Cameras: Full Size Sensor + Mirrorless = $$$?

Sorry for the cryptic title but why are there so few mirrorless cameras with full size sensors and why are they so damn expensive?
Are SLRs really all that less expensive to manufacture?

Mirrorless cameras are new technology, DSLRs rely on decades of development (building off the film models) and change is incremental. There’s still a bigger market for DSLRs so you get economies of scale, but that will be changing soon. Size of the camera is a big driver of mirrorless cameras, and full sensor size works against that so the market for those is going to be lower, at least for now. Mirrorless camera systems seem to have poorer focusing speed and low light performance than DSLRs so the market for high end systems still skews that way.

Full size sensor cameras are expensive in general. Even entry level FX DSLRs are well into the $2K range.

In my experience, photographers go up to the full frame 35m dimension sensor cameras over APS-C sized sensors mostly for the image quality. The gap between high image quality APS-C vs entry level FX seems to be rather narrow, but there still seems to be enough of a difference for a fair sized market interest in entry level FX DSLRs, otherwise, they wouldn’t exist.

As for the mirrorless FXs, think back to when we got used M3s to do certain things our F2s and FEs couldn’t do as well. That’s what these new full frame mirrorless cameras remind me of.

Will be interesting to see if the rumors of a Sony FX NEX type cam are true.

All of the above is obviously imho. ymmv

I think you are falling into Nikon speak.

This. Being mirrorless actually makes them cheaper, the way smaller P&S cams are.

Yeah. I blame marketing!

Full Frame = the size and dimensions of 35mm film images (24mmx36mm). In Nikon, they call it FX.

APS-C = about 2/3rd the size of full 35mm (16mmx24mm on Nikons) — (causing the 1.5x, 1.6x crop factor when comparing lens coverage to full 35mm). Marketed by Nikon as DX cameras.

A nice look at sensor sizes.

I’d say that this has a lot to do with the economy of scale with DSLRs for the rich experience they provide.

By the time you start working with full frame sensors, the target audience wants all of the bells and whistles of a DSLR, with the TTL experience being very high on the list. That means expensive electronic viewfinders in order to achieve what comes relatively cheaply from the mirror mechanism, in addition to everything you would expect from a high quality camera.

I suspect that as mirrorless cameras proliferate and start to compete seriously with DSLRs in volume the prices will drop.

I say this as an owner of a mirrorless Fujifilm X Pro1 and assortment of XF lenses, which is a shockingly expensive kit even though it is APS-C and not full frame. I like the compactness and quality of the camera. It doesn’t have the bulk of a DSLR and doesn’t look as intimidating. But it is *not *cheap.

All I can say is you can have my 5D when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Both still and video, it’s given me artistic capabilities I never dreamed I’d have without getting back into chemical photography or winning a major lottery. Full-frame fuggin’ rocks.

Rangefinders have been around for quite a while haven’t they?
I understand the pros and cons but it seems that for certain applications a rangefinder is just a better option and I’m surprised it hasn’t been developed along side the DSLR.

If you mean mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, I think only Leica makes those. And they are expensive because they are made by Leica.

SONY makes a mirrorless full-frame camera with a fixed 35mm lens. Its list price is $2800, which isn’t that much more than a full-frame DSLR with a kit lens.

By the way, a mirrorless camera is not just an SLR with the reflex mirror & viewfinder removed. A mirrorless camera must have a live view (real-time display with fast frame rate) capability, and the larger the number of pixels, the more time it takes to read out the image, especially with CCD. I don’t think they even made APS sized mirrorless cameras until CMOS sensors of that size became widely available.

A “rangefinder” is a camera that has an optical rangefinder for focusing. Due to their limitations and complexity, they’ve been niche products ever since SLRs started to be mass-produced.

The modern “rangefinder style” cameras are very different. They use the imaging sensor for the viewfinder and focusing. It’s more an evolution of the compact (point-and-shoot) digital cameras; they have finally evolved to the point where they can be built with APS or even full-frame sensors, and have comparable image quality to DSLRs.

Early DSLRs had slow sensors that couldn’t provide live view. So they had good image quality, but they needed optical viewfinders, and couldn’t do video. They have now evolved to the point where they can do video and live view.

So the two paths have pretty much converged now. Mirrorless and SLR cameras both have large sensors with good image quality, and both can do video and live view. The only major difference is the presence of the optical viewfinder. But it hasn’t always been this way.

Not only Leica!

The Fujifilm line of XF-mount cameras fit the description of “mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras”. I currently am using 14mm, 35mm, and 60mm lenses and they are the cat’s pajamas.
Currently the Fujis are not full frame, but some day they will get there. If you want full frame “rangefinder style” with interchangeable lenses, you still have to go for Leica.

Maybe I ought to give up my daily coffee and bagel and put the five bucks in a bucket every day. Then sometime in the next decade I could buy a Leica with one really good lens :cool:

And about the optical viewfinder: Fujifilm has an excellent optical viewfinder in the XPro1, X100 and X100s; you flip a switch to go between an EVF and a true optical viewfinder with superimposed moving frame lines and other standard viewfinder info. Very useful when tracking quick movement. Leica, being a true rangefinder camera, has an optical viewfinder by definition.

I think the implication was that Leica has the only full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera currently available - the “M” series.

The number of mirrorless producers in general is myriad. Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony, Samsung, Pentax, Canon, Nikon all have dipped their toes into the market. The first four at least are producing great mirrorless models in m4/3 and APS-C mounts. Right now at the highest end they are rather more expensive than entry-level DSLRs. You’re paying for miniaturization plus that small market share. But they are making some great cameras that are getting quite competitive with those lower-end DSLRs at substantially smaller sizes.

Full-frame mirrorless is quite likely the wave of the future as EVFs continue to improve. The weight saving alone will start to drive it. How far off in the future is probably hard to say, but I expect it is coming.

Rumor sites have a Sony FF mirrorless camera possibly announced near some CES type show in early '14

Too many vague posts to bother posting any cite.

Personally, I think Photokina 2014 may bring out all the Big Boys with each of their own FF mirrorless. If not actual production ready cameras, then mock ups of things soon to come. IMHO, YMMV

Indeed! Also, op, note that prices of those Leicas are astonishing, even for someone who used to use classic and sell new Leica in my film and retail days.

So, the argument being put forth that what is otherwise available is actually somewhat reasonably priced considering, is pretty valid.

I think you’re right. And the cost of those pretty much excludes them from most people’s thoughts.

Anyway, I love my Fuji cameras.

The 14mm lens was quite useful ten minutes ago when one of the kids was sitting at the dining room table calmly spinning the hanging lamp until it suddenly unscrewed from the ceiling and fell to the table with a WHAM!

I needed that wide angle lens to get the astonished look on the kid’s face along with the full length of the wires pulled from the ceiling :eek:

Kid is fine, lamp is back in place, everything is working now.

Yeah, the main reason is that since you can get 24Mp in APS-C (half an FF - full frame) then the only real mrket for FF is a specialty one. That market probably prefers the traditional TTL (Thru The Lens) so a mirrorless FF is an even smaller subset.

As pointed out, without the mirror you need a form of live view. Even with APS-C mirrorless, the separate viewfinder is rare or an option (to simplify and keep costs down).

Also, to take proper advantage of the mirrorless configuration, you need a different set of lenses. DSLR lenses leave enough room between the back of the lens and the image plane for the mirror mechanism. Removing the mirror mechanism doesn’t make the camera much smaller or more compact, if the body including mount has to be as thick as before. The current mirrorless APS-C, The Nikon J1, the Caon M, etc - their selling point is smaller body, smaller lens, SLR quality pictures in something half the size.

To do the same with full frame would mean a whole new line of lenses to go with the cameras. Given that the market is specialty at best, more likely extremely limited - where’s the sales volume to recoup all those development costs? Especially, if you cannot use your existing lens investment with your new camera… If you had a $3000 lens for your Nikon 35mm SLR, you could likely use it with the Nikon DSLR you bought.

Lens adapters.

Sony Full Frame mirrorless!

Note that besides new lenses offered, a new A to E adapter is introduced, too (really good news for legacy lens users, APS-C format lenses will also mount via adapter).

I look forward to DP Review’s posting.