The mirrorless debate

May 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

A hot topic these days is the debate on whether to switch to a mirror-less system The argument has been brewing for a few years now but up until late 2013 DSLRs had a sufficient edge to relegate the ‘mirrorless marauders’ to ‘noisy newbie’ status and not ruffle the feathers of the ‘serious shooters’. That changed with the arrival of the Fuji X-series (especially the X-Pro1), Olympus OMD EM series (specifically the brilliant EM-5) and the Panasonic Lumix G series (the GH3 in particular).

I’ve shot with a Canon 60D for the past three to four years and have been flirting with the idea of upgrading to full-frame for a while. The Canon 5D Mk III has been the object of my lustful longing for months now, but the price tag has meant that I’ve had to scrimp and save for over a year before I could consider it. But now that I am close to the budget I need I’ve been doing some in-depth research into the options available before I break the bank. The results have not only surprised me, they’ve caused some serious strife. Agonising nights poring over endless review sites and videos online left me cross-eyed, not to mention cross-brained because I just felt like I wanted to bang 2 or 3 different cameras together to get the perfect one. Why can’t manufacturers just make it a straightforward step up from one series to the next, with higher end models having ALL the good features of so-called lower end (and cheaper ones)? No, the 5D Mk III is better than the 6D, except that it doesn’t have wi-fi and it costs almost twice as much without having significantly better image quality. The 6D is of course better than the 7D and the 70D, or is it? The autofocus system is comparatively pre-historic and it doesn’t have a touchscreen. But I’m upgrading from a 60D so it makes no sense to change to another APS-C camera does it? Oh will someone put me out of my misery already!

Then two things happened. First, I went to Stockholm. It was only a 3 day trip as I was attending a conference, but being the dedicated photographer that I am I wouldn’t consider going without my DSLR. So I did. It and the rest of my kit in my Lowepro Vertex 200AW camera bag on my shoulders, as hand luggage, for the duration of my trip. Plus my tripod in my checked-in luggage. My burgeoning equipment bag had always been a source of some hilarity for my travelling companions, but the smiles were usually replaced with looks of admiration when the finished photographs came out of the digital lightroom. However on this occasion it crossed my mind more than once – “there has to be a better way”.

 Enter the second thing that happened – I came across the mirror-less brigade. I had seen ads for the Olympus OMD-EM1 in a few places before but never really took it seriously. But when I actually went through the reviews on places like cameralabs.com, DPreview and TheCameraStore youtube channel I was surprised to see the number of ‘serious’ photographers recommending the system.

Then I saw the Fuji X-T1. Released in March 2014 it is a thing of beauty. The retro styling combined with modern Fuji sensor technology, it looked a mesmerizing package. But I still wasn’t sold on the whole mirror-less idea, mainly due to previous consistently poor reports on the autofocus system of those cameras. So I delved into it even further, and having made up my mind that my ideal kit bag would probably consist of a small, portable but high quality ILC (interchangeable lens camera) that I could take on my travels, as well as a full frame DSLR for the considered sweeping vistas and wildlife shots, I decided to compare the pros and cons of the three different competing systems (in my eyes anyway) – the micro four thirds system, the Fuji X-series, and the APS-C DSLR. The sheer size advantage of mirror-less was extremely appealing to me, especially if it was going to act as a second body in the long run, so if the new offerings stood up to scrutiny then I was willing to take the plunge!

 So after much debate I settled on my three contenders, all approximately around the same price point and all relatively new on the scene:

 The Olympus OMD-EM1,

The Fujifilm X-T1, and

The Canon EOS 70D

After all the research that I did I thought it would be a shame not to share it with those of you who are considering the same, maddening, question. So I’ve put together a comparison table, not a simple feature comparison that you can find on any comparison website, but rather my own musings on what is different about these 3 cameras (and systems) and how I came to a final decision on which was the best for me.

Stay tuned for the results!

 

 


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