I’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading from our point and shoot for a few years, but this is the photo where I’d finally had enough:
Most people’s reaction is ‘SO CUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTE’.
Well, ok … yes they are.
But while they’re cute, when I look at this photo I also see a wonderful moment captured incredibly poorly. And it’s not like I got unlucky with this one shot. It’s the best of maybe 15 that I took. And there are so many wonderful moments that I fail to get any decent pictures of.
It’s so hard to catch a moment when they’re all smiling properly, all looking at you, all with their eyes open. And my camera is frequently too slow to catch those fast toddler movements sharply. As you can see, it’s also very noisy at times (I think light was a little low here and I also had to crop fairly aggressively).
So I finally decided to look for a new camera in earnest – and not a point and shoot this time. I have my phone for when I want a casual snap; if I’m going to go and “get my camera out”, it needs to be substantially better!
And that’s when I discovered that, at least in the ‘upgrading from point and shoot’ market segment, this is an amazing time to be buying. Here’s what I’ve been looking at.
This is just one example (the Sony NEX-7) of the new generation of ‘mirrorless’ cameras. The idea is to get rid of the SLR’s traditional moving mirror, replacing it with a fixed but translucent mirror that diverts just enough light for autofocus sensors, and also replacing the traditional optical viewfinder with an electronic version hooked up to the sensor.
In practical terms, this means autofocus can work continuously, allowing autofocus during video recording and also very high burst speeds (around 10fps is typical). The quality of the electronic viewfinders is supposedly still below that of optical ones, but the tradeoff is that you can get very rich overlays of information as well as the ability to preview exactly what the camera is going to shoot. The lack of moving mirror also allows these cameras to be smaller and lighter than they’d otherwise be.
The result is a series of cameras that are ridiculously feature-rich for their price. I sense a real atmosphere of excitement in all the online photography gear communities, including plenty of serious photographers. Here’s an excellent article about them from the awesome Trey Ratcliff:
You don’t name a category of technology by what it is not. I suppose we did use to call an “automobile” a “horseless buggy,” but now we look back on that quaint term and laugh. So, of course we will not call these cameras “mirrorless” for long.
The number of these cameras just coming out around now is incredible. Sony’s range (both the NEX and the SLR-sized alphas) have been out a while but are only just becoming available after the flooding in Thailand. Pentax have the K-01 on the way; it looks ugly to me but the backward compatibility with all their lenses is pretty cool. Olympus have the OM-D coming soon. Above my price range, there’s the Fuji X-Pro1. And there are a few older models around from Nikon, Panasonic and Olympus. I think Samsung have one too. And I’ve probably forgotten some!
So I’m now looking forward to a month or two of waiting for these new models to come out, and possibly a few rumoured new ones too – all while exhaustively reading every review under the sun. Because like any good geek, I love the evaluation phase of a new gadget almost as much as the purchase itself :)