Neptune Photo Newsletter
August 2017 Volume 67
by Steve Zimic
Mirrorless Cameras Compared
Trying to pick the best mirrorless camera is no easier than picking a DSLR and perhaps even more difficult. Regardless of brand, with the DSLR you had a choice of either APS-C or full frame. With mirrorless you have 4 sensor sizes ranging from full frame to 1 inch (see chart below). So the big question is does size really matter? Unfortunately that's not an easy question to answer because it all depends on where you're coming from and where you're looking to go. For example, if you're used to the huge image size of a full frame DSLR camera, you'll probably want to stick with one of Sony's full frame mirrorless cameras, or even one of the new medium format cameras from Fuji or Hasselblad. Although those cameras may save you a little weight over a DSLR body, the full frame lenses are no lighter or smaller than DSLR full frame lenses. Lens selection from Sony however is excellent, and there are many after market lenses available as well. Undoubtedly, Sony leads the way with the ultimate in image quality in the mirrorless genre, but you'll pay a steep price for all that performance. More info on the Sony full frame cameras on the Sony website.
For those coming from a phone or small point and shoot camera, Nikon's One system with its 1 inch sensor would be a huge jump in quality. Nikon's top 1 series camera is quite capable, when you consider it'll do 20 FPS with continuous focusing. Even though there's a limited selection of native lenses, by adding an adapter and using DSLR lenses you'll maintain that speed, making it an excellent choice for birds in flight or other action photography. Sticking with native lenses, you won't find a smaller or lighter camera making it ideal for travel photography or anytime you need to keep the weight down to a minimum. More on the Nikon 1 system can be found here.
In the middle you have the Fuji, Canon, and Sony all with the APS-C size sensor. All these cameras are a bit smaller and lighter than the full frame cameras and image quality only takes a slight step down due to the smaller sensor.
Canon also has a very limited supply of lenses dedicated to their EOS M system, but like the Nikon 1 system, it might be enough if you're just looking for a light weight travel camera. Should you decide to get more dedicated with your photography, you'll need to purchase DSLR lenses and an adapter, so you'll most likely be carrying more weight and size than actually needed, plus those larger DSLR lenses might feel awkward on the small M cameras. You can check out the Canon EOS M system here.
Sony is fully committed to mirrorless cameras so there's a full complement of lenses available for their APS-C cameras. In addition to lenses dedicated to the APS-C format you can use their full frame lenses with no adapter required. Beginner to advanced camera models are available with the top of the line cameras offering class leading AF speed and tracking. You can check out the line of cameras on Sony's website here.
Fuji's line of cameras are targeted for all levels of photography. They have an excellent selection of lenses that are once again lighter and more compact than the full frame counterparts. They've released several f1.2 and f1.4 prime lenses designed to deliver the same smooth bokeh as the larger format cameras. Of course there's also a wide selection of zooms covering from 10mm to 400mm. The top camera models use Fuji's patented X-Trans sensor which captures more detailed color info, and eliminates moire without the use of a detail reducing anti-aliasing filter. Like the Sony cameras this system was designed from the ground up so you won't have to use lenses that were originally designed for DSLRs or worse yet, film. In addition there are many 3rd party lenses available making this system very versatile. More info on Fuji camera and lenses can be found here.
Lastly we have the micro 4/3 system from Panasonic and Olympus which was also designed from the ground up. All the Olympus and Panasonic lenses are dedicated for this single system, plus the two systems are fully compatible with each other, so the lens selection is the best of any mirrorless system by far. Add to that the equivalent lens sizes are markedly lighter and smaller than any other system save Nikon, giving you a very portable and capable system. This advantage is most notable in extreme telephoto lenses where a 3 pound 300mm f4 lens is equivalent to a 600mm f4 full frame lens weighing triple that. The smaller sensor provides excellent resolution for prints up to 20x30 inches, however high ISO performance is sub par compared to the larger sensor cameras. More info on the Olympus micro 4/3 system can be found here.
To sum it all up. Best low light camera - Sony full frame.
Best sports/action camera - Sony A9, Olympus E-M1MK II, Nikon 1 V3.
Best High resolution camera - Sony A7 MKII, Olympus EM-1 MK II or EM-5 MK II in high res mode.
Nikon 70-300 AF-P 4.5-5.6 ED VR
Nikon has announced their newest compact telephoto lens for full frame (FX) cameras. Improvements have been made to the VR stabilization (now 4.5 stops), image quality and speed. This lens uses a stepping motor for focusing which not only improves speed but is virtually silent. Of course you could use this on a crop sensor Nikon (DX) camera and gain even more reach. The lens is dust and moisture resistant, contains Nikon's super integrated coating and has a 9 bladed aperture. The lens should be available this month at $749. More info on Nikon's website.
Nikon D600 version 1.03, D610 version 1.02, D750 version 1.12 - Adds support for AF-P lenses plus various bug fixes.
Leica TL2 version 1.1 - Fixes a major flaw which caused the camera to die when using the Visoflex viewfinder.
Leica M10 version 1.9.4 - Fixes a bug that results in black images with short exposures when using firmware version 184.108.40.206.
Canon 5DS version 1.1.1, 5DSR version 1.1.1 - Fixes bugs concerning the HDR mode, Err70, level and power up delay with certain CF cards.
Sony A7RII + A7SII Version 4.0, A7II Version 4.0, A6500 Version 1.03, A6300 Version 2.0, Various bug fixes and improvements. Check the links for a description of changes. Also, for the A7 series there's an update for the Sony 18-105 lens on the same page as the camera firmware.