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.
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 ·
Andrew Van Beek gives us Using Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Full Frame Lenses and (especially) Comparing the Fuji X-E2 and the Canon 5D Mark III; while they’re Fuji-centric, they’re really about the larger SLR-vs-mirrorless issues.
Romanas Naryškin’s Fuji X-T1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1 is very just-the-facts, and first-rate.
Thom Hogan’s Fujifilm X-T1 Camera Announced isn’t a review, it’s a very useful consideration of the mirrorless ecosystem vs the state of the SLR art.
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.