Advanced mirrorless digital cameras have become viable alternatives, not compromises, to true optical single lens reflex cameras, and sometimes surpass others with regard to optical performance, portability and stealth. By omitting the mirror-box assembly and necessary heavy retro-focus designs, lenses specifically optimized for image performance can be developed, particularly in the wide-angle range.
The Sony Alpha NEX series has evolved to maturity with the advent of the NEX-7, a 24.3MP APS-C format camera that supports E-mount lenses directly, and Alpha DSLR lenses with an optional adapter. Consistent with its class of advanced mirrorless cameras, it features both a 3.0” tilting anti-glare coated LCD and an OLED viewfinder for arranging still and 1080p video compositions, as well as an external microphone jack. Fast interchangeable lenses, a maximum ISO of 16000, and RAW file support invites low-light candid work, and Alpha system flashes are supported in no-light settings. Completing the profile of a compact camera made for stealthy shooting: fast hybrid autofocusing with Object Tracking AF mode locks onto a subject and keeps it in focus, not unlike a DSLR.
Sony's Alpha NEX-6 merges some of the features of the NEX-7 and the NEX-5R into a more affordable package with the same 2.3 million dot OLED viewfinder as the NEX-7, a 16.1MP Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor with a higher maximum ISO of 25600, improved hybrid autofocusing and their new Multi-Interface Shoe for still and video accessories. Gadgeteers will be intrigued by the PlayMemories Camera Apps, which allow the user to download special purpose in-camera utility applications such as Picture Effect, Smart Remote Control and Bracket Pro. This model is also DLNA-compliant for Wi-Fi file transfer connectivity, which can be used with iOS and Android smart phones, as well as directly with social media sites such as Facebook.
The Wi-Fi enabled Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 also mimics the look of true optical SLRs with its ergonomics and controls, but replaces the mirror-box assembly and prism with an OLED eye-level viewfinder and swiveling 3.0” OLED touch screen. A weather-sealed magnesium chassis provides go-anywhere, take-anything durability when capturing 16.05MP stills and 1080p HD video with stereo sound in the field and the Venus Engine quad-processor supports ISO settings up to 25600 as well as automatic in-camera HDR. Pinpoint AF allows a very specific location—the tip of a nose, a glint in the eyes, or even a macro subject—to be defined with a crosshair using the touch screen. Of interest to filmmakers, the DMC-GH3 can capture video clips up to 240 minutes long, has Face Detection and Tracking Autofocusing, an electronic level gauge, Timecode support and both microphone/headphone jacks.
Looking much like the venerable Olympus OM-series 35mm SLRs sold between 1972 and 2002, the compact 16.1 MP Olympus OM-D E-M5 replaces the reflex viewing system with an eye-level electronic viewfinder, 3.0” tilting OLED monitor and the old OM lens mount with the digital-era Micro Four Thirds mount. The speedy TruePic VI image processor supports ISO settings up to 25600, 9 fps burst rate, 5-axis image stabilization and the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) autofocusing system. Surpassing the old OM film system, the OM-D sports a fully gasketed chassis for dust-proof and splash-proof resistance in the field.
Recalling fond memories of the Leica M rangefinder series, the substantially built die-cast magnesium Fujifilm X-Pro 1 has a true optical rangefinder combined with an electronic viewfinder, in addition to a 3.0” LCD monitor. Interchangeable X-mount lenses automatically activate appropriate frame lines in the optical rangefinder, and third-party lenses including Nikon F and Leica M can be used with optional adapters. The 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor capitalizes on its unique quasi-random filter array to eliminate moiré, thus it lacks the usual definition-softening optical low-pass filter. The camera also handles dust with an Ultra Sonic Vibration system, supports ISO settings up to 25600, and even captures 1080p HD video. Completing the classic design, a standard hot shoe supports iTTL flashes.
|Fujifilm X-Pro 1||Fujifilm X-E1|
Joining the X-Pro 1 as a more affordable option, the slightly smaller Fujifilm X-E1 keeps the OLED eye-level viewfinder with diopter adjustment and eliminates the optical rangefinder. With fewer moving parts, this is arguably the more durable option, though without the visceral joy of an optical rangefinding system. Otherwise, it is very much the same 16.3MP camera with a top ISO of 25600, 1080p HD video capture, and a High Speed Contrast Autofocus system.
Rounding out the advanced mirrorless camera class with the old-school optical SLR look is the APS-C format 20.3MP Samsung NX20, with its unique NX lens mount, now supported by third-party lens manufacturers for a wider selection of fast and special purpose fixed and zoom lenses. It captures JPEG and RAW stills at up to 8 frames per second, as well as 1080p MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video with its CMOS sensor, and is able to produce 2D and 3D panoramas completely in-camera. Viewfinding is accomplished with a 100% coverage eye-level electronic finder as well as a swiveling 3.0” AMOLED display, and files can be shared directly with built-in Wi-Fi to social media sites as well as directly to stand-alone computers without the need for a router. Acknowledging that not all photographers automatically became post-production specialists when the photo world switched from film to pixels, Samsung also includes Magic Frame. Magic Frame offers 12 different backgrounds to manipulate your images with effects ranging from retro to festive.
The Ricoh GXR takes an entirely different approach to keeping dust off the sensor, while allowing interchangeable lenses to be attached. The lens, sensor, noise-reduction and stabilization subsystems are merged into a sealed module which can be removed entirely from the camera body and replaced with another module, making it nearly future proof and definitely upgradable as technologies evolve. The front-end support electronics are located inside each lens module, allowing for variance in the sensor type—CMOS and CCD, sensor format—APS-C, 1/1.7" and 1/1.3", as well as pixel count:10.0-, 12.3- and 16.2MP. Video is supported in resolutions varying from standard definition 480i to 720p at frame rates from 24 to 30 fps. Alternatively, the GXR Mount A12 allows use of Leica M-series rangefinder lenses (or any lens adaptable to that mount) and provides adjustable correction of lens distortion and peripheral illumination. The sensors in these modules provide JPEG and RAW capture at ISO 100- 3200 and 1.6 to 5.0 fps. The GXR camera body provides viewfinding with an anti-glare-coated 3.0” rear LCD, but eye-level viewfinding is also possible with the accessory VF-2 electronic viewfinder (sold separately).
And there you have it: a splash of current advanced mirrorless cameras overflowing with uncompromising big-camera features, packed into compact form factors. If you still adore your big-iron single lens reflex cameras but have a sore back or achy shoulders, these are worth consideration for serious image-making in the field without the additional bulk and weight. For more information on these cameras, please contact a B&H Sales Associate via live chat, over the phone or in our New York SuperStore.