Friday, 22 February 2019

Looking Back on 10 Years of Mirrorless

In The Snow 
X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

I bought my first mirrorless camera in January of 2009, a Panasonic G1. Since that time I've also owned Fujifilm, Olympus and Sony mirrorless bodies, one Sony SLT and a number of Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus DSLR's. I'm a constant horse-trader, so these have mostly been purchased used with the proceeds of a previous sale.

Mirrorless is ideal for the way I work. The small sized bodies are around the same size & weight of the classic manual focus SLR's I prefer for film work, as are the lenses. The focusing experience is much better than AF DSLR's for manual work and I generally don't care about Continuous AF performance, which has always been the weak point for mirrorless. They're also small and unobtrusive, always a bonus for street & cityscape work.

As to the cameras:

The G1 worked very well for me initially, but I always had some challenges with its weakpoints, really with low light shooting which is what I was mostly doing in 2009 and 2010 when I owned it (it's still in the family, but the replacements have moved on).

The Panasonics have mostly worked pretty well for me. I've also had the G3 and GX7 and I purely loved the GX7, however it was the nadir of my shooting and I sold it off because I just wasn't really using anything at all. Frankly, if I'd kept the GX7 I might still be shooting it today, it really was a pretty good fit.

Olympus has always looked good on the initial experience, but come up short over time. With the E-M5 and E-M1 it was a combination of fiddly buttons and the camera getting in my way, I really liked the results and as long as the camera came out of the bag in the mode I expected it to be in. That said, IMHO the best work I've shot in the last 10 years on digital was with the E-M5. The E-PM1 was a nice bag camera and while it was useless in low light, I did like it in better light, especially when paired with the PL 25/1.4.

Sony was a mixed bag for me. The NEX-5's produced great images, but have terrible handling and all the limitations of a viewfinderless camera. I mostly loved the NEX-7's for street/walkabout photography, but they were useless on a tripod. The A7II went from mild like to mild dislike over time, I loved the ability to nail focus, especially with the ZF.2 85/1.4, but everything else slowly annoyed me, although never by very much. I really could have kept it if I had a reason to.

Fujifilm is interesting. I loved the X-A1's, my favourite viewfinderless camera. But it never worked as a primary for me. The X-E1 in 2014 was just not workable, the RAW conversion issues and speed were just too slow. It probably could be a successful alternative to the X-A1 as a bag camera though. Given my experience so far with the X-T1, I really wish I'd stuck with the Fuji stuff the second time around and added an X-T1 then, or even the first time and just shot JPEG until the RAW issues were solved.

The reality is looking back I never should have got out of m43 until the X-T1 showed up, and even then probably not. I would have had a much better experience if I'd just stayed the course rather than chasing the dragon. My basic m43 kit with the E-M5 covered all my real needs. Even today, I'd probably be just fine with an E-M1 or later GX series body and a handful of primes (12/2, 15/1.7, 25/1.8 or 25/1.4, 45/1.8 or 42.5/1.7, 60) And I could easily have put that kit together over the years. The same really goes for Fuji the second time through. It's clear than Sony and I don't get along.

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