Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mirrorless Musings...

So, it's been coming up on a decade now since modern, mainstream Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras made their debut. Countless pixels have been slaughtered over when they'll completely replace DSLRs, but I think we're a long way from that day, especially for professional and advanced hobbyist use.

I do think that they will continue to erode the sales of low- and midrange APS-C DSLRs, but a savvy consumer (or at least one well-educated by a good sales clerk) understands that buying that cheap Nikon or Canon DSLR with its janky kit zoom lens gives you a camera body that can use a huge variety of lenses. On the Nikon side, the narstiest plasticky entry-level D3400 can use pretty much any Nikon F-mount lens going back to the late Seventies, or even earlier if the lens has been altered to work with newer cameras.

This means that the DSLR still has the advantages of a vast lens library and if you decide to get more serious and buy a higher end prosumer or pro-grade camera, you don't have to pitch your lenses and start over. (Well, it's a little more complicated than that, but we'll talk about full-frame vs. crop-sensor/FX vs. DX/EF vs. EF-S issues in a later post.)

At least two Mirrorless systems are starting to catch up in terms of lens availability, though. There are a huge number of Micro Four Thirds lenses out there, and Sony's E-mount is to the point where there's a pretty respectable lens variety for both crop-sensor and full-frame offerings.

It's interesting looking at the variety of directions different manufacturers have taken with MILCs. The Micro Four Thirds offerings from Olympus and the mid- and upper-end Sonys are very photography-hobbyist oriented, with a ton of manual control available over the picture-taking process and the buttons and dials to go with it.

These are aimed at the photographer who just doesn't want to carry a big camera around with them, and they further leverage the small sensor size to allow them to use physically smaller lenses. I've got a Panasonic Lumix 40-200 zoom here...that's an 80-400mm in 35mm terms...that's the size of the 24-70mm f/4 on my full-frame A7. Bigger sensors need bigger glass.

Nikon's MILCs are aimed very differently. Obviously worried about pillaging sales of its own low-end DSLRs, the Nikon 1 series it marketed toward people who were looking to step up from a compact camera to something with interchangeable lenses, but didn't want to be bothered with knobs and dials and settings and such. Sales have understandably been tepid, and first gen cameras and lenses are at giveaway prices on the used market.

Canon is...I don't know what Canon is trying to do with the EOS M. Like Nikon, they are obviously loathe to poach sales of their own EOS Rebel entry-level DSLRs, so they initially launched a largely button'n'dial-less offering. However, succeeding models were offered with more controls and bigger numbers on the price tag, essentially becoming slightly smaller Rebels, only more expensive and without as many lenses available. Which may explain why I don't think I've yet seen one in the wild. Maybe they're popular in Japan?

Since it's winter and I have big coat pockets available, I'm happy to toss an Olympus PEN E-P5 in a coat pocket as my walking-around camera. Sure, the Micro Four Thirds sensor is small when compared to an APS-C or Full Frame, but it's positively ginormous when compared to the tiny sensor on my usual Ricoh GXR pocket cam.

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