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Reflecting on Mirrorless Cameras

MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain?ChicagoRegistered User regular
I'm looking to upgrade my lower end Canon P&S to something slightly better, upper limit of $500.
Wirecutter seems to like the Sony mirrorless Nex-5, I believe.
Is that going to give me a better picture than a similar priced compact? I really want better picture quality with some manual controls: don't care about WiFi, etc.

MichaelLC on

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    hsuhsu Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    I own an Olympus E-PL7, my second micro 4/3rds camera, so I'm a fan of mirrorless. You will definitely get better photos with a mirrorless camera than nearly all point & shoots (your exceptions are the high end Fuji X100 and Sony RX1).

    That said, in order to get exceptional photos out of your mirrorless camera, you need good glass; the kit lens almost never cuts the mustard. Don't get me wrong, the kit lenses are decent, much better than a point & shoot, but just not great. It was quite shocking just how much better a prime lens can be, enough that I willingly gave up zoom capabilities for a few years, walking around with a couple of primes. But I eventually gave in, and got a pro level zoom to replace my primes, even though the pro zoom is comically large on my small camera, albeit still half the size of my brother's Canon DSLR setup.

    Note that if you never plan on upgrading your kit lens, there are other options out there for you. Like the Sony RX100 or the Panasonic LX100. Both are large sensor compact cameras with fast glass (large aperture lenses). Both are smaller than an equivalent mirrorless camera.

    Edit: if you want to know about a specific camera, look at the dpreview.com forums. You'll get much better camera/lens information there. Just be sure to look at several competing sub-forums, to get opposing viewpoints. The primary competing mirrorless sub-forums would be the Sony alpha e-mount, micro four thirds, and Fujifilm x sub-forums over at dpreview.

    If you're looking for youtube reviews of mirrorless cameras, look up TheCameraStoreTV, DigitalRevTV, and Blunty.

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    wunderbarwunderbar What Have I Done? Registered User regular
    I have a NEX-5N and it is a fantastic camera. I believe the current equivalent to it is the Alpha 5100, there is a 5000 that is a bit lower end.

    Basically with mirrorless cameras you get a larger sensor, which usually equates to better pictures. There are obviously other factors but in the exact same enviornment and other factors the bigger the sensor the better the image quality. This means that there is generally more margin for error in taking pictures, as pictures that would appear not super great on a point and shoot or cell phone can come out much better. They are also more adept to low light pictures as bigger sensor = more light in = better opportunity for better shots.

    The Sony alpha mirrorless line (why they retired the NEX brand I will never know) has the same sensor size as consumer level DSLR cameras, APS-C. Technically Sony's PAS-C is like 1mm bigger than Canon's but I don't want to get into that. Sony also has full frame mirrorless cameras but those are out of yours (and my :biggrin: ) price range.

    most other mirrorless cameras you'll fine are called micro 4/3. Those are bigger sensors than point and shoots, and will take really good images, but are smaller than the sony sensors.

    As stated above, the biggest decision you'll want to make when buying any kind of camera with interchangable lenses is how deep you want to get into buying other lenses, and the ecosystem you want to be in for that. If you just want to buy a $500 mirrorless and never take the lens off then really read reviews for a copula models your looking at and decide which you like best. In that case pay particular attention to how they talk about the kit lens. I don't agree that every kit lens is bad, some are much better than others. The 18-55mm kit lens on the older NEX cameras was pretty fantastic and regarded as one of the better kit lenses in a long time. Sadly Sony went to a 16-50 power zoom kit lens that was smaller to have a smaller camera out of the box but sacrificed some quality. Shop around.

    But if you're interested in upgrading and getting new lenses over time you need to look at the lens lineup for any camera your interested in. In the long term the lenses will be much more important than the camera, as they'll outlast it and generally carry through several cameras if you stick to the same brand line. I have 3 lenses for my 5N, including the kit lens, and am planning on getting another this year. Once I buy the new lens I'll have invested over $1000 in 3 lenses on top of a camera I paid $600 for. You can bet your ass that when I do decide to upgrade I'll be buying a Sony camera that can take the lenses I already have. (lenses do have fairly high resale value if you really want to jump out of that, but most people usually stick to one ecosystem).


    Though really, the absolute best advice anyone can give about taking pictures is that the camera is only as good as the photographer. If you want to take better pictures a bigger sensor is only a piece of it. In daylight if I spend the time I can take a picture on my Nexus 5 that can rival almost anything that my NEX-5N takes in the same lighting conditions. It all comes crashing down in low light but eh, you get what I'm going for here.

    This ended up being a lot longer than I thought when I started writing. Hopefully it helps.

    XBL: thewunderbar PSN: thewunderbar NNID: thewunderbar Steam: wunderbar87 Twitter: wunderbar
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    ZiggymonZiggymon Registered User regular
    I own a Sony A7 mirrorless camera and love it to pieces. However, it has been a very expensive to just own a single full frame lens.

    My advice is pretty similar to others however I would look at investing in a cheaper older NEX camera 2nd hand and try to use your money on getting some lenses to suit the type of photography you want to do. The lenses will last you a lifetime and as you want to change/ upgrade can give you better options to suit.

    Other brands to look at are Fujifilm and Olympus for mirrorless cameras. Fujifilm have some pretty cool deals each summer offering some free lenses for new camera owners.

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    MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    Excellent, thank you!

    I had an Olympus IS-1 for 10+ years and used it a lot but it stopped feeding the film so just ended up with some point n shoots that were OK.
    Would like to get back into taking better pictures; or more correctly, have the equipment to take better pictures and improve my ability. Sounds like the NEX5 or similar would fit the bill.

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    wunderbarwunderbar What Have I Done? Registered User regular
    yea the NEX5 would be a great point to get you started. You can further invest in lenses over time and then upgrade the camera when you want.

    My one complaint about the 5N that I have that has been fixed in subsequent models is that there aren't enough physical controls, so I have to do too much of the settings alteration using software controls on the screen. It was fine when I first got it because i was mostly using it as a point and shoot but now that i know my way around cameras a lot more I really wish I could quickly change both aperture and exposure on a dial instead of needing to go into a menu to change at least one of them.

    Further cameras in the NEX line usually have at least two dials, one on the back and one on the top to allow this. the NEX 5 and 5N just have the one on the back.

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    hsuhsu Registered User regular
    The want for more physical controls prompted my upgrade to the Olympus E-PL7 from my older E-PM1. In particular, I found the dial on the back would accidentally twirl whilst in a bag/pocket, so I ended up disabling it, and the lack of a dial to swap between modes (aperture priority, shutter priority, etc) became annoying. The E-PL7 fixed that for me, by putting two dials on the top. That the E-PL7 took better low light photos, had wifi, etc, was all just a side bonus.

    Knowing what I know today, if I were to buy a Sony, I would wait a paycheck and get the Sony a6000, due to the 2 top dials and a normal flash hot shoe, probably a body only to go with a good F4 zoom.

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    wunderbarwunderbar What Have I Done? Registered User regular
    hsu wrote: »
    The want for more physical controls prompted my upgrade to the Olympus E-PL7 from my older E-PM1. In particular, I found the dial on the back would accidentally twirl whilst in a bag/pocket, so I ended up disabling it, and the lack of a dial to swap between modes (aperture priority, shutter priority, etc) became annoying. The E-PL7 fixed that for me, by putting two dials on the top. That the E-PL7 took better low light photos, had wifi, etc, was all just a side bonus.

    Knowing what I know today, if I were to buy a Sony, I would wait a paycheck and get the Sony a6000, due to the 2 top dials and a normal flash hot shoe, probably a body only to go with a good F4 zoom.

    Yea I kinda lust over that a6000. But I don't use my 5N quite enough to justify the upgrade. maybe one more cycle or so.

    XBL: thewunderbar PSN: thewunderbar NNID: thewunderbar Steam: wunderbar87 Twitter: wunderbar
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