The golden age of photography continues; now the mirrorlesses have banged through the saloon doors, looking for a throwdown with the SLRs. It’s fun! Today I have loads of links, some to unmissable picture galleries (not mine) and a portrait of Fujifilm buyer paralysis.

Basics · If you already know all about the “mirrorless” thing, skip on ahead to the next section (but stop to check out the pic).

Traditionally, “good” cameras were SLRs which means that you look at the picture you’re gonna take through the lens you’re gonna take it with, courtesy of an elaborate steampunk prism-and-mirror arrangement that sends the light rays to the viewfinder.

With mirrorlesses, you still look at the picture through the lens, only there’s no glassware, the camera sensor sends what it sees to either or both of an LCD on the camera’s back or a peek-through electronic viewfinder (EVF, they say).

Losing the glassware means that mirrorlesses are smaller and lighter and can still take pictures like this (worth enlarging).


Since the best SLRs are well into permanent-shoulder-damage territory, particularly when you have to carry two or more which professionals often do, “smaller and lighter” is a big deal. Even for non-pros like me, who travel a lot on business and just don’t have the luggage space or shoulder durability for multiple kilograms (no, I’m not kidding) of SLR apparatus.

New stuff · The modern mirrorless space is dominated (in mindshare anyhow, don’t know about sales) by Sony, Olympus, and Fujifilm. In recent months they’ve been whacking energetically at the state of the art, pushing it back and shipping the results.

Specifically, the Sony a7 and a7R; the Olympus OM-D EM-1 (who names these things?), and the Fujifilm X-T1.

Sidetrip · A brief step into the Leica world — they’re mirrorless too — reveals that if you pick up a Leica M for $8K or so, you don’t get as much light sensitivity or a real EVF like you do with the mainstream mirrorlesses, but then you can spend an extra $10K on a Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 which, if you have a whole lot of talent, enables ravishing photo-essays like this one in ShootTokyo... yow. But most of us aren’t going there.

Back to the mainstream · Roughly speaking, the things that matter are having lots of pixels on a big sensor, having good low-light performance, being small, having smooth ergonomics, and being fast and responsive (I didn’t mention “taking great pictures” because that’s assumed).

Even more roughly speaking, Sony’s been winning on the lots-of-pixels-on-a-big-sensor front, Olympus has been winning on the fast-and-responsive front, and Fujifilm’s been winning on the ergonomics front.

Some links ·

My little problem · I enjoy taking picture, I enjoy editing them, and I enjoy sharing the pretty ones here and the personal ones with my family. But let’s face it, I’m a gadget geek, and I also like getting something new every year just for the shiny and because new camera/lens personalities encourage new kinds of photos.

Last March I bought a Fujufilm X-E1, and eventually wrote a biggish piece Things About the X-E1 in October. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and gotten some pictures that have made me happy.

So I’m coming up on my anniversary and thinking maybe I owe myself a little upgrade. Except for, I’ve been pondering and pondering and can’t decide what to get; I’m stuck.

Since I’m really pretty happy with the X-E1, the sensible thing to grab would be another lens. At the moment I have an 18-55mm zoom and an 35mm f1.4 prime which sits right in the middle of the zoom’s range. The 35mm is an exquisite lens — compact, razor-sharp, fast as hell — and it’s made me very happy. But I have to admit that while the zoom isn’t as glamorous, given remotely enough light (f4 even fully extended, with stabilization) it gives me nothing to complain about. I enjoyed Heavy Cream: In Search of Bokeh with the Fujinon XF 18-55 by Mark Schueler, which drills down on the whole prime-vs-zoom thing.

So let’s check out the Fujinon Lens Roadmap. OMG.

On the wide-angle front there are a couple of pancakes at 18mm and 27mm; well-reviewed, but the Fuji’s already so small that the pancake doesn’t really speak to me.

Then there’s the super-wide 14mm f2.8 with astonishingly low (as in not measurable) distortion, no software correction involved, and it gets good reviews, for example in The Machine Planet (also full of interesting wide-angle lore).

But I notice that the reviews of the pretty-wide 23mm f1.4 are not just good, they’re ecstatic; for example from Kevin Mullins, Patrick La Roque, and Olaf & Kasia Sztaba. But I dunno... 23mm is well within the zoom range and awfully close to 35mm; and while f1.4 is nice I notice that with the 35mm I’m often backing off the aperture to buy a little depth of field.

Or wait till later this year when an image-stabilized 10-24mm f4 zoom is coming out.

Or maybe go nuts and get the just-released 56mm f1.2 (!) portrait lens and I’m not gonna say anything, just point you to these six pictures of a little girl. Pure magic.

Or maybe stay with just the two lenses and swap the X-E1 for the brand new X-T1, which is said to offer weatherproofing, faster autofocus and a way-better EVF. There haven’t been any serious reviews, but I thought the write-up over at The Fujifilm Blog, although obviously partisan, was useful.

Anyhow, at the moment I’m paralyzed, which is not a bad thing, because the little X-E1 and its two lenses are happily uncrowded in my pretty-small camera bag. What a great time to be a photographer.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: aurynn shaw (Feb 01 2014, at 01:31)

I've been shooting on a Panasonic GX1 for a few months more and I'm really quite happy with it for all the reasons you describe: small, big sensor, and getting great photos out of it.

I just got the f1.4 Leica 25mm lens, and I'm ecstatic with it. Not as nice, size wise, as the f1.7 20mm pancake, but so much nicer to shoot in every way.

What the Panasonic has really shown me is how much I missed photography; I've started carrying both the Panasonic as my everyday camera and my main DSLR on the other hip.

Just having something amazing was critical to falling in love all over again.


From: Janne (Feb 01 2014, at 03:31)

A rangefinder viewfinder is a little different from either an SLR or a mirrorless. The great benefit is that it lets you see what's happening outside the frame of your picture. That makes it a lot easier to compose, especially for fast-changing scenes.

I have a rangefinder (not a Leica) and it is good for street photography precisely for this reason.


From: Andrew (Feb 02 2014, at 07:50)

Nice overview of the Fuji ecosystem. I have recently come around to Fuji as perhaps the best current mirror less system. I am primarily a Ricoh GR shooter along with a Leica X Vario (I've tended to prefer APS fixed-lens cameras), but the Fuji lineup looks like the best "system" camera system. The Olympus line is very good too, but I tend to struggle in getting the best out of that sensor size since they are not as malleable as larger sensors.

As a compact high quality family snap camera I'm trying out the X-M1, and I plan to rent a Zeiss 32mm to see what the current state of the high end can do. Then I may convert over with either the E-X2 or X-T1. I think your current lens selection sounds about perfect.

Funny thing, many rumor that the camera business is a "hobby" for Fuji. Not sure what that means, but wow. Good luck with your new gear confusion. In my view, good lenses are keepers forever, whereas digital cameras come and go; maybe try that 14mm lens and get creative. As you say, good times!


From: Richard Sewell (Feb 02 2014, at 13:49)

I'm very fond of the Sigma 10-20 I have on my Sony.

There is a whole class of picture that only becomes possible with a very wide lens, and I like it.

So if it was me, I'd wait for the 10-24.


From: Steve Crane (Feb 06 2014, at 13:56)

I just bought an X-E1 in December and added the XF 55-200 to the XF 18-55. I'm very happy with both. Having also been very fond of my Sigma 10-20 on my Canon 30D, I bought a cheap manual adapter and now use the 10-20, locked to f/8, on the X-E1. The focus peaking makes it easy to focus and the results are good. A good compromise with the XF 10-24 not being available yet and me not having another $1000 spare for it anyway. I also have my eye on the Samyang 8mm fisheye. It and other Samyang X mount lenses are quite affordable, compared to the Fuji XF lenses.


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