The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:57 PM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
dSLR vs mirrorless cameras

How do dSLRs and electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens (EVIL) cameras compare? How do their lenses compare?


From what I've been able to gather, it seems that if you want every inch of performance you can get, dSLRs are your choice because EVIL cameras and their lenses aren't quite up to the best dSLRs yet. EVIL cameras and their lenses tend to be much smaller and lighter than dSLRs.

Is this right? How else do they differ?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 04-26-2012, 08:17 PM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 22,943
There are different types of mirrorless cameras. There are APS-C mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX series and Pentax K01 which have every bit the image quality of an APS-C DSLR. They're not as compact because they do use the bigger DSLR lenses.

Most of the mirrorless cameras which use four thirds or micro four thirds, which is a significantly smaller sensor size than APS-C. The benefit of these systems is that they were designed to be mirrorless from the ground up - their decisions about lens mount design allow lenses to be smaller and to function better for contrast detect AF - so they become smaller overall systems, but their image quality lacks compared to APS-C.

With advances in making APS-C cameras smaller, I'm not sure how much of a future there is in 4/3rds. I wouldn't want to invest in it right now. I'd put my Pentax K5 with the small limited edition primes against any 4/3rds system and beat them in size and image quality - but if I wanted a big telephoto, it'd be noticibly bigger than the 4/3rds equivelant.

The NEX-7 is an odd duck ergonomically but it's as good as any APS-C camera can be in terms of image quality. But the Olympus OMD-M5 is the new hotness in 4/3rds. A retro rangefinder style body with a pretty good sensor, that's a tempting way to go.

The newest mirrorless cameras have a cool feature called focus peaking, where it highlights the areas with the most focus (similar to a zebra display for blown highlights) which actually make them more effective combined with manual focus. Ironically, they are usually not made in the mounts that can use all the old high quality manual glass though. That feature will probably make it into DSLR live view modes though.

I've never used an electronic viewfinder, but a lot of people can't stand them. There's always a slight lag time, they're never quite really the real image, they're not as easy to track with - but some of the newer ones, especially the sony ones are their high end cameras, are very well regarded. And they can do stuff that optical viewfinders can't, like zooming for focus, showing changes of the effect of exposures while you dial it in, reflect any specialty modes like black and white set in the camera, etc.

Personally, I figure... mirrorless cameras are never going to fit in your pocket, so they're not going to be a camera you can always have on you. So you'll only take them when you specifically forsee photograph opportunities. But if you're going to be dragging along photographic equipment anyway, you might as well go a little bigger an get a DSLR. Not all DSLRs are giant Nikon monsters - the aforementioned K5 isn't much bigger than most mirrorless cameras, but has the best sensor of any APS-C camera out there.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-26-2012, 09:27 PM
Otara Otara is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Sensors is more two tiers for interchangeable cameras now, theres full frame DSLR's, and everything else.

The latest Panasonic 4/3 gets compared to the NEX 16mp sensor, and they're doing it at 6400 ISO, and there was pretty much nothing in it. Imaging review suggests printing at 16*20 inches up to 1600 ISO. For most people, sensors have moved into overkill areas and shouldnt be a primary buying decision any more.

The main issue for EVIL now is size, which can be both good and bad - multiple functions for one button, and size makes changing settings a pain, but its a lot lighter and easier to carry, so they're generally best used at auto type settings, rather than where you prefer to do lots of tweaking. Also autofocus for most of them still really struggle with fast moving subjects, with the one exception being the Nikon J1/V1.

But DSLR's do become a pain to carry, and for most people I think they're an ideal step up from compacts. After that it comes down to the particular camera and company, and intended subjects.

Edit: Lenswise the main issue is smaller lens ranges available and they tend to be more consumer grade rather than highend, but most people getting these just want the basics, rather than the $1000+ lenses you'll see with Nikon or Canon.

Otara

Last edited by Otara; 04-26-2012 at 09:29 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-26-2012, 09:30 PM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 22,943
There's a bigger practical gap between APS-C and 4/3rds than there is between APS-C and full frame. The biggest difference full frame allows is depth of field control - the APS-C sony sensors are amazing and often are just as good as full frame sensors in image quality. Or.. at least their contemporary full frame sensors which were somewhat behind the time. Still, the low light performance of a 4/3rds vs K5/D7000 is huge, difference between those cameras and all full frames except the D4 is minor.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-26-2012, 11:57 PM
Otara Otara is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
I guess we'll have to disagree about full-frame. Even the D800, a non low light focussed full frame, beats the pants off the K5 at low light ISO.

http://ninofilm.net/blog/wp-content/sensor-size-1.jpg

4/3 vs APS is nothing like the difference between APS and 35mm.

That K5 sensor is the same as the NEX one I quoted, the new 16mp 4/3 sensor is pretty impressive. And we're talking ISO levels that people only dreamed about a few years ago anyhow, anything under 1600 ISO for either camera, you can do picture sizes that most people never even bother with.

Otara
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:11 AM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 22,943
It may be the actual technology rather than the theoretical sizes, I suppose. FF is bigger than APS-C than APS-C is than 4/3rds, and yet APS-C technology for the last few years has been way ahead of both FF and 4/3rds. FF still beat out APS-C performance in a lot of cases simply because of the brute force of size, but per area of sensor, APS-C sensors were much better. Similarly, APS-C sensors were way ahead of 4/3rds sensors in addition to being bigger, exaggerating the difference.

I've seen 800 ISO shots on 4/3rds sensors that put out more noise than the K5 at 12800, but maybe the latest gen really improves that - I'm not really keeping up with it.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:13 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
I guess what I'm looking for is a camera that:

1) I can slip in my pocket.
2) Has manual controls or at least aperture priority+ shutter priority.
3) Catches plenty of light.
4) Has good macro capability.

I already have a Canon ELPH 300 which is a good beginner's camera but I'm looking ahead to see what's out there when my skill outpaces the capabilities of my camera. Perhaps what I want is just not possible at this time.

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 04-27-2012 at 12:15 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:14 AM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 22,943
Are we talking about a pants or shirt pocket, or a big jacket pocket? Because none of the interchnagable lens cameras are small enough to casually carry around in any sort of normal pocket.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:17 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Pants, perhaps a big jacket pocket. But I'd really pefer pants.


Are there non-interchangeable lens cameras that catch a lot of light or does lots of light require interchangeable lenses?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:27 AM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 22,943
Non-interchangable lens cameras use really small sensors, and the size of the sensor limits the light gathering abilities simply by having less area to catch photons on. See this. Most compacts are around the size of that smallest green box - 1/2.3". Which is a fraction of even the 4/3rds sized sensor.

The other factor is the lens - lenses will have different sized light paths which gather differing amounts of light to expose the sensor to. You want a lens that's capable of a smaller aperture. A lens with an F1.4 aperture captures twice as much light as one with a F2.0 aperture, which can gather twice as much light as a 2.8, which captures twice as much as F4. Widest aperture in most lenses decreases as you zoom with them - your 300hs has a F2.7 aperture at its minimum zoom setting, but if you zoom in all the way you're at F5.9.

The Canon S95 and S100 are really well regarded for image quality in a compact and they have F2 lenses at the max, which is twice as much light as your current P&S. But that's still not nearly the light gathering ability of a DSLR. But they are very pocketable and do have pretty impressive image quality in a lot of circumstances. The Olympus XZ-1 has a F1.8 lens, which is about as good as you can get in a compact. The Panasonic LX5 is also regarded as a good low light performer for a compact. The S95 and S100 have 1/1.7" sensors too, which are pretty big for a compact. Not sure about the others offhand.

Last edited by SenorBeef; 04-27-2012 at 12:31 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:43 AM
Otara Otara is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Theres the extending lenses for the 4/3, and various pancakes that might work, but anything longer in zoom and no way - the Panasonic GF3 is pretty small, and the Olympus Pen E-PM1. Check out the Nikon V1/J1. Theres also the Canon G1 X, which has a 4/3ish sized sensor, but isnt interchangeable.

Really you need to get to a shop to see them and decide. Or check out Imaging review for the dimensions, but dont forget about the lens length.

The bigger issue is that you're putting a pretty fragile item in your pocket. Compacts have smaller glass, and less moving parts when off. Forget pants Id say, unless maybe a combat pant type thigh pocket.

Otara
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 04-27-2012, 07:25 AM
Telemark Telemark is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Hub of the sports world
Posts: 15,507
Quote:
Originally Posted by SenorBeef View Post
Non-interchangable lens cameras use really small sensors
Not all compact cameras have small sensors. Well, at least one doesn't, the Canon G1 X which has a bigger sensor than the 4/3rs and almost as big as the APS-C. It's definitely a niche camera, but it is technically feasible.

Otherwise, everything you wrote was correct, IMO. The Canon 300 ELPH that the OP has is pretty good for that form factor. Going up to the Canon S100, Olympus XZ-1, and Panasonic LX-5 are about the best you do for pocketable cameras. The Canon G1 X and G12 are a bit bigger, but still mostly pocketable if you have big pockets.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:45 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
So far, I'm seeing Canon ELPH 300 if you want something really small with decent performance. Canon S95 or S100 if you want a notch up and Canon Powershot G1 if you want the highest performance camera that might fit in a pocket.

Does I correctly presume that Canon strives to pack a lot in a small package (to a greater extent than competitors)?
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:49 AM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 22,943
Well, the Canon Elph 300 came from the fact that you said you had one. Otherwise Canon S95/100 (same line of models, the S100 is newer but some people prefer the CCD sensor of the 95, and it's available used for cheaper) are pretty much the same model. Which means 2 Canons (S95/100, G1X) were mentioned, one Olympus, one Panasonic.

But I do tend to think Canon puts out the best compact cameras generally. They have the best jpeg rendering engine which is important when you can't shoot RAW (although the s95/100 can, and there's a group that develops hacked canon firmware to give most of their cameras RAW), and they're just generally good performers.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:31 PM
minor7flat5 minor7flat5 is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 3,653
To throw in an odd choice...

Last year I was in the same boat, looking for a "better than point-and-shoot" camera that I could carry with me. I spent hours reading up all the reviews in DPReview on micro 4/3 and others. Though I had expected to buy an EVIL camera, I was much happier with what I ended up buying. It fit my style much better:

Ricoh GR Digital III (they now are selling the GR Digital IV)

This camera is kind of ho-hum in appearance, but it has features I really like:
  • It has a fixed 28mm f1.9 lens
  • Macro mode is beautiful
  • The body is cast from magnesium; no cheap construction here, and it is pocketable. There are no fiddly bits to break off.
  • The display is bright and crisp
  • The controls are very flexible and totally programmable. You can override many of the buttons, and you can turn off all lights, indicators, and sounds to make the camera completely stealthy.
  • It comes with a locking selector knob with "MY1", "MY2", "MY3" on it, for my favorite configurations.
  • The flash only pops up if you pull the mechanical latch
  • There are "quick shot" features that enable you to take a photo instantly without waiting for focus (e.g. when the shutter button is fully depressed quickly, the camera can set a fixed focus at 2.5 meters)
  • The black-and-white mode has a cult following, perhaps the best B&W mode of any small camera
All in all, this camera is considered to be an excellent street photographer's camera.

Another camera that I would be looking at for a "tween" kind of camera would be the Canon G12. It is really the top end of point-and-shoot, with excellent controls and quality.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05-01-2012, 12:29 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 10,647
Quote:
Originally Posted by SenorBeef View Post
I've seen 800 ISO shots on 4/3rds sensors that put out more noise than the K5 at 12800, but maybe the latest gen really improves that - I'm not really keeping up with it.
Review of the latest and greatest from DPReview. Quote, from the conclusion page:

The E-M5 can't completely overcome the light capture disadvantage brought by its smaller sensor, compared to APS-C, but it reduces it to the point that it's irrelevant for almost all practical purposes. At which point we think its size advantage, in terms of both body and lenses, will outweigh that difference for most uses. If you're absolutely unwilling to compromise on image quality then spending twice the money and moving up to the bulk of a full-frame is the only way of gaining a significant step up from the E-M5.

I think significant being the operative word here. Still, looks pretty damn good and near ideal for my needs/wants ( like that small package a lot ).
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:41 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.