Mirrorless - NEX ain't the only game in town!
If you follow any photographers on social media you'll almost certainly have seen +Trey Ratcliff
's announcement that he's dumping his Nikon DSLR for a Sony mirrorless, not to mention his potty-mouthed comment on their Facebook page! Seriously though I think Trey made some really good points about his reasons for switching to mirrorless, many of which are the same that convinced me several years ago that they were actually more appropriate for many photographers.
But reading through the many comments and replies to his news, something bothered me: I began to get the impression that many photographers were now buying into NEX and in particular the NEX-7, assuming it was the only serious mirrorless option around. Now I would love more folk to jump onto mirrorless, but as someone who tests and reviews digital cameras for a living, I think it's important to know about some of the other options available and realize the NEX-7 is getting on now in digital terms. Indeed I'd be very surprised if the NEX-7 isn't replaced this year, so anyone buying it now should know they won't own the flagship for very long.
So what are the other options? I'll start with Micro Four Thirds, the first of the mirrorless systems to market and the only one with two major companies producing bodies and lenses for it. This means it has by far the broadest selection of native lenses for a mirrorless system, covering all bases with at least two options when rival systems may not even have one in that category. It also has a wide choice of bodies including two which sport weather-sealing, something which eludes the NEX lineup so far, and if you want focus-peaking, it's on the latest models too. With Olympus and Panasonic producing bodies there's also two very different styles and approaches to choose from - a unique benefit.
Then there's Fujifilm's X system, one of the newer players with an understandably smaller lineup of lenses and bodies, but arguably delivering some of the best results. Unlike rivals, Fujifilm launched the X-system with an unashamedly high-end body and primes to match, and while its since released more affordable options, the kick-off set the bar for excellent quality. Not only are the lenses of a very high standard, but all Fujifilm X-mount bodies share the same X-Trans sensor with its innovative colour filter array.
Samsung is also one to watch if you're into connectivity and convergence. Its NX system has quietly grown to a point it where has a great deal to offer, and that was even before the company's latest inevitable move of mating a mirrorless camera with a Galaxy smartphone to produce the Galaxy NX.
How about Nikon's 1 system? It may be derided for its smallish sensor, but this is a camera which focuses and shoots as fast as a pro sports DSLR, and can also take high resolution images and HD video simultaneously. This makes it almost unbeatable for kids and pet photography, easily capturing their every action-packed move when other formats struggle.
Then there's Canon's EOS M, a body which was rightly bashed for its appalling Af speed and tiny native lens selection at launch, but which could completely turnaround to become one of the most desirable if Canon implements the EOS 70D's Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor in a second generation body. Imagine having quick and accurate phase-detect AF with any EF lens on a small mirrorless body?
And for those who say they won't go to mirrorless until there's a model with a full-frame sensor, I say, how about the Leica M, or if you're hardcore enough to live with a fixed lens, the Sony RX1(R)?
In short there's a lot of options out there beyond the NEX system, although don't get me wrong, I'm also very fond of Sony's mirrorless system - most of the NEX bodies have earned Highly Recommended awards at Cameralabs and I'm also a big fan of the Zeiss 24mm f1.8 and Sony's 10-18mm zoom. Amazingly in a world of increasingly connected cameras, Sony is still the only company to implement a mini browser in the camera OS to allow you to accept the terms and conditions of public hotspots.
So having tested them all as part of my job, you may well ask which system would I recommend? Well, personally, I'm shooting with Micro Four Thirds simply for the unparalleled choice of high quality lenses and again the chance to own compatible bodies from two very different manufacturers. And for those who think the Micro Four Thirds sensor is somehow inferior to APS-C, I'd direct you to the results of my Panasonic Lumix G6 review where you'll see its 16 Megapixel sensor essentially delivering the same detail, noise and dynamic range as a Canon 18 Megapixel APS-C sensor. Almost every non-Instagram photo I've shared over the past year has also been from Micro Four Thirds and no-one's complained about the quality yet!
But again as an independent journalist, I appreciate the pros and cons of all systems, so have put together a buyer's guide of mirrorless cameras to help you see what's out there. Yes Trey's NEX-7 is in there, but so are many others you should seriously consider if you're thinking of making the switch from a traditional DSLR.http://www.cameralabs.com/buyers_guide/mirrorless/best_mirrorless_camera.shtml
cc +Brian Matiash