It’s been a busy few months with a lot of travel to numerous locations. On my latest trip I was away for over 4 weeks doing two back-to-back workshops in South America. I returned to my office and boxes full of new gear to be reviewed. These new products included the new Fuji X-Pro 2, the Olympus Pen F, and Sony’s a6300. In addition, I have the new Sony 24-70mm and 85mm G Master lenses. I also purchased the Fuji 100-400mm zoom with the 1.4 tele-extender as well as the 300mm new Olympus Pro lens. I have been pretty busy shooting and testing everything as well as catching up on everyday business, future workshop videos and Endowment business. Not to mention there are a few other reviews I am finishing up. It’s exciting times but doing these reviews become harder and harder because all the gear these days is so good.
First of all, it is very obvious that all the gear being mentioned is in the mirrorless category. I am seeing more and more photographers going mirrorless. Photographers attending workshops, especially ones where hiking is involved, are opting for lighter gear and mirrorless seems to be the answer. I talked to a number of camera resellers, as well as my local dealer Robert’s Camera here in Indianapolis. He tells the same story. Mirrorless has gotten its traction and is selling very well.
As will become obvious in the upcoming reviews, these new cameras and lenses are so good it is hard to find fault with them. It used to be easy to notice issues with viewfinders and/or button layouts and even image quality. In the last few years, and especially so far this year, the game has changed. Cameras being introduced have much better Electronic View Finders (EVF) and much better sensors. Their capture performance has also gotten a lot better. Add to that the quality of the lenses and it becomes very obvious the game is changing.
As you may recall, I sold off my Nikon gear over a year ago. I sometimes miss the Nikons but that quickly goes away as I use these mirrorless camera with EVFs. I’ll have a whole article on the Olympus system as a small lightweight solution. The new Olympus Pen-F matched with the new 300mm lens is one incredible combo. The 300mm lens has a 600mm full frame equivalent as far as reach goes. It’s lightweight and with the IBIS that the Olympus cameras have it is easy to do hand held shooting. The AF tracking works really well too. Top all that off with great image quality. I am finding it amazing what a small 20 mp sensor is capable of as far as image quality is concerned.
The new Fuji X-Pro 2 is so much fun to shoot with. It has much faster frame rate as well as a 24mp sensor. The joystick focusing makes it super easy to set focus points. Kudo’s to Leica who debuted their joystick on the SL mirrorless camera. Now it seems that all cameras are moving in that direction. Fuji is on a roll and I know they aren’t through. I expect that they will announce the XT-2 soon and you don’t need to be a fortuneteller to know that we’ll most likely see a 24mp sensor dual card slots and more when that camera hits the market. What I have really enjoyed about the Fujis is their glass. They continually introduce new lenses and I own a bunch. I recently added the 100-400mm lens and coupled with the X-Pro 2 it’s fantastic. I can’t wait to put it on the future XT-2. I am liking the Fuji stuff so much that my next workshop in early June in the Palouse will be shot with all Fuji gear.
Sony is the company that seems unstoppable. I have purchased 5 Sony cameras this year. That’s a lot of cameras and I really like each one. These cameras are the a7 II, A7R II, RX100 M4, RX1RII and most recently the a6300. Throw in the new 24-70mm and 85mm lens and I am hooked. I am looking forward to the new 70-200mm lens soon. The a6300 is the newest camera. It is small and offers a 24mp APC size sensor. The EVF and 11 FPS shooting rate make it a really incredible package. The AF speed rate is really impressive. The image quality and especially dynamic range of the Sony sensors is also very remarkable. Rumors run amok about what Sony is going to announce next. I can’t wait.
Even Leica got into the mirrorless market with their SL model. It’s big and expensive but I applaud Leica for realizing the mirrorless market is important. The viewfinder of the SL is incredible not to mention image quality. We’ll have more about the SL soon. Leica also released the X-U, which is an underwater camera. I took this camera to Hawaii and really put it to the test. It’s a fun camera but like all Leica’s, a bit on the pricey side. I will say it is really easy to use and it can take a beating.
The take-away from this is that it is very hard to find fault with a lot of today’s cameras. Many are using the same sensors from a common manufacturer. Technology such as continuous auto-focusing with tracking or face detection with eye priority make the use of these cameras a lot of fun. Throw in special art and film effects and you have cameras that are doing things we would never have thought possible just a few years ago. Just about every one of these cameras does great video and many of them excel at 4K video.
The image quality from JPEGs as well as RAW files is amazing. Dynamic range and the RAW processing from companies like Adobe and Phase One allow you to pull the most from a file made by these cameras. And, making prints from these files is a lot of fun. The prints I have made from the Fuji X-Pro2 with the Acros film effect are gorgeous.
What I am getting at, and what you’ll discover in the upcoming reports, is that these cameras are all good. Each one is special and each one delivers excellent images. And, most of them feel really good in your hands. Maybe the only gripe I have is that some of these cameras are getting smaller and in big beefy hands like mine they feel too small. Never thought I would say that. I remember my first iPhone and it was small especially compared to the iPhone 6 Plus that I have today.
I realize that, as a photographer, I would have a hard time choosing which system to purchase. While I am a big fan of medium format high mega-pixel capture, I am seeing really good image quality from any of these cameras. And, if you need mega pixels you can get 42 plus megapixel cameras (RX1RII) that can fit in your pocket. Five years ago I never thought I would see that.
These days it is more important than ever to visit a camera store and hold and handle the camera. How does it feel, how does it handle, what do you think of the menu options? Do you want a retro style camera with shutter speed and f-stop rings like the Fuji? Or, do you want one that is a drive by wire like the Sony? More specifically you need to decide what you want to use the camera for and what you are going to need output-wise.
Today you have more choices than ever. It used to be making a decision between the big two Canon and Nikons. Nowadays it is between manufacturers that weren’t big names a few years ago. What about Canon and Nikon, where are they in this mirrorless game? First they are making some really good cameras in the traditional mirror box systems. The Canon 5Ds and the Nikon D5 and D500 are great examples of really fine traditional DSLR cameras. But, they are big and heavy. I can’t believe for a second that Nikon and Canon are sleeping at the wheel. I think we are going to be real surprised before the year is out. I think the game is going to get real interesting. I predict that Canon and I hope Nikon are going to announce full frame mirrorless cameras on par with the ones already on the market. Hopefully they will use the present lens line ups from these companies.
By the way, I guess most people are aware that one of the reasons Sony is popular is that with adapters you can use third party lenses which makes switching from a big DSLR reasonable if you can use your present Canon or Nikon glass. But watch out because the new Sony glass as well as what Sigma and Zeiss are offering for the Sony systems are really sweet.
The digital journey has been fun and interesting. Fifteen years ago we were comparing images made by digital camera with those made by film. As digital rapidly became accepted we began to ask for cameras that would eliminate grain and all the effects of film. Now we have many cameras offering film effect options to many folks that don’t even remember film or the film types being offered.
I have said it before and I guess I’ll say it again. “It’s a great time to be a photographer”. You can choose just about any camera, even your smart phone camera and make excellent images. They are all good. In the end you need a camera you feel comfortable with. Many of us are gear addicts and doing what I do is probablly not good for me because I have so much gear. I get to try just about every camera there is. I also own many of them, maybe way too many, but just maybe….. My addiction is satisfied.
So, choose wisely. We have a number of reviews coming up that should be helpful.
In the end though just go out and take a photo. Work with a camera that doesn’t get in your way. Use the features of the camera whether it is auto-focus, long exposure, high ISO or film effects. Also, don’t think for a minute that you need the most expensive camera or have every lens there is. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish with simple set ups. As I have written about HERE I know one photographer who used to have every camera there was and now just shoots with an iPhone. In the end, I have yet to have someone purchase an image of mine and ask what I shot it with. It seems only photographers are interested in that.
Have fun as that is what I do every day.