperture choices).

The main impression I get out of the images taken with the a7, vs the X-T1, using "equivalent" lenses and apertures, is that the ones taken with the a7 have more pop and depth, and they appear sharper, at all viewing magnifications. This might also be a result of the better dynamic range of the Sony sensor, which has bigger photosites.

As for the micro 4/3 cameras and lenses combinations, I feel that there is no way that you can get even close to the selective focusing capabilities of full frame.

- Fabio

The simple bald-butt fact is that one's choice of camera among this ever-widening belt of high-end "mirrorless" models from Fujifilm, Sony, and Olympus will have little impact of one's photographic results. We're in a hailstorm of outstanding products. Any of these cameras will be more than adequate for the vast majority of photographs that the vast majority of people will ever take with them.

It's my observation that far more people ruin their images by seasoning-to-(bad)taste with software sliders and heavy-handed "plug-ins" than with poor choices in cameras or lenses.

I'm a Fuji fan; X-Pro1 and 5 of their lenses (14-23-35-60 and 55~200). Rented the X-T1 recently, now saving for that by Christmas :-) Fuji has the best gestalt I think, and the lenses are exceptional. So long as your brand makes the particular lenses you use, who cares what else or how many more the others make?

My commitment to Fuji became real five days ago when I finally got to pick up the X-T1 I ordered in March.

Of the three brands alluded to in your second paragraph, I chose Fuji for a couple of reasons. First, because the X-T1, with its weatherproofing, usable-to-the-bespectacled EVF, tilting LCD and high-end sensor, comes very close to being my dream camera. (Even better than, as it actually exists!) And while the OM-D E-M1 may have similar attributes, that brings me to my second main reason for going with Fuji.

While the four-thirds system offers a wide variety of interesting, high-quality lenses, the choices seem patchy to me. One needs to pick across three or four different brands to get a premium-quality lineup; say three traditional primes plus a couple of lesser-used specialty lenses. Or one could try going with two or three of the highly regarded zooms, gaining wide focal coverage, but settling for smaller maximum apertures and sacrificing some of the compactness promised by mirrorless.

Fuji, right out of the gate, dedicated itself to building a tightly-conceived, easy-to-fathom lens line, all from scratch. High-speed primes filling all the traditional spots on the spectrum, a couple of really nice zooms already, with weather-proof, stabilized models showing up later this year.

I'm still baffled and disappointed that none of the other major manufacturers seemed to grasp this concept, instead forcing their APS-C customers to cobble together ill-fitting lens collections mostly with leftovers from film days with no chance of ever having a nice tight system of wide-aperture primes. Fuji deserves a lot of credit.

I have more to say about the X-T1, not all positive, but I will wait for a future post.

ex-NEX (insert smiley face here)

Those who instantly equate full frame with guaranteed superior image quality should do some testing of their own at sizes real people print and display photographs. I use a Fuji X T-1 with its diminutive yet high quality lenses. Unless making truly huge prints, which I just don't do, one will have a hard time justifying the size and costs of full frame, even the Sony A7. Indeed even micro 4/3 cameras, which I had and sold, make pretty impressive prints up to 13x30".

The problem with Sony's rabid spaghetti approach to camera bodies with few lenses is their cameras appear to me to lose value much faster than Nikon's or Canon's.

I purchased a NEX 7 and Sony 10-18mm lens for a specific project that ended up not happening. I've never really used the camera much for other than testing it, getting use to the controls and it's not worth even 50% of what I paid for it.

I think we'll see a lot of A7 models on eBay soon for much less than the new price. I'm not a fan.

It really is one big mess of options.

The Fuji stuff is fantastic if you can work well with X-trans and don't mind giving up just a bit of shallow focus to FF. Their 14mm is exceptional, as are the 23mm, 35mm, 56mm and heck the kit zoom is pretty damn good too.

The m4/3 house is all in order and ready for you to jump in and enjoy great IQ, great lenses, great stabilization (!!!) and compact size .

The A7 is a game changer for the FF aficionados with its world class sensor and at least one truly top notch lens - the 55/1.8. The ability to adapt some super nice A-mount lenses and legacy glass at their intended focal length is a dream, even if the sensor struggles a bit with the wides.

I'm currently using the A7 because of the synergy with my A-mount lenses and a couple M-Rokkors but if I was starting from scratch and didn't also own a DSLR it sure would be a tough decision.

I just plunked down my hard earned cash on a couple Panasonis GH4's, the 42.5mm Pana/leica, and the Panasonic12mm - 35mm G (you should be getting some credit for them Mike). Mainly because of Sony's lack of lenses in the NEX realm. Also, with video making up more and more of my income I can't ignore the siren song of 4K. Couple that with a proper XLR box and the fact that the colors match my big Panasonic video rig and I'm leaving the Sony camp for a while. It was a blast and I still love the way the NEX7 functions (excluding the menus). It'll be on the auction block soon enough though and I'll be happy to get back to a proper mode dial.

I am a long time Canon user. The Canon lens line offers a great number of choices. Canon cameras are reliable (in my experience) and Canon offers good service (also in my experience). Canon even offers a reasonably good software program with its cameras (DPP) for those who don't need the Adobe products.
But I recently purchased a Sony A7 (after buying Canon exclusively for forty years). I know that the Sony FE lens line is still limited (and relatively expensive), but the Sony A7 is just so enjoyable for me to use, the interface is so intuitive, and the camera is so much lighter to carry, that it was worth it for me to switch. I still have high regard for Canon products, and I understand its need to support its DSLR lines. But I am still very disappointed that Canon has not ventured out with smaller and lighter equipment.

@Mike comment to Marlon's comment, I don't have an A7s but I do have the D800E and, at the moment, both the Oly E-M5 and Fuji XE-2. As you know or will discover, Mike, there is a (for me) striking difference between the Big Dragoon's files and the Oly and Fuji files, there's no getting around what those 36MPs bring to the party. OTOH, if you take the Oly or Fuji and duct tape two cans of soda to the camera strap, you will have equalized their weight with the D800 and 24-70 F2.8. So....

BTW, Popular Photography just ran an issue with their review of the X-T1, and I was surprised, in fact quite surprised, that the camera did not break their 2500 lpm resolution test, and "only" rates an "extremely high". I believe that both the Nikon 7100 and 5300 (and maybe even the 3300) break the 2500 barrier for an "excellent", and the X-T1 might be in the same area as the Olympus M4/3rd's high end offerings. Yeah, I get the "look, feel, handling" thing, but that stat wouldn't make me dump all the other lenses and stuff I have for Nikon to get involved. Maybe next time...

Also read that the JPEG group at Leipzig has released a new standard (JPEG 9.1) that supports 12 bit color and lossless compression, and that a few camera manufacturers are very, very interested. This info is going to negate me from buying ANY camera for the near future...

Everyone says that lenses that the most important factor when buying a camera.

Given that ½ of the people who buy DSLRs never take off the kit lens and many more just buy one or two other lenses I am really not sure that this applies to all, or even most people.

I have 8 lenses for my 3 NEX cameras (4 A mount, 4 E mount) and until I go full frame there is really nothing more that I want (3 of the A mount are already full frame).
On the other hand, when I look through my pictures to see where there are problems, superior low light capabilities is an area which would help. For example:

-My wife likes to do tango dancing in dark night clubs. I really need a 1/250th second shutter speed to consistently freeze her motion. This is hard to achieve.

-One of my sons does track and field in high school. Winter track is indoors and I have to shoot it with a long (70-200mm) lens. Freezing him when he does a hurdle in the low light found in indoor track and field events is a pain.

-I take my kids out to look through telescopes in observatories reasonably often. Photographing this would be much easier with better low light abilities.

-My kids used to love to have large scale airsoft (bb gun) battles. Filming night time airsoft battles is hard – the only way I could do it with the technology of a few years ago was with an infrared equipped camcorder and infrared light sources.

I have a policy to never spend over $1000 on any one piece of photographic equipment. Over the last 20 years I have almost kept it.

If the new Sony a7s come in around $1700 I am going to break that policy because it may be good enough to handle the above use cases.
While I respect it, M43 holds no attraction for me. Having a somewhat better lens collection is not a big deal for me and over time Sony’s will keep improving, mostly through 3rd party lenses.

M43 will never have the low light abilities of full frame.

I think the kind of photography I do is fairly common and is representative of many users.

@DavidMantripp: Samsung is in the same boat as Panasonic. The so-called camera enthusiasts refuse to give Panasonic any credit for M43 and helping Olympus.

If they had it their way, Panasonic would stick to making clock radios and Samsung, televisions.

Sad world, I know.

+1 on the Samsung question. Part of me thinks Sony comes out with all those A7s just to showcase their sensors which they then sell to other camera makers. Hence no need for lenses.

Jseliger,

Had that happened, Sony would have reaped *all* of the reward. Sony's starved for lenses, but in comparison, Fuji isn't starved for bodies.

As a diehard recent Fuji convert, I agree with all of your points, Mike, and I think the Fuji system offers both the lenses and bodies I want, at prices I find reasonable, and at sizes that let me use them as true "take-everywhere" cameras. It is no exaggeration, but sounds like it, when I say that moving to Fuji (XE-1, 3 lenses, and x100s) from my D700 and RX100 has not only improved my photography, but also my enjoyment of it and my ability to do it. And all of these comments I've made ignore the superb quality of the files and lenses!

All of that said, the A7S deserves more than a footnote of discussion here. As a cinematographer by occupation, I can say that the video features in the camera (forget 4k) are impressive and worth more than the eventual selling price. But for a still camera, it is that most rare of breeds: rarer than monochrome, it is a modern camera that features a megapixel count that is vastly lower than everything else on the market, in order to benefit DR and high ISO performance. When was the last time you heard about a new 12MP APS-C camera, let alone FF? I feel like some quarters have been asking for this approach for years, more memorably as a 6MP APS-C 2 or 3 years ago, with then-current sensor tech. I'm a loud detractor to Sony's still cameras on the basis of lenses, and remain so, but this camera is an interesting move in stills, let alone the impressive video features.

The comparison I make is X-T1 with 14mm (e21) or 23mm (e35) to an M-240 with 21 and 35. Very close in size - which I guess shows how small an M really is.

Both kits fit in a smallish bag. The M 21 is 2 stops faster (but bigger than the 14), which sometimes matters to me. So far, when pixel peeping, the M has an image quality advantage.

But the X-T1 set seems very good and is about 1/7th to 1/10th the price.

Which matters a lot if you maybe cannot be completely devoted to keeping the little bag safe...

XT-1 owner here.
If you nail the white balance, there is very little need for any post production. My NEX-6 seems always to need a little help on the back end. This is a tremendous time saver when shooting at high volumes.

I looked long and hard at the A7 bodies before I went with the XT-1. I cannot go another year fixing Sony's colors, and waiting on Sony's lenses. There is not one slouch lens in the X lineup, and along with color reproduction, after-sale support, and more, the 56 1.2 is looking like Fuji's killer app.

The only thing that confounds me is the XT-1's grip. Even with the non-battery accessory grip, my long fingers have a hard time finding purchase. The Sony grip situation is much friendlier to my dumb hands. Maybe I'll break out my whittlin' knife.

Proud owner of a Fuji X-Pro1. Previous owner of an X-E1, X-E2, Sony Nex 5 and loaner of an Oly Omd1. I do not for the life of me get how anyone can use an EVF camera only. Maybe it is the bright sunshine here in South Florida, but I find EVF's and LCD screens useless in the bright sun. All hail the OVF on my X-Pro1.

@Richardson & Mike:
Yes, I did the comparison.
Going from the Canon 5D2 to the Oly EM-5, resolution was slightly better and DR (i.e., pulling up shadow noise) was significantly better in the EM-5. With its set of lenses (especially the 75/1.8)and the IBIS it remains my favorite camera for most situations.
But for landscapes, printed at A2 size, my new Sony A7R with the tiny 35/2.8 with its incredible detail is visibly better.

OLY OM-D EM-1 + Fast Primes, OLY OM-D EM-1 + Fast Primes,and OLY OM-D EM-1 + Fast Primes.

If the real difference is not the camera body size but the size of the lenses, we are back to the Nikon 1 series.

To make up for all the drawbacks of mirrorless systems (slower autofocus, not really seeing true colors, contrasts, dynamic range of a scene vs SLR or direct viewing systems; image tearing in the little TV, very high prices) the main advantages are small size and weight.

If we are starting to bulk up mirrorless, the balance starts to tip. Especially when we consider lens size.

Since APS was a compromise format; since micro 4/3 was a compromise format, then it makes sense that Nikon 1, too, is a compromise format. Except of course that Nikon 1 focuses and processes faster than just about any other mirrorless (possible newest Sony an exception), it dispenses with one of the disadvantages while attaining the pinnacle of one of the advantages- small lens size.

I agree with Fabio above that photography is often (but not always) an exercise in exclusion, but disagree that besides composition, selective focus is the only other way of effecting exclusion.

Besides composition (which includes framing and its act of exclusion), there are at least 5 ways of isolating one's subject:

- brightness
- color
- texture
- motion
- focus

(Ming Thein has written more extensively about this, so this is not a unique thought of mine.)

Focus is only 1 way of isolating or selecting one's subjects. Add to this focal length selection and its effect on one's chosen perspective, ie. how far you stand away from a subject, which affects not only depth of field, but how the different planes of fore-, mid-, and background relate to each other, and can also be used to include or exclude a subject.

This notion of any format being a "compromise format" puzzles me, because it implies some kind of format normativity.

The stop of DOF I lose (or gain, if you prefer) with APS-C is clear, but that's it. Sensors are diverse, and tolerance for noise varies by user, application, and individual sensor.

We're only in this state of full frame normativity because Kodak, or whatever other companies involved, decided to follow the existing film camera infrastructure and support 35mm format digital capture. Maybe they should have supported a smaller format, reduced cost, and stayed relevant...

If anything, the creation of 35mm digital was a compromise to the film camera makers.

But, more to the point, show me some influential artists who have definitively benefitted from a slightly shallower DOF.

"Not that it matters to me, but why does Samsung always get left out? Is the brand just not taken seriously as a camera manufacturer? Have they just not paid their dues?"

I would personally say that Samsung's reputation in technology is one that is well-earned: as a follower and not an innovator, who leans on gimmicks and appeals to the worst instincts of spec-watchers and measurebators worldwide.

So yes, they have paid their dues, but merely walking in the footsteps of others doesn't engender me to extend any additional credit to them, personally.

If the image quality is good enough one* lens is all you need .
At least that was the thinking behind tha majority of medium format film cameras.

*TLRs excepted

You know, the A7r is undoubtedly an awesome camera. I just made the switch from a Canon Eos 1Dx -> Sony A7r. The malleability and colour depth in the 1Dx files blew me away coming from a 1Ds and a 5dII, but I don't think I've lost anything in that respect with the A7r and have a lot of resolution to play with. I can also still use my Tilt/Shift lenses and adapted Contax glass with their focal lengths as intended.

Still, when I chopped in my 1-Series monster I handled the X-T1 it has the best feel in hand of of any digicam so far. To the extent that it almost came home with the A7 instead of my Zeiss FE 35 & 55 lenses.

Thankfully I saw sense and didn't bring another camera system into play but if that little Fuji gets down to fire sale prices at end of life and I have some cash in hand...

I have not seen much written about the subject; but I have been using several of my old E mount (APSC) lenses on my Sony A7. Frankly, to my unsophisticated eye, I find the images to be be very pleasing. Maybe it has something to do with the using fewer of the large A7 pixels, but something about the quatlity of the B/W images reminds me of the B/W images that were rendered by my sold(but sorely missed) D700.

Again, the comment above comes from a guy who is not qualified to debate technical aspects of of digital images and must go with the basic impression that an image creates when viewed with said unqualifed eye.

It has helped in managing with the limited number of native lenses for the A7.

A7(.rs) X-T1, E-M1 (E-P5 + VF4) are game changers. Their view finder enable proper manual focusing in most circonstances enabling the use of a wide set of lenses from the film era. While the average lenses of the pre-will-correct-aberation-in-camera/post time are not always the best a lot of amazing lenses were produced that require little to no post processing.

My take on the sensor war is that past a certain level of technology they do not matter for the vast majority of shoot. For those who think that one camera ought to have a certain level of DR of number of MP to be a pro camera I will ask what the pro prior to 2007 (Launch of the Nikkon D3) were shooting with?
Sensor and image processor in CMOS are behind the state of the art acheive by today's microprocessors which tell me that a lot of runway is left for the sensor image processor combo to improve in the forth coming year.

On the manul focusing front another game changer is the Metabone Speedbooster that take advantage of the required flange distance between the film/sensor and the SLR lenses to add a corrective optical element reducing the focal while opening the aperture up to one stop for mirrorless APSC or smaller sensor camera. Fuji-X and MFT mount adapter exist for Nikkon. Camon FD, Olympus OM Leica R, contax, etc...

Therfore three mirror less bodies two speedboosters and only one lens can cover a 2X range in focal with some extreme aperture possibilities (Think 50mm f/0.9, 191mm f/1.4, 255mm f/1.4 ...). While extreme and not too pratical this illustrate the very rich possibilities offer by today's mirrorless camera technology.

In that spirit I am seriously considering a X-T1 (plus a couple of adapter) to add to my E-M1 & A7r and collection of Nikon, Leica M mount and Olympus lenses. I do not own a native Sony lens for now and will probably do the same with the X-T1.

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