Mirrorless Mania – Which one should I buy? Nikon 1, Micro 4/3, Sony NEX


Mirrorless Mania – Which one should I buy? Nikon 1, Micro 4/3, Sony NEX

Hello again to all! After this mornings post about the ISO 3200 walk with the Nikon J1, and the uproar that followed I figured I would post a few more thoughts on the J1 in addition to more thoughts on the other popular camera choices available to us today. There are so many out there looking to get into their 1st serious *but small* system and reading reviews sometimes can make it even harder! So what do you go for if you are not invested in any one system yet and you want a small but capable mirrorless camera that has interchangeable lenses? That is the question of the year it seems (or so my inbox says) but it is not always an easy answer due to the fact that everyones tastes are different as well as their needs. For example, one person may love a certain camera and another may hate it. Much like the Nikon 1 series.

BTW, this little J1 I have been using is not my camera. It is just a loaner so I could try it out but have to say it is almost enjoyable to use as the V1 (for me). There are so many hobbyists out there in the enthusiast camp that think of this camera as a toy but the truth is that just about ANY camera in the mirrorless segment that is out today is plenty good enough f0r 95% of our needs, even the J1. These are not “pro” cameras, at least I wouldn’t use them in pro situations but cameras like the Nikon 1 series cameras, the micro 4/3 cameras, the Sony NEX cameras and a few others are all highly capable and plenty good enough for most peoples everyday needs. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. but which one ignites the passion inside of you? THAT is the more important question.

My e-mails say it all. I hear it every day and get the questions “Micro 4/3 or NEX”? Micro 4/3 or Nikon 1″? Nikon D7000 or Canon Rebel”?

It really is a tough decision because like I said, all of these little machines are pretty damn good but NONE are perfect in every way, NONE. As of today, if you want the perfect mirrorless it would have to be a mix of four cameras. If we mixed the speed, metering and responsiveness of the Nikon V1 along with the EVF of the NEX-7, the sensor of the NEX-5 and the fun factor and great styling of the E-P3 we would be pretty close to the perfect mirrorless camera.

Then again, the perfect mirrorless camera does indeed exist if you want to get into the costs and time of film 🙂 But thats another story…

Digital is hot as ever, even in this so called recession and this industry is only getting hotter every year. Fuji is coming along with the X-Pro 1 which to me appears to be the closest of any camera released or announced to date in what I would call my perfect mirrorless solution. Then again, I have the best mirrorless camera made, the M9 🙂 Only issue with that is the cost and the insane prices of the lenses that were just raised yet again. The new Fuji is actually just about the same size as the M9 but in a much more affordable package. They are even releasing an M lens mount adapter so for the long term I think the new X-Pro 1 will be the ticket for those who do not want to invest the cash in the M system. I KNOW Fuji is gunning for all of  the people who want an M but do not want or can not pay the price. They did it with the X100 and succeeded by going against the X1. Leica will probably answer with the next X this year, at least that has been my prediction for the last year and a half and have said so many times.

But for now, this Fuji is real and it will most likely be the hottest release of 2012 if it doesn’t fall flat on its face with issues. I doubt that it will.

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So where does that leave the other cameras? What should you go for if you want a great interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that will do what you need and you do not want to spend a fortune? Here is my take as of today, Jan 14 2012:

Micro 4/3 – The Olympus E-P3/Panasonic GX1/G3/GH2 – This group of cameras are all really really good. Make no mistake, Micro 4/3 is in this to stay and have a rather large following. The lenses available such as the Olympus 12mm, Panasonic 25 1.4, and Olympus 45 1.8 are absolutely SUPERB. There are no lenses like this available for any other mirrorless camera, so in many ways this format is one you can invest in and be confident because LENSES are the heart of any system. I am also hearing that the Olympus PRO PEN may be released sometime this year, but who knows. If they update the sensor, give us a built in EVF and add the rumored weather sealing then they will have a home run hit. There has been a surge lately in Olympus E-P3 sales for some reason so Micro 4/3 is still hot. The lenses…they have them! My recommended kit? E-P3, 12mm f/2 and 45 1.8. In chrome 🙂 Cost – $1900

A few from the E-P3



Sony NEX System – NEX-3/5n, NEX-7 The Sony cameras are alsofantastic and Sony let us all know that they were in this seriously when they announced the NEX-7. That is a powerhouse of a camera with so many technological features it is almost like shooting a computer instead of a camera. Where Sony falls short is in the simplicity factor. Like I said, it is like you are shooting a small handheld computer. Their lenses are large, focus is good but not as fast as the latest M4/3 or Nikon 1 cameras and the metering is not always the best BUT their sensor and low light performance rock. The NEX series is great but the lenses are not as good as the ones available for M4/3. Still, fantastic images can be made with the NEX cameras. They have the largest sensors of the ILC’s to date. This means better low light and dynamic range. My recommended kit? NEX-7 and Zeiss 24.  Cost – $2200

A few shots from the NEX-7



Nikon 1 Series – The J1 and V1 – You guys know where I stand on these. I love them, and have been enjoying shooting them but in order to get the most out of the smaller sensor, which is indeed the smallest sensor of all the cameras mentioned here is to shoot RAW. No doubt about it. The RAW files from the 1 series are very hardy and much better than the JPEGS. These cameras are fast, accurate, have superb metering and really great video without the nasty Jello effect. They lose ground due to the small sensor and the fact that the only lenses available are very slow zooms. No shallow depth of field for these guys right now. The one 10mm prime, which will give you around a 28mm equivalent is an f/2.8 lens. Nikon needs some fast primes and when they release these (this year) I think more people will start to see just how good these cameras are. Even with the slow zooms the quality is there when you shoot RAW. I recommend the V1 and the 10mm along with the 30-110 zoom. The weakest lens is the 10-30. All have built in VR and it works well. This is my most used camera of the past couple of months. Cost – $1000.00

A few images from the Nikon J1 and V1

 So to summarize my fave three mirrorless cameras…

E-P3 – Great build, fast AF, good metering, good IQ with good lenses. Suffers in low light/high ISO.

NEX 7 – Feature packed, superb video, killer EVF, highest resolution. Lacks lens choices and lenses are large.

V1 – Great build, superb battery life, great EVF, Phase Detect and contrast detect AF, best metering, great video. Sensor size is small so no shallow depth of field until we get fast primes.

Not sure if that makes it any easier but these are all enthusiast models to some extent with the NEX-7 taking the prize for the most “enthusiastic”.  If you are looking to get into a new mirrorless system I hope some of my words help you out. I can not tell you what to buy but if you break down your needs and wants it should be fairly simple. I will leave you with a few shots from the “toy” camera of the bunch, the Nikon J1. 🙂


  1. Thanks for the tip; I read the article on the top of this page b efore posting. It had not been written though when I decided to buy into the Nex system more than a year ago.

    My lesson learned is:
    1) to have your focus clear, for me: portability and compact, good reasonably priced prime lenses (of course subjective IQ should be an okay compromise),
    2) not to assume that a system will develop in the direction of your focus; After the initial 16mm I expected Nex would come with other small primes, they didn’t.

    M43 has and had at the time the features I was looking for. So that is where I am now. Not to say I don’t like Nex. With its relatively big lenses It just doesn’t offer the combination of compromises I want in my specific case from a smaller system camera.

  2. @Roy Seems the Nikon 1’s are a feasible choice. Congrats.

    @Victor (see posts 55-58). I bought a new Epl1 +kit lens and the Pana 20/1.7.

    It is what I wanted and what I couldn’t find in the Nex system; Something pocketable that feels like a camera with a good, small and affordable fast standard prime. I will probably upgrade to an Epl3 for real pocketability but I first wanted a cheap entry into Olympus to get a feel for the system.

    It is also nice that the Olympus produces very good Jpeg’s for when I am not in photonerd raw mode.

    M 43 still has several lenses that I like in terms of price – quality. I can’t say that about the Nex system.

    Nex – at least to me – was in a way weaning, a process of partial transition to digital; I could say to myself that I could still use my Leica and Voigtlander glass. I won’t buy into a system anymore based on the use of legacy lenses or ‘expected’ lenses that may never come.

    Now the situation is clear. When I don’t want bulk I take the Oly M43 with one or 2 pancakes, to me a good compromise between flexibility. size and quality. When I don’t mind bulk I take a 6×6 (= 2 1/4 x 2 1/4) film Rolleiflex or Hasselblad.

    I will keep the Nex for notalgia’s sake to ‘walk’ my Leica glass from time to time.

    I should probable add that I have almost only been shooting black and white for decades.

  3. Hey, Steve, nice summary. You won’t remember but I went through the LX5, E-P2, E-P3, NEX 5N phase, and I cannot stand blurry photos of grandchildren or birds. So all of those cameras were relegated to times when I absolutely could not carry a DSLR. I knew the NEX 7 was coming, but I had a real bad taste for Sony after the 5N, so that was a non-starter. The Nikon got so many bad remarks that I was a bit apprehensive, but I figured, “It’s a Nikon, how bad can it be?” Man, am I glad I got the V1. It is better than many DSLRs I’ve used, and absolutely nothing less than a DSLR can touch it for speed and accuracy. Photos of my grandchildren are sharp, no matter which way they run, BIF is sharp, even for a long burst with the birds coming straight at my nose, and the FT1 has allowed me to use fast lenses, some manual focus, for nice portraits. The V1 rangefinder is extremely accurate, BTW. High ISO shots are better than my Olys were, so now all I have is my V1 and my D700. I am fearless with either in any situation.

  4. @alwin

    I read your comment again and noticed (if I’m correct) that you already have a NEX camera. In that case I really don’t feel like you need a micro 4/3 camera. The NEX sensor is outstanding, especially the one in the C3 and 5n. I don’t like the esthetics of the Sony cameras but to each his own right =)

    If you have the standard zoom and a summicron 35 than I kind of feel like you’re set. That’s a really nice kit and the camera collector in me is kind of envious!

    • Thanks for the reply. Yes, I do have a Nex and crave for a nice pancake lens like the Pana 20/1.7 or so. I am usually doing street photography so pocketability as well as AF are appreciated.

      I had the Nex 16 and it was a perfect pocketable street combination. I did not like the 24 mm angle of view for a standard street lens, though.

      That leaves me with the Nex standard zoom for AF work. I find that lens chunky for my taste, but the Nex body is tiny, so there is probably not much of a difference in bulk between an ep2 + 17/2.8 and a Nex + standard zoom.

      So you are probably right. There are trade offs in every decision and investing in a whole new M43 system may have too many trade offs when I already own a Nex.

      I am budget conscious when it comes to digital camera’s and I am reluctant to spend more than let’s say 500 Euro’s on a digital body.

      Maybe I better wait until nice compact primes appear for Nex and an M43 owner may then wait for the development of a low noise M43 sensor. If one doesn’t like waiting, he can go out and buy them all. Of course GAS is just taking over now and I simply desire an M43 system.

      As for the lenses, don’t be too envious. I did mainly black and white and invested years ago in a specific Summicron 35 because of the fabulous b&w rendering and some tele’s. I also have voigtlanders and jupiters that are great little lenses.

      • Well, the Olympus E-P2 can be had for a very good price with the 17mm 2.8 lens and I’m still very pleased with mine. Also you can probably get good deals on a good used E-P2.

  5. Being a micro 4/3 believer in large part because I like the feel of the cameras and there are plenty of great lenses! This is what really sets the micro 4/3 system apart from the others. The lenses! Micro 4/3 has a great set of glass made for the system. Actually the system has around 5-6 awesome lenses! NEX is great but all lenses except the superzoom and the Zeiss are subpar and the lenses for the 1 system are just ok or also subpar. Sure the micro 4/3 system has had more time to build up a good collection of lenses but that’s a reason to actually chose micro 4/3. It’s more or less a proven system now!

    • @ Victor, just some thoughts about the M43 – Nex discussion.

      Yes the AF lenses; that is why I would want an M43 replacing my Nex as a compact system (see post 55 above). Steve also mentioned the lenses as one of the reasons to go for M43.

      Speaking of compactness though, I can easily fit a Nex + standard zoom + Summicron 35 + flash, etc. in a small Lowepro Apex 100 AW bag.

      The Oly bodies are chunkier except for the epm1 and the epl3. These are not available second hand yet, so there is no budget way into the Olympus system if you want something really compact like a Nex size.

      The other thing is that my Leica 21, 35 and 50 lenses become useful 30, 50 and 75 lenses with the Nex. They become far less useful (for me) in the M43 system.

      So, I basically want a compact standard prime for the Nex. In the absence of such a lens I may go for M43 and keep the Nex as a digital Leica. Although I don’t like having 2 camera systems in the same class.

      I could also wait for the 19 and 30 Sigma DN lenses and stick to Nex only.

      Would you consider the Oly ep2 still a capable camera nowadays? I may take the ep2 as my road into M43.

      • It really is true that the 2x crop factor on the micro 4/3 system is kind of a downer for using legacy lenses like the fantastic Leica glass, not that I can afford any of that though, but I do use it with some great Minolta MD glass.

        NEX is a great system and I considered long and hard about upgradeing to the NEX 7 but chose not to upgrade from my E-P2 just because of the Sony AF lens selection.

        I do still think that the E-P2 is a capable camera today (mine sure is trucking along). Build quality is great and size and esthetics are really good. The vf-2 is a great viewfinder if you feel you need a viewfinder. ISO is good up to 1600 and acceptable in b&w at 3200. I use it almost everyday with the 17mm 2.8, 20mm 1.7 and the 7.5mm fisheye and with these lenses I feel rather complete! Lastly the E-P2 can be found new for very little money. I bought mine with the 17mm lens and the fl-14 flash for less than 400 dollars new (I live in Europe).

        The only real negative I have about the E-P2 is the AF speed! It’s accurate but a little to slow for my taste. That might be a deal breaker for some.

      • I agree with all who want a smaller “prime” lens for the NEX-7. The resolution of this camera, plus the EVF, makes this the best overall choice of the compact cameras. Sony has to understand that they must produce a smaller lens that would be equivalent to a 35mm SLR lens or they have dropped the ball.

  6. Thanks, Steve, that sums it up really well. My story from Nex to M43:

    I wanted a small set for the trips where I don’t take a DSLR, film rangefinder or film 2 1/4 x 2 1/4.

    So I choose a Nex 5 for the well known reasons ‘because I could use my Leica lenses’ and ‘Sony would probably come with a compact standard prime’.

    Manual focus is good on the Nex but I miss an AF standard prime. The Zeiss 24 is not exactly a pancake and it costs more than I would want to invest.

    So my Nex outfit leaves me with -what to me feels like – an incomplete compact system. Size and price wise I like the Oly 17 and Pana 20 lenses. So I am going to get myself an Oly micro 4/3 camera now.

    Maybe I should wait for the Sigma DN 19/2.8, but what is the price tag going to be? Or should I wait for Sony, guess not.

    From Nex to M43; who would have expected that 1 1/2 year ago? Well I suppose GAS is part of the fun of photography.

    Anybody any suggestions?

  7. Hey steve, your comment made me curious. What do you think is the best mirrorless film camera? I got the contax g2 last year and am still stoked whenever i use it.

  8. “The NEX series is great but the lenses are not as good as the ones available for M4/3.”

    Really? The Zeiss 24mm is not a top performer? How about the 50mm f/1.8?

  9. I think we are still 2-3 years away from getting a perfectly compelling mirrorless camera.
    No doubt the current line up includes great cameras, but they all have some imperfection of sorts (V1 – small sensor; Sony – no lenses; and so on)

    The Big hope – FUJI X PRO seems to contionue to path of hopes with issues:

    Exceprt from a first hands on review: (http://vladdodan.ro/blog/fuji-x-pro-1-hands-on-preview/)

    Auto-focus speed was decent. Not Nikon V1 fast but not too slow either. My biggest problem with the AF isn`t the speed though. It`s the fact that it hunts, and misses quite allot, if you`re looking through the viewfinder. If you`re using the back LCD it gets considerably better. (Still hunts but at least you can see if you have your subject in focus or not)

    The dials are well positioned but the back dial was a bit loose. That made it a bit difficult to use with the Quick menu. In theory they should work like a charm, I hope the production model will have a stiffer dial.

    The battery has 1200MAh – that`s 10% more than the X10 has and you get around the same number of frames.


    As I mentioned at the beginning of the article the body comes with 3 lenses. All X-Mount (this new X-Pro 1 mount).

    18mm f/2
    35mm f/1.4
    60mm f/2.4

    Combined with the filter-less new sensor in the camera these lenses should have a spectacular sharpness. I said SHOULD because I wasn`t blown away. Not by a long shot. They are good, for 600$ lenses but there`s room for improvement.

    The overall feeling of the lenses was 50/50. I loved the weight to volume ratio, but disliked the plastic feel. The focus ring is made of hard plastic and I would have loved rubber rings, or at least a tab for focusing. But that`s a wet dream, mostly because the system uses “Focus by wire”: a fancy concept for a ring that transmits info to a CPU that tells the lens to move. So there`s no way of knowing where the lens is focused just by looking at it. You have to use the distance scale in the viewfinder or on the back LCD.

    So manual focus is a something I wouldn`t try with this camera and lenses. It can be done, but that`s just about it. Nothing to brag about here.

  10. I have an M9, EP-3 and A77. All very nice mirrorless cameras. But take a lot of people shots. Can we drop the dishonesty about different lenses on different sensor sizes though.

    Steve, your photos demonstrate clearly that a 10-30 zoom is exactly that, regardless of sensor size. Mid-facial features are greatly emphasized, period. They are not particularly nice portrait lenses. This is the shortcoming of all the smaller sensored cameras.

    Great for some things, but garish for others. That’s why tiny cameras with short focal lengths will not truly replace FF and longer lenses. Well, one reason anyway. Sensor size matters too. But for the love of Mike let’s stop the ruse.

    • Are you trying to say that I get different distortion using a 45mm lens on a 4/3 sensor to that of a 90mm lens on a 135 sensor? ( I am using the accepted 2 to 1 ratio here). That being the case what happened when photographers moved to 5 x 7 plate from 9 x 12 then down to 6 x7 on 120 film and then down to 135 and then to APS-C. Does APS-C distort the central part of a facial image more than a 6 x7 if the correct equivalent focal length lens is used?
      Any way who would use a 10-30mm zoom on a 35mm camera to take a portrait, the nose would be far to big and dominate the picture if it was a frontal shot. If the camera was a V1 it would require a 35-40mm lens for portrait. The reality is, many just take pictures of family, the result being big noses and are quite happy with them.
      To minimise distortion the focal length of the lens must match the sensor dimensions, the number of MP has little to do with it.

  11. Just to share my thoughts on mirror-less cameras. I’ve used film SLRs (first one being an awesome Miranda, last Olympus OM 2s), but stopped lugging them around because of the weight and bulk, especially on mountains. I switched on a decent film compact, then to digital compacts, but was never satisfied with their IQ. When CSC came about, I was very interested. I chose an Olympus E-PL3 because of tilt screen and in-body image stabilization. I can use OM “legacy” lenses (actually not inherited, I bought them in due time) and, with IBIS, I can shoot at lower ISO (ISO>1250 is too noisy with the E-PL3). It was hard to decide for Oly over a Sony NEX 5n; my factor, aside from IBIS, was the “physical” buttons on the Oly, which give faster workflow.
    I’ve used the E-PL3 too short (< 1 month) to give further comments, but so far so good.

  12. Which one to buy? None!

    The Nex 7 wins in terms of user interface and size, but the sensor lacks in two aspects: 1. high ISO performance, 2. need for retrofocus/telecentric lenses which defeats the concept of mirrorless. Steve reported it does not work well with Leica glass <35mm. Indeed, when looking at the 24/1.8 the rear lens element is deeply recessed into the barrel. The new Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is officially said to have a telecentric design which explains the relative bulk of the lens with regard to focal length, f-stop and size of sensor covered. Perphaps a corporate committee or some marketing geeks (who did bananas or underpants on their preivious job) decided the Nex 7 should have 24MP to rule over the competition, but they never read a textbook on photography or asked the sensor designer about the consequences. I would buy it and live with the compromises, but not for the current asking price.

    • What are you talking about noise, especially compared to other mirrorless cameras?

      NEX-7 is definitely better on noise than any micro 4/3 camera or Nikon 1 -series. In fact it is on par with the best APS-C sensor out there when it comes to noise. It also has very high dynamic range and color depth.


      You just need to look at the images, not the pixels. Bigger sensor, more surface area to capture light – higher sensitivity. Pixel size has definitely less impact. And btw, Nikon 1 has smaller pixels than NEX-7

      • Unfortunately DXO doesn’t test for usability like AF speed, accuracy, AWB, metering, etc. As for sensor performance of course the NEX-7 will beat the E-P3 or V1, that is a no brainer. Interesting to see the V1 scored higher than the E-P3 though, which I have been saying all along and getting attacked for (through e-mail). As for high ISO, the V1 beats the E-P3 in real images – FACT. Ive done at least a dozen side by sides that show that the E-P3 has much more noise and mush than the V1 at ISO 1600 and 3200.

        • You are right about that. My comment was to Peter Z who among others have been complaining, that NEX-7 is noisy, when it is in fact one of the best APS-C sensors noisewise. Maybe not at pixel levels, but you always need to compare images, not 100% magnifications.

    • I tend to agree that the higher MP spec for the 24MP sensor (vs the 16MP in the 5N) is probably largely due to marketing mandate. However I’m not knowledgeable enough about this to say for sure.

      Could someone explain to me (in a few sentences or less) why, given that both the 24MP and 16MP sensors in the NEX-7 and 5N, respectively, are of identical size (surface area) and presumably recessed identical distances along the focal axis into the camera bodies, why the 7 has issues with some shorter focal lengths while the 5N does not seem to (as exemplified with the Leica lenses)? Why should the resolution of the sensor itself make a difference here? Could this also have something to do with why the SLR Magic 23/1.7 had some minor issues on the 7 in Steve’s review, while SLR magic reportedly had better results with a NEX-5?

      • The more MP the smaller the individual sensor and its mini lens (collector). This may mean that the short focal length lens has light hitting the sensor mini lens at an angle that is not ideal for high density but acceptable for lower density.
        Also the “experts” said the 4/3 sensor was inferior (noisy and soft and everything else) because the individual sensors were to closely packed. It is interesting to note that Olympus stayed with 12MP and now apsc sensors have higher density than the Oly 4/3. If the “experts” were correct then such high density will cause problems worse that any Olympus 4/3 sensor. Or was the “expert” opinion just elitism, rubbish and a superiority complex. After all the 12MP E5 was claimed by a German test organisation as having the best jpeg pictures of any camera.

  13. again very subjective review – liking Nikon 1 system too much (‘what it might be’) and wording 43 a bit more average (‘good lenses’ – should be ‘excellent’ lenses – small, sharp, lightweight, fast with more to come – many times beating even APS sized premium lenses which often need to be stepped down compared to m43 superb 12mm oly & comp is offering + from the listed system their the winner, so use Nikon wording – BEST lenses)…

    anyway, I am using what IS avaiable, I am pretty sure I might use Nikon V1(2) once it’ll get good lenses, which would also be small&light (not to contradict the sensor size – otherwise there’s NEX) it can be winner, but competition doesn’t sleep (70-200mm F2.8 constant aperture very compact zoom X-lens for Panasonic in mid year). For me, the m43 is clear winner, and I’m happy with RAW images from GX1 – hoping they’ll improve with DXO Labs/LR4.0 proper support in the future (they had time to get Oly’s E-P3 ‘right’ as it is longer on market).

    the winner camera name might be Olympus OM-D – to reiterate your thoughts ‘what might come – this one in february 2012

    P.S. another advantage of m43 system, which you should point out, is you can reuse the lenses on many cameras and STILL get all the features, like super-fast autofocus.
    – want a ‘RED EPIC’ video? –> GH2 hack
    – want a cheap entrance with good camera? –> used GF2/E-PL1 almost for free
    – in love with Oly like yourself? –> EP3
    – in love with Panasonic -> get G3, a great camera

    You can have 2-3 cameras depending on size/portability/viewfinder, and have the same lenses.
    I can’t reuse the lenses of Nikon 1 system as there is just one camera (indeed not counting stripped down J1) and Sony system lenses – as there is also just one (NEX7) or another one (NEX5) depending what you want – smaller/cheaper body or more mega-pixels with external mic option (nex5 can use only proprietary sony mic worth 2 pounds) and bigger-more expensive body. All the other models are JUST variations, e.g. pointless NEX3 (few pounds less than NEX5n and yet so inferior)….

    The same can be said about Samsung, although they have 2 models, with viewfinder or not…

    • You make some excellent points and as lenses are the core of any interchangeable lens systems, mft is the best choice overall. I took a break from mft and enjoy the V1, but if Olympus comes with a pro EP4 with the new 16MP sensor and integrated EVF, I’ll be back with the 12mm and 45mm primes. And hopefully we see a fast Olympus 20 or 35mm lens, build the same way the 12mm is. The Pana/Summilux seems nice, but the Olympus 12mm lens barrel focus ring and distance scale is simply more brilliant.

        • according to rumors what is almost 99% true on ‘pro-e-p4’ or better said OM-D camera:

          – IBIS still in
          – weather sealed!
          – viewfinder integrated, according to olympus should be ‘breath-taking’
          – 16MP sensor, probably tweaked G3 sensor like GX1 is using – so a bit dissapoitment but Oly isn’t sensor-making company so you need to look to Sony if you want revolution – not evolution/tweaking what you can ‘borrow’

          all in all, I don’t mind sensor, ISO1600 is possible with G3/GX1 and IBIS will help, the problem here will be the size (IBIS/weather sealing) so we will see…

          than, there’s 100% certainty a _much_ improved GH3 is coming soon so bring those m43 lenses for the best video-taking camera soon

          • Yea, I did see that information and am really excited. Between the Fuji, the new Olympus and what we already have…all of us gear heads will be in heaven 🙂

  14. Ladies and gentleman

    Samsung is the only one currently with
    85mm f1.4
    1:1 macro (60mm)
    and a whole host of lenses covering the various focal primes and zooms.

    For anyone who wants to use just native CSC, EVIL, MILC lenses
    Samsung is the most comprehensive choice.

  15. I’m all about Micro Four Thirds and E-PM1. It’s one of the cheapest mirrorless cameras, but it is the most full fledged compact camera I have ever used! It actually has a better AF system than the E-P3 with a 35 point AF grid and shoots up to 5fps. I use this camera with the 12, 25 and 45 fast prime trio. I can also use it in studio to trigger strobes. It’s the most fun I’ve had with any mirrorless camera to date. 🙂

  16. Steve,

    As I respect your opinion, I have a questions for you:

    I have an M3 and love it; however, film is not the future. What I would like is the M3 in digital but will likely never be willing to part with M9 money for a camera.

    Does shooting with the NEX7 come reasonably close to the digital rangefinder experience afforded by the M9? I ask the question in the context of physical use rather image quality. I own a 5n and a Pentax K adapter and am more than happy with the image quality rendered by the 5n.

  17. Hey steve, love the site. visit it daily.
    Wondering what the speed of AF on X100 is compared to that of the grd ii, iii and iv?

  18. Hi Steve, just wanted to say a massive thanks! I’m a relative beginner as always had a point and shoot. I always wanted to learn more about photography and improve my skills. I wanted a camera with all the manual controls of a SLR but without its size! I know I would take a smaller camera with me more often and that is what counts.

    For this last month or so I have spent hours and hours on the web doing research what to get. I had narrowed it down to the oly ep3, panny gx1 and the nex5n. I’ve probably used your website more than any other! Never had the chance to test out the nex, however spent a good hour playing with the panny and oly. In the end I went with the Olympus! It just ‘felt’ like the right one for me and went with my gut instinct.

    My mate has the GF1 and has about 5 lenses for mft cameras and had a great time trying them all out. He also had some great manual focus lenses he bought of eBay. It might not have peaking like the nex, however I thought it worked very easy

  19. “If we mixed the speed, metering and responsiveness of the Nikon V1 along with the EVF of the NEX-7, the sensor of the NEX-5 and the fun factor and great styling of the E-P3 we would be pretty close to the perfect mirrorless camera.”
    — yep, that’s absolutely spot on Steve, my perfect system!

    I’m getting bored of waiting for decent fast (affordable!) lenses to turn up for the NEX system, let alone my NEX-7 order. I have both an EP-2 (don’t see the point in upgrading if the EP-3 sensor isn’t significantly better) and a NEX-5N. Love the 5N’s sensor, tho the camera not so much something you love as just ‘use’, and there is simply not enough good native glass – I bought the a-mount adapter, but it just kind of defeats the point of a mirrorless system if you make it big again! I love using my EP-2 with the 12 and 45mm lenses – the only M43 lenses I own! – it is just let down by the ageing sensor, I get the sense that the lenses are far better than the camera – the total opposite of the NEX! I’ve seriously considered the Nikon 1 system from Steve’s raving reviews, but it has the same problem as the NEX, not enough good glass. At the moment my feeling is to sell the NEX gear, cancel my 7 pre-order and wait out Olympus releasing a “PEN Pro” with hopefully a totally new sensor and maybe a built in EVF. IQ of M43 will never be as good as the NEX system, but the Oly PEN cameras have an undefinable quality that makes them enjoyable to use, and that’s a big part of photography for me.

    • “If we mixed the speed, metering and responsiveness of the Nikon V1 along with the EVF of the NEX-7, the sensor of the NEX-5 and the fun factor and great styling of the E-P3 we would be pretty close to the perfect mirrorless camera.”

      Along with
      5N, EPL3 tilt screen and EP3 touch, 5N focus peaking.
      Ricoh modular (one minute stick a V1 sensor for safari reach & sports, next minute FF Mmount, the next Aps-c)
      Samsung NX 16-70mm, 85mm f1.4, 60mm 1:1 macro,
      X-P1 sensor (colours, dr, high iso, no AA) & manual dials.

  20. I’ve been reading pretty fiercely about these cameras lately (love your positivity and viewpoint, Steve!), and I definitely am in the market for one of them. They seem amazing little pieces of tech and I feel like either will be a joy to own. That said, would I be silly to sell my entry-level Canon (Rebel XS/1000D)? I own no expensive lenses (primarily shoot on my 28/1.8 and 50/1.8. I like to shoot on the street, outdoors, clubs/bands (I’m a jazz musician by trade), family, etc, and it seems like cameras like the V1 perform better at all of these things.

    Just having a hard time with the idea of the mirrorless camera getting all the love and leaving my Canon on the shelf. If I could get a few hundred bucks out of it, maybe I should sell? Anyway. Love the site, love the comments. It’s a joy to read!

  21. dgd:

    I just wonder why you consider the big, slow AF, loud/high volume shutter -XPro1 a street camera and not the SMALL, FAST, SILENT and INCONSPICIOUS J1 as a street camera?

  22. E-P3 arty
    J1V1 action, safari, sports
    Nex7 landscape
    Ricoh M just for leica lenses
    Samsung NX for its collection of mirrorless lenses
    X-P1 portrait, street, wedding, high iso, DR

    Id have one of each 🙂

  23. But the shallow depth of field depends on how fast lens are or just on the size of sensor ? I am asking cause I admit I am a total newbie, but reading your reports I thought it depends much more by the size of sensor, so a 5N even with the slow kit zoom 18-55mm will always have better-bigger shallow DOF than a V1 with very fast lens, right ? Thanks Steve or to whom will answer me 😉

    • .
      Luca, it depends on both. Well, it really depends on the focal length of the lens, and on its aperture (how fast the lens is).

      Let’s say you get SHALLOW depth-of-field with a wide-aperture (f1.4) 50mm lens on a ‘full-frame’ sensor. When you put that same lens on a micro-four-thirds-size sensor, the lens behaves like a 100mm lens (because light from only the centre portion of the lens reaches the quarter-sized sensor). So to get a similar look on m4/3 as a 50mm lens gives on a ‘full-frame’ camera, you’d need to use a lens of HALF the original focal length: a 25mm lens (which behaves like a 50mm would on a f-f sensor).

      But a 25mm lens (being a ‘shorter’ focal length lens) has inherently GREATER depth-of-field than a 50mm lens ..so much more is always in focus. For a 25mm lens on an m4/3 sensor to give similarly SHALLOW d-o-f as a 50mm f1.4, you’d need to use a 25mm with an f0.7 aperture! ..And you don’t find those very easily (..though Cosina/Voigtländer do make that 25mm f0.95 lens, which gives the equivalent d-o-f as a 50mm f1.8 lens does on a full frame sensor).

      So, using a smaller sensor instead of full frame (e.g; an APS sensor, or m4/3, or the teeny Nikon V1/J1 sensor) means that a ‘standard’ or normal lens has to have a much shorter focal length – the little Nikons have a ‘crop factor, or magnification factor, of 2.7, so the equivalent of a 50mm lens for a Nikon 1 would be an 18.5mm lens.

      To get the equivalent of a 50mm lens on full frame, you’d use an 18.5mm lens on a little Nikon. But being a much shorter focal length (18.5mm vs 50mm), this has far GREATER depth-of-field than a 50mm lens, and so to get any shallow d-o-f at all you’d need to use the ‘telephoto’ end of whatever zoom you use (e.g; the 30mm end of the Nikon 1 10-30mm kit lens ..equivalent to 80mm on a full frame camera) or a comparatively HUGE aperture (..divide any focal length by its f number to get the size of its front element).

      A 50mm f2 has a front element 25mm across, and a 50mm f1.4 has a front element 36mm across.

      For an 18.5mm lens to give the same shallow d-o-f as a 50mm f1.4, the 18.5mm lens’ front element would be also have to be 36mm across, and the lens would then have an aperture of f0.5 ..but Nikon just doesn’t make an 18.5mm with that wide an aperture! The aperture of its 30-110mm zoom is f3.8-5.6 (like many short zooms) and the aperture of its basic 10-30mm kit lens is f3.5-5.6. But these apertures must be multiplied by 2.7 to get the equivalent that they represent on a full frame camera ..so the Nikkor 10mm has an aperture of f2.8 ..but that’s equivalent to an aperture of only f7.5 on a 27mm lens on a full-frame camera!

      These Nikkor lenses are teeny, but they’d need really large pieces of glass (or plastic) at the front to give anything like the shallow depth-of-field which you can get with a bigger sensor camera.

      The Nikon’s 2.7x ‘crop factor’ means it has -s-l-o-w- lenses even though they have average-ish looking f- numbers ..that’s why the sensor needs to be so sensitive, as Steve has demonstrated: it HAS to perform well with such little light as actually reaches it!

      The Nikon’s crop factor also means that it needs what are, effectively, wide-angle (short focal length) lenses to match the size of the sensor ..so you get even GREATER depth-of-field from the combination of short focal lengths plus the effectively narrow apertures.

      You ask “..a 5N even with the slow kit zoom 18-55mm will always have better-bigger shallow DOF than a V1 with very fast lens, right ?..” ..Right!

      If shallow d-o-f ISN’T important, the little Nikon 1 cameras perform really well. But if you DO want to get shallow depth-of-field (out-of-focus backgrounds) ..nah; can’t really be done without Nikon’s 30-110mm zoom or its Vibration Reduction 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom lens for the 1 series (equivalent to a 27–270mm in 35mm format) either of which would then give some shallow d-o-f at the telephoto end. So if you want the Nikon 1, and shallow d-o-f, don’t get the 10-30mm kit lens; get the 30-110mm lens or the 10-100mm lens with it instead!

      • David thanks so much for all the time you invested to explain to newbie as me about shallow DOF. I really appreciated ! So if I learned well with 5N or 7 with zeiss 24mm f/1,8 you can get almost an incredible shallow DOF, right ? Something almost impossible with a V1 with any given lens, right ? Re-thanks 😉

        • .
          Well, I don’t think a 24mm would be a good choice for shallow d-o-f (..it certainly wouldn’t give “almost an incredible shallow DOF”..) because a 24mm f1.8 on the APS-sized sensor of a NEX 5n or NEX 7 would give a picture similar to (roughly) a 35mm lens at f2.8 on a full frame sensor (multiplying that 24 by 1.5).

          A 35mm, on full frame, is a slight wide-angle, giving a GREATER d-o-f (much more in focus at any aperture) than using a lens which would give the equivalent of 50mm on a full frame.

          If – instead of using a 24mm – you put a 35mm lens on a NEX, then that (multiplied by 1.5) would look (roughly) like a 50mm lens does on a full frame camera, with far SHALLOWER d-o-f than using your original choice of a 24mm.

          The aperture you suggest (f1.8) would be the equivalent (roughly) of using an aperture of f2.8 on a full frame camera.

          So for you to get the equivalent effect (..with an APS-sensor Sony NEX camera..) of the shallow depth-of-field of, say, a 50mm f1.4 on a full frame camera like an M9 ..you ought to put a 35mm f1 lens on the NEX! ..that’d be hard to find! ..though Steve has tested a Noktor ‘Hyperprime’ 50mm f/0.95 on a NEX (results were a bit soft at wide apertures) which gives the equivalent of a 75mm f1.4 on a full frame. (..See Steve’s comparison here: http://tinyurl.com/6whexm9 ..)

          Using a slightly longer lens on the NEX than a 35mm – like a 40mm, or a 50mm, etc – you’d approach the shallow d-o-f which a 50mm f1.4 gives on a full frame camera. The longer the lens the better, and the wider the aperture the better.

          A 50mm f1.8 on a NEX looks like – and has the shallow d-o-f of – a 75mm f2.8, and an 80mm f1.8 would look like a 120mm f2.8 ..which would give very nicely shallow d-o-f, and is probably the kind of effect you’re looking for.

          So a zoom on a NEX, set to about 80mm, might do what you want, but the apertures of the Sony zooms don’t go as wide as f1.8. If you used a Sony E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 at about 100mm you’d be getting near to what you want.

          So – in summary – no: 24mm is too ‘short’ to give shallow depth-of-field, because it becomes roughly 35mm when used on a NEX. Aim for at least 80mm. And f1.8 on a NEX gives results which look like f2.8 on a full frame camera ..so go for an even longer focal length – like 100mm – to counteract the greater depth-of-field which f2.8 gives.

          The bigger the sensor, the shallower the depth-of-field. So if you want really shallow d-o-f, the only easily effective ways to go are -l-o-n-g- focal length (and stand well back from what you’re shooting) or larger sensor. (And larger sensor usually means larger camera – with bigger lenses, etc.)

          If you’re dead set on shallow d-o-f, why not get a cheap 35mm FILM camera with a 50mm f1.8 lens, shoot sparingly (only 36 shots on a roll) and get your pictures scanned? The camera and lens will be cheap ($60?) but the film and processing will cost a bit. But it’ll give you a chance to experiment, and find what you REALLY want to do, and find the “look” which suits you. Seriously.. why spend $600 and not be satisfied, when the look you really want may cost only $60 for an old Pentax Spotmatic? ..or, better still! ..an old Olympus OM1 and 50mm f1.8 lens!

          You couldn’t do better than that. And you wouldn’t have to trade it in every 8 months when a more “appealing” or “upgraded” camera comes out! ..AND it’ll hold its value if you do want to sell it in 8 months!

          • Too bad, I wrote a long answer and it disappear when I clicked submit comment and obviously I forgot to save it….

            However thanks again David.

            To make long short. I thought to buy a x10, but too small sensor to get shallow DOF or bokeh ( it is the same right ? ).

            So I thought to x100 but it is too problematic in slow speed, 7 seconds to save raw file, menu is so and so and I find a non sense to have a camera that needs to format card every time to get a decent speed, pity coz I liked her look.

            So here we are, at 99% it will be NEX 7 but yet not decided the lens.
            You wrote a 24mm f/1.8 gives not great bokeh, but in the review of Steve we see many examples of great bokeh, subject in focus with backgrounds totally out of focus, so what I am missing here ?
            On nex 7 50mm 1.8 is better ? Cheaper surely, but so far as I want to use camera to shoot landscape, sunrise-sunset, street photography and portrait with bokeh a 50mm ( so 75mm on full frame ) is not too much tele ?

            Thanks but not considering to buy film camera.

            Thanks for your patience.

            P.S. are you czech ? Coz there is one in FB with your same name-surname. Me I am the same there and here.

          • .
            Dear Luca,

            No, I’m not Czech ..my grandparents came to England from Russia.

            “..I thought to buy a x10, but too small sensor to get shallow DOF or bokeh ( it is the same right ? )..” ..Right!

            “..So I thought to x100 but it is too problematic in slow speed..” ..agreed: the quality of pictures from the X100 is excellent, but the focus is slow, there’s only one fixed lens, etc. Other people may say it’s marvellous, but – for ME – it’s pointless. (Leica, for example, stopped making fixed-lens cameras in 1930 ..that’s 84 years ago.)

            About the 24mm f1.8: “..in the review of Steve we see many examples of great bokeh, subject in focus with backgrounds totally out of focus..”

            Yes, but ONLY when what Steve’s shooting is CLOSE TO THE LENS. If you shoot something 2 or maybe 3 feet away (1 metre) at f1.8, then the background will be blurred. But if you shoot further away – say 1.5 metres or 2 metres away or further – the background will NOT be blurred. So you get background-blur ‘bokeh’ only with CLOSE shots.

            “..so far as I want to use camera to shoot landscape, sunrise-sunset, street photography and portrait with bokeh..” ..Well, a 24mm on an APS sensor – like the NEX 7 – will behave like a 36mm, and you should get great “landscape, sunrise-sunset, street photography” but with no bokeh, and for “portrait with bokeh” you’ll only get ‘bokeh’ if the person you’re shooting is close to the lens, like Steve’s shots here: http://tinyurl.com/7u7mxnr

            But if you shoot a portrait with the person CLOSE to a wide-angle lens, like a 36mm (which is how a 24 behaves on a NEX camera) that will emphasise whatever’s closest to the lens (for example, their nose) and will make that part of them look bigger than the rest. A wide-angle lens INCREASES THE DIFFERENCE IN SIZE between what’s close to the lens and what’s further away. People normally use a normal or long-ish lens for a portrait, so that it doesn’t emphasise ‘perspective’, and make a person look a bit odd.

            “..On nex 7 50mm 1.8 is better ?..” ..Yes, for portraits, as it’ll behave like a 75mm lens when it’s on a NEX ..and that’s great for portraits. But it’s probably not great for landscapes!

            So what you need is a wide aperture (for bokeh) ZOOM on a NEX, so that you can use it as a wide-angle or normal lens (for landscapes) and as a normal or slight telephoto (for portraits).

            But there are no really wide aperture zooms for the NEX (they are around, roughly, f4 ..not f1.8), so you may need to get two lenses: a wide-ish one for landscapes, street photography, etc, and a longer one, like a 50mm with a wide aperture, for portraits.

            There’s always a “down-side” to whatever you want to use: some lenses are good for some things, but poor for others!

            “..Thanks but not considering to buy film camera..” ..Okey-dokey; I just thought you might want to give one a try: they have a bigger sensor (piece of film) than a NEX or any APS camera (same size as a Leica M9 or a Canon 5DMkII) at a tiny fraction of the price!

  24. Thanks Steve, exactly what I needed right now. Im going for the J1 as my mirrorless option.. As I have mostly been using the Panasonic LX3 for street photography last two years Im so tired of only being able to shoot it at the widest focal length because of the slow AF and hopeless manual focus on all the other focal-lengths..
    With the J1 I can use any focal-length I want and still get lightning-fast AF, no matter what. Of course I would love the image-quality of the Nex 5N.. But to high shutter noise/volume and slow AF just turns me off..
    I have extensively tried raw- files from both the GX1, Nex 5N and the J1 and I come to the same conclusion as you. The J1 is on par with the GX1 or slightly better when it comes to rendering the highlights/blown highlights. The only mirrorless camera that beats it image-quality wise is the Nex cameras. (NO, IM NOT TALKING ABOUT RESOLUTION YOU FOOLS!) When printed, the colours , skintones and natural- feel of the image is all that matters, at least since we took the step up from 4mp sensors. So the Nikon 1 system is when all is summed up the absolutely best mirrorless system out there.

    If I could only get/afford one camera, I would go for the Nex 5N -to be able to have some shallow dof and excellent image quality. But I already have the excellent image quality and short dof in my Nikon D3 so for me, the J1 would be perfect. And especially for street photography.

  25. Thanks for the great summary Steve. I’m getting back into photography after a bit of a break. Found a great camera club in Dallas that has me pretty excited about shooting again, and your site provides great inspiration. Looking to move from my Nikon DSLR system to a more portable camera set-up and patiently waiting for the Fuji x pro1 to be released. Hoping I am making the right choice with all the choices out there. The X Pro1 reminds me of my old Contax G2 so for that, I am truly excited about being inspired again. Thank you again for all of the great information that you provide here.

  26. I looked at the X1P at the CES and was bit underwhelmed. The viewfinder is great, I assume the image quality will be good as well. I think I expected the dense feel of the M9. The X1P is nicely made but feels more like a lighter metal camera, not like a metal block. This has pro and cons, but it clearly feels cheaper. My biggest surprise was the aperture ring. The clicks were almost not noticeable. I had a scratchy, unprecise feel to it. It could have been worn out but that wouldn’t be a good sign either.

  27. I agree with Steve on Fuji X-Pro1. They appear to have really focused on IQ which is the highest priority for me in a reasonably small balanced package. I am excited about it as long as the usability is there. I am waiting for the hands on reviews.

    I have an issue with Leica’s cost, not just because of the money (I could afford it) but because of the much high likelihood of it being stolen. Who wants to own a camera and lens that you need to always worry about someone stealing or wanting to steal. I noted one Leica user who said he won’t even shoot in areas where he feels are unsafe and hence may attract thieves. Who wants a system that gets in the way of photographing what you want to photograph.

    It looks to me that Fuji is going to deliver most of the IQ of a Leica in a much more affordable system that we can take anywhere 🙂

    • The Ricoh is rumored to plan to bring out an unfiltered B&W lens-sensor-module. That means that you get many times the resolution of an interpolated color image. Designed wisely this module should be able to produce fantastic IQ AND very high ISO capability for dedicated B&W photography.
      A must have once it gets here !

  28. Thanks for the summary. This answers most of the questions I had. I would also be interested to hear your thoughts on the GX1 in this context. I like the fast autofocus, the size of the new X-lens zoom, and the ability to put a fast pancake on it for good bokeh. (The 20mm maybe?)

    The main reason I like it better than the J1 is the default seems to be to run the ISO up rather than run the shutter speed down.

    • The GX1 is nice but I feel that camera is a but overpriced. Id rather have an E-P3 (and do). The GX1 I had was sent back. It’s AF was not faster than the E-P3 and I prefer the new Oly lens offerings, which look better on the E-P3 and the E-P3 has in body IS, feels nicer, and I prefer the color of the Oly palette. With that said, the GX1 is like a slimmed down G3 without the EVF but priced higher and is a great choice for Panasonic fans. The GX1 and the 20 would make for a great combo.

      • I know I am swimming upstream on this website…but I think that the Olympus lenses look positively beautiful on my GX1. Shot this image to show it. I think form follows function and I love a modern looking camera…The GX1 fits that bill. Steve is very cool..he says he likes the E-P3 better…but this is just as nice…no doubt. LOL!

  29. Since I read the review of the Nikon V1 (the camara you were supposed to hate) I was more in to that camera. But something I like of this type of camara is the shallow (off focus) deep of the picture. I think I wait for a fast lens to come in to see the results.

    I almost buy the nex 5n a few weeks ago.

    Thanks Steve I have learned a lot thru your blog.

    • Thanks! Yea, that is the weakness of the 1 system…no real shallow DOF unless you shoot the 30 -110 and shoot somewhat close up. Some are waiting to see what Nikon releases lens wise this year.

  30. If Olympus only updated the EP3, new 16MP sensor, integrated EVF, then it would be no contest anymore as far as I’m concerned.

  31. Steve. Thank you for this very useful article. I’m soooooo close to making a final decision now 🙂

    How did you take those amazing sky photos on your Nikon J1/V1? Were there any post productions? Looks very cool!!!!

    • Thanks. That was with the J1 I believe. Was driving and the sky looked deep and cool so I just aimed the camera out of my windshield in A mode and snapped. Came home, processed the RAW files and that was that. No editing in Photoshop at all. In the RAW conversion I bumped up the saturation a bit to get the color I wanted and brought up the black level a tad.

  32. Steve great topic–along with this I would love to see a review of some AFFORDABLE legacy glass for MFT/NEX as I love my Rokkor 50mm f1.4, Canon FD 24mm f2.0, etc all of which are under $250. Keep up the great coverage as mirrorless is the hot ticket for both amateurs and serious alike.

  33. I was just wondering why you totally ignored Samsung nx 200. Although nx100 didn’t have the best sensor nx200’s sensor is very good and very close to nex7, people can have a look at any of the reviews out there. Also lens line-up is quite interesting, several fast tiny pancakes-35mm f/2 for example. Also samsung 85mm 1.4 is simply superb lens.

    I don’t get why ignoring Samsung NX other than pure snobism as they are huge corporation whose camera history can’t match Olympus for example but then again they used to colaborate with pentax and made some very good traditional dslrs

    • Slow RAW processing times, and lack of EVF maybe the reason many are put off the Samsung NX200 – I know I was. I love the design, good range of prime lenses and excellent sensor. I believe they are the camera maker to watch in the future, and will take on Sony in the “Mirrorless Mania”.

    • Not that I’m a specialist or anything, but I’m owner of the NEX5 and the samsung NX looks like a plastic unpractical toy next to it… I hope for them that the IQ rocks !

      • I’ve got my hands on a NX 200 lately in a local shop and it definitely feels very solid, much more than my Nex 3. Using it seems quite nice from my first impression. But the slow raw processing and huge files is definitely something that i don’t like!

    • Well…I never tried the samsung so couldn’t write about it. I have had a couple of friends who bought one and then returned it as they did not care for it as much as other offerings. I tried to get one sent to me but no luck.

  34. I love the fantasy mirrorless carmera discussion…
    Mine would be:
    IQ of the Sony 5 of Fuji XP1 (if it is as good as reported)
    The small-sized lens choices, f/stops and mm-range of MFT
    The focusing speed and frame rate of the Nikon V1
    The LCD of the Sony 7
    As far as the VF goes…i would be happy with an accessory ad-on VF if it kept the overall bulk of the camera down…or a rangefinder style VF in the quality range of the Sony.
    I would like the handling to be in the realm the Pany GX1 slightly LARGER with as many manual controls as are possible.

    I guess it is very difficult for one manufacturer to have all of these resources, manufacturing, design ability and vision. It is a LOT to put in one package.

  35. Im Wellington my micro 4/3 sistem waiting for The NEW fuji ? Im rally happy with The x100.


  36. Ciao Steve, I have the same question as KHBARKY, why you never considered the samsung nx200 ?

  37. Problem with the NEX7 is that its not available anywhere. Steve, I know you get your hands on a lot of cameras so you probably forget what the viable options are for the rest of us 🙂

    At this rate with the SONY flood issues, we’ll likely see the X-Pro1 before the NEX7. Great timing for Fuji. I just canceled my pre-order of the NEX7…I wasn’t really happy with the high megapixel, low performing noise characteristics of the samples I was seeing. I do have the Fuji X-100 and that for sure takes some great pictures. If X-100 was a sign of things to come, then I’m all in for the interchangeable lens version (XPRO!) .

  38. For me, the Micro Four Thirds system was a huge factor and, good though the J1 may be, the handling was an instant turn-off. In the end, I got an E-PL3 as my travel camera because of the price, quality and in-body image stabilisation. The solid build, fast focus, decent controls are spot on and I’m not a pixel peeper. I was originally sceptical about the tilt screen, but actually it makes a perfect waist-level finder for street photography.

  39. Though I am itching to buy a new street camera, I am not buying any of them right now. Sony has the only acceptable EVF, while Fuji is showing the way toward better sensors and images. I want both in my next camera.

  40. The basically says it all, even if debating on perfect mirror less makes little sense. It s more about the mean for the photography needs. As such, I agree with all your statements except on fuji. I like their handling and size even less than the toy camera from Ricoh.

    Also price plays a role. For a person like me with d700 set for which the photographic limit is me, it was about portability a a budget that does not compete with such high quality set. Hence, the v1 was my preference.
    If I had the desire for one camera only, hence with room to invest in glass and so,mthe Sony would probably have been my choice for their serb evf and sensors.

  41. as an owner of an ep3, g3, nex5 and M9, I picked up an nex5n just before Christmas, and got an evf for it in b&h in new york. I have to say that even though I have the oly 12mm and 45mm, tge ep3 wont get much use now that i have this camera, I’m totally blown away with the sensor performance of the 5n. I’m using it almost exclusively with the summilux 35mm and the images are the closest thing to an m9 you’ll find, but with considerably better high ISO performance. seriously, 1600 on this cam is like 400 on an m9! I haven’t even used the kit zoom and don’t think I ever would unless shooting video, I love the narrow depth of field effect too much. it’s not perfect, the movie record button keeps going off and can’t be disabled. The diopter adjustment on the evf is fiddly and I’d like some of the buttons to work differently but for making impressive, grown up images, with Leica lenses, it’s such fun to use!

    If I was doing a paid job where I needed lots of stock images, the ep3 and it’s great lenses would be the choice, but if you want jaw-dropping images the nex5n is not far behind the M9

    • .
      “.. The diopter adjustment on the evf is fiddly and I’d like some of the buttons to work differently but for making impressive, grown up images, with Leica lenses, it’s such fun to use! . . . if you want jaw-dropping images the nex5n is not far behind the M9.”

      The Leica module for the Ricoh (don’t laugh!) GXR doesn’t get much of a mention – OK; Ashwin reviewed it http://tinyurl.com/76fxvva ..and so, in passing, did Steve: http://tinyurl.com/7pttffc

      The dioptre adjustment on the GXR’s clip-on viewfinder is simple and easy. And “..for making impressive, grown up images, with Leica lenses..” it’s far, far better than, say, an M8 ..or other APS-sensor devices.

      It gives – for me; maybe not for Ashwin – lustrous deeply-coloured images with extremely accurate light measurement: holding highlights well and giving deep, fall-into-the-well shadows. Its “peaking” and focus magnification are absolutely precise, and you can save umpteen different profiles (one for each lens you use) in the module and/or on your memory card – to show lens details in the EXIF files, for example.

      It offers the normal ‘clunk’ mechanical lens clatter, but also an absolutely, utterly silent and unnoticeable ‘electronic shutter’ mode for stealthiness.

      It’s a chunky camera, but much smaller than the M series, and with none of those “is the rangefinder out-of-alignment, or is it me?” focus discrepancies. It has so very much more flexibility with Leica lenses than other APS or m4/3 cameras (crop/magnification factor = 1.5) or even the M9; it offers automatic interval shooting, “peripheral illumination” (vignetting) correction and distortion correction (oh, and automatic correction of converging verticals of you choose that).

      You say, Neil, “..I’d like some of the buttons to work differently..” ..the Leica GXR module gives COMPLETE personalisation of all the buttons on the back ..the first “soft camera”? ..and such fine tuning of every operation that it’s just as if Ricoh had built the thing to your very own specification!

      I never used to like Ricoh in the days of film (rather cheap knockoffs) but the Leica module for this GXR body is really superb. My favourite combination? With the compact Leica 75mm f2.5 ..becoming an f2.5 110mm “short throw” (90 degrees twist from infinity to .9 of a metre; three feet).

      It has a locking PASM knob (no more accidental ‘adjustments’), decent battery life, 16x “chimping” playback zoom (quick jump to 9.8x or continuous adjustment between 1 and 16x), same-magnification jump to other images, constant ‘spirit level’ display (if you select it), no anti-alaising filter (just like the M8) to get the last scrap of quality from each lens, but NO infra-red false colours (which the M8 had). Its sensor and micro-lenses are tailored to match exactly what’s coming out of the back of Leica/Leitz lenses, and it’s a really brilliant camera if you want to use Leica lenses (primes only, I’m afraid: there are no Leica M zooms, except the w/a 16-21mm ‘Tri-Elmar’ ..but adaptors are, of course, available for those big, heavy, restricted-range Leica R-series zooms).

      It sounds like the Sony NEX 5n really suits you – but for anyone who’s undecided about which smaller, APS camera to use with existing Leica lenses, take a serious look at the GXR and Leica M module. It’s cheaper than an M8 or M9, and gives really glorious results.

      Of course, Seal would say that using this with Leica lenses is just dressing a monkey in a tuxedo. I think this is a lower-cost, high-specification, really viable Leica-alike. I daren’t think what would happen if Ricoh made a full-frame version of this Leica module..!

    • Using M lenses with the EVF of the 5n is fantastic. I found it super close to the M9 as well and even did a side by side between the two using a 50 Lux. Differences were MINIMAL. The 5n is in all reality, the best IQ NEX available.

  42. Good post, confirms my decision to pull the trigger on the Nex 7 ^_^

    And you forgot to mention the 10fps burst mode of the Sony Nex 7 – fastest of any mirrorless (and more than most DSLrs).

    Nex 7 wins over all the cameras listed above in all departments except lens compactness. It is not that complicated to use if you have used a DSLr before. Although the menu system is convoluted, it solely because the camera can do so much more than the competition – mirrorless or not.

    • The 7 burst mode locks focus and exposure in that mode though, but can still be useful. The V1 has a 30FPS burst mode but also locals the AF and exposure.

  43. Hey Steve, very nice summary. I noticed that you haven’t really posted anything about your X100 lately and I was just wondering if there was any specific reason for that. Back in October I ended up buying a Nex 5n thanks to your review and I’ve been having a real blast using it. I feel like having a camera that I could take everywhere coupled with being forced to use manual focus (I only used Legacy glass) really helped me improve my photography. I really do love the 5n but I can’t help wanting to own an X100. The looks, OVF, and image quality really seem to appeal to me so I was wondering if you would still recommend the camera to people over other options such as the EP3 or Sony Nex? Thanks for your time and for always managing to inspire me to improve my photography almost every day!

    • I sold my X100 after purchasing the V1. The slow Af was getting to me and I found myself using the E-P3/V1 instead. Can’t keep them all so I sold it. I also knew Fuji was coming out with the X-Pro 1 so…

      • Well, how can you sell the X100? I really agree with your comment about the AF. It’s indeed not that quick and precise.
        I also have an Oly. For two weeks ago my X100 was out for a repair. Now, when it’s back I know again what I was missing. My Oly has not been out of the cupboard since the X100 came back. The Fuji is a strange camera, because I love it and I hate it, at the same time. But, there is a big gap between an Micro 4/3 and the X100, in my opinion. For me, I use the Oly when going to the zoo or such a things, but the Fuji when going out for making pictures. For that, it surprises me every time!

  44. A pricing option
    I recently bought an EP-2 – yeah! still a good camera! Brand new £249. (as opposed to £700 for an EP-3)
    I figured I’d spend my money on decent lenses rather than a disposable body.
    Once I’ve bought all the glass I want, let’s see what the pen-pro is about.
    I think if we look beyond the latest bodies, buy into great glass that will last, and a system which looks like having a rosy future – there are always plenty of “last years” bodies going for song.

    • I did the same thing as you, but I paid £300 with 14-42 lens. Mostly because of the similarity of the sensors in e-p2 and e-p3 (e-p2 actually do “better” in dxo mark scores) and because of the small 45mm 1.8 lens. Since no system is clearly the best, and I kept analyzing to no end, I just went with the cheapest one that I also feel is the best looking one aswell. For me, it is a tool, a toy and a nice looking accessoire 🙂

  45. I was at the same situation a few months back. I lusted after EP3. I kept playing with the demo models in the store as they did not have any for me to buy. Then I tried the Nikon V1. Than Sony NEX 5N. I kept going back and forth between the three.

    I love the styling on the Ep3 and I knew the lenses would rock plus IBIS for every single lens mounted on the camera.

    V1 I liked the quality EVF, and fast responsiveness. Though I did not like the menu system and button placement.

    Sony I loved the depth of field that you could achieve even with a kit 18-55mm compared to the other 2 and high ISO files looked really impressive. Plus I also shoot Sony DSLR professionally (A900) so I have plethora of A-Mount Zeiss glass that can phase detect auto focus on 5n with a special adapter.

    So after long deliberation I went for Sony NEX 5N and I love it. It is small, light, and can be pocketable in your coat pocket. The tilty screen makes it great for street shooting without drawing any attention and low light performance plus 1080p video recording are awesome. This camera was the cheapest out of the 2. It only rang up at $700 after tax and all as it was on sale at my local Sony store prior to holidays.

    I am yet to try out the new A-Mount adapter with my Zeiss glass but I am sure there would be some impressive results with the 85mm f1.4 and 135mm f1.8 lenses.

  46. Thanks for this Steve.
    As you know I have invested quite heavily in the Nex system, this being the camera that has really ignited my passion for photography. As I have been able to get into collecting and using great old vintage lenses. These lenses, I find truly make my Nex-5 magic! You throw a real nice Asahi smc takumar, Pentacon electric or Minolta rokkor lens in front of this sensor and it just sings.
    Your comments about the Nex-7 both here and in your review have just confirmed my desire for this upgrade in the new year. I think I will keep the Nex-5 and throw my auto lenses on it for the missus and get the Nex-7 for myself for all my manual shooting with my old glass! 😉

  47. Thanks for this post Steve. I’m an avid reader of your posts and videos due to the “real world” un-lab reviews you provide. I also had the Nikon V1 camera and thought it was incredibly fast and provided very good color and sharpness, so you are right, it is a great camera for those who understand it and what it is designed to do. It’s too bad people throw a camera into the bin simply because it does not do what they personally need it to do. With that said, I did return it though, as some of the other upcoming “next-generation” cameras seem to provide a better all around camera for my use – primarily better manual control and better control of selective DOF. I’m looking forward to a real world comparison of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the Sony NEX-7. Two very different versions of a professional level camera. I had a pre-order of the NEX-7, but since it has been delayed, I’m now very interested in getting the Fujifilm X-Pro1. Looking forward to your views on both. Keep up the great work.

  48. As one of those crazies who still prefers film if only I had unlimited time and money, and just bought an NEX 3 for my first digital camera in many a year, I just have one question to ask, Steve.

    What is your perfect mirrorless film camera? 😛 (part of me feels it’s obvious that it’s my M2, but camera choices have been known to be tricksy….)

  49. Steve , why you never give a try to Samsung nx system , their latest nx200 is a 20 mp interchangeable mirror-less camera with at least 9 lenses in their line ,some of them are fast prime . you never mention it as one of hot product of 2011

  50. Really appreciate this summary comparison between the current mirrorless systems. I wish I could say it was helpful in my decision over my first ILC mirroless camera, but I may now be more undecided than ever. I was really leaning toward the NEX-7 – especially after hearing about SLR Magic’s new 23mm/1.7 as an affordable compromise to the Zeiss you recommended (did you ever figure out the source of the issue with the SLR Magic you tested with the NEX-7? Did SLR Magic follow up?)

    I’d love to just get the X-Pro 1, but, after the lenses, it’s getting a little steep for my budget.

    I guess I’ll be lugging the clunky K10D around for a while longer… Who knows, maybe Sony will surprise us with a couple of decent primes (at reasonable prices) this year.

  51. I’m one of those shooters who has often thought, quite seriously, about jumping ship from my DSLR and big glass to the relatively compact M9 and a couple or three lenses. In the end, I could not justify spending that kind of money on myself. Last July, when I acquired the X100 (and an iPhone), I began leaving my DSLR at home more and more, and I was still able to get the shots I wanted without that big rig (save for my two and a half week Route 66 explore, in which I used the DSLR far more than my iPhone and X100, but that’s because I was in a car the whole time and was traveling solo (no pressure to shoot and scoot). When I got to the east coast following that trip, I sent my DSLR off for routine service (together with several of the lenses) and really fell in love with the simplicity of shooting/traveling with just the X100 and the iPhone while waiting for the Nikon gear to come back. Even after getting the DSLR back, it’s remained in the bag, unused. Once the X-Pro 1 details surfaced, I decided it would become my new go-to system (instead of the DSLR), together with my X100 and iPhone 4S, for much of my shooting. I plan to sell off all my Nikon gear (except for my D700, my 14-24 and my 28-300, which I’ll keep for any URBEX work I do); everything else I’ll shoot with the X-Pro 1, X100 and iPhone.

  52. I am still fighting the urge to upgrade from my GF2…. to something much better

    since I invest in M4/3 lens already..

    maybe i ll wait arround for a while..
    who knows steve would sell his ep3 to me

  53. Steve, for the Fuji X Pro 1, what kind of focus assistance are there for the manual focus lenses? In NEX, we have the focus peaking, I haven’t seen any thing similar for the X Pro 1. It is nice that they are coming out with M mount adaptors, but I am confused as to how the manual focus would work. Your thoughts?

    • I am not sure. If there is no peaking (which there should have been) then they will probably use the old magnification trick. We shall see soon!

      • Magnification isn’t good enough for many situations.

        In theory the XPro 1 might be every good a host for M lenses, particularly choose-any-wide angle you want M lenses, as the GXR M Mount is, but if it doesn’t implement decent focus assists it won’t be the best camera choice for someone who principally wants to shoot manual focus M glass.

        Right now a M9, M8.2/M8, or Ricoh GXR are the best choices for dedicated manual focus M glass lovers.

        There were some rumours earlier this year that Ricoh would eventually re-release the A12 Mount as an A16 Mount – the older 12.3 megapixel sensor being discontinued by Sony will certainly force that eventually. While that would be sweet no doubt, particularly for the improvement in noise at higher sensitivity levels, currently the A12 Mount easily competes with 16MP cameras like NEX and if edge to edge detail is important to you, especially at infinity, then the GXR will outperform anything that people are slapping M lenses on except for the Leica. In short… it’s a great place to be, today, if you like using that glass and are open to the EVF shooting experience rather than rangefinder focus and compose.

        Personally I hope that Ricoh takes the bold move to release a 135 “full frame” sized sensor with the M mount. They’d sell every one, even if they don’t refresh their body and EVF.

        As a former X100 owner, I’m predisposed to look at Fujifilm’s XPro 1 and I would take a serious look at Fujifilm but *only* if they implement focus assist. NEX’s peaking and GXR’s Mode 2 “Predator” focus assist are way too useful to do without, if you are a regular manual focus M glass user.

        I’d be even more interested if they bring out a model that drops the hybrid OVF/EVF in favour of a really good EVF and rear LCD (ideally tilt) that also has proper support for M lenses via an adapter and focus assists. The OVF really isn’t useful at all to manual focus lens users unless they are content with zone focusing pretty much all of the time. For all the rest of us that want to see a visual indicator, ideally quickly, that we are in focus, the OVF really is wasted technology and therefore cost.

        • I think that GXR body has built-in buffer and not sure it would handle FF. Even with 12 mpix its kinda slower.. I think thats reason why we dont have 16 mpix. It simply needs upgrade.

          If I were Ricoh (which unfortunately Im not), I would get 24 mpix FF from Sony (yea that one inside A900), created slightly improved GXR body, improved EVF to match current Sony EVFs. And profit..

          For me, it would be for a lot of years to come everything I would want or need. And Im 100% sure not only for me..

          • Ricoh is coming out with a 16MP zoom module this year, which will work with the current body.

            That said, the GXR body itself does need a refresh, buffering could stand an improvement, EVF and LCD lag need to be tightened up. The rumour mill is that it’ll happen with a tilt or swivel LCD and other refinements.

            I already love the camera, the handling, and how it treats my M glass – it wouldn’t take much to bring it just that much farther towards perfect (for me). Even without improvements this is one camera I can just keep on using.

            As for a full frame module… that is something to hope for and maybe Ricoh is one of the few that could pull it off easily since they can do it without cannibalizing other product lines and inherit a ready made market of M users.

  54. Right there with you Matthew! I’ve mentally signed off on both the nex5n and Ep3 a few dozen times back and forth… and to think i was sort of happy when my 10yr old kid knocked my old d40 out of my hand a couple months ago (yay new cam time!). Now i”ve gone completely around the bend on determining what to get!

    But thanks Steve anyway 🙂

    • I’m going from a d40 as well! Of course, it still functions fine, but it leaves much to be desired by today’s standards (especially for the sports photography I want to do). I’ve actually got the NEX-7 and the X-Pro 1 on pre-order, and which one I actually let ship will depend mostly on the overall performance/price ratio (the arbitrary value that should guide ALL electronics purchases to a certain extent), but also each camera’s usability, flexibility, and of course end-result image quality.

      It’s a great problem to have really. Looking forward to some X-Pro reviews.

      • You realize that neither one of those will be good for sports photography? Did you mean you need a better sports camera and a small format? Because neither of those are going to offer fast enough tracking and focus for sports..

        Just some thoughts.

        • I had a feeling someone would pop up with this. I am actually using an old Tokina 80-200 f/2.8 all manual on my d40, and on my first day of shooting, I had a 40% keeper rate. Given the fact that I will undoubtedly improve given time (and using a monopod, yesterday I only shot handheld), using the NEX 7 as a base system with its focus peaking will make shooting all the more easy: not to mention the 10 fps burst mode.

          Should I find over time that I need the PDAF a DSLR provides, I’ll just get the LAEA2 adapter and a good 70-200 f/2.8 (Sony/Tamron/Sigma/equiv). Many people (Steve Huff not included) don’t realize how flexible the NEX system really is. You want a pocket camera you can take anywhere and be unassuming? Slap on the 16mm pancake, or the upcoming Sigma equivalent. Want to have an all around camera with a wide to tele zoom? Attach the black Tamron 18-200 which people I have talked with love on the 7’s body. Want to take artsy-fartsy photos? Get a cheapo adapter and put on some old glass (in my case a Nikon 50mm f/2). Want to do sports photography? Get the LAEA2 and fire away with a good alpha lens.

          The possibilities just go on and on.

          And your thoughts were well received, just wanted to clarify what I meant.

          • I’ve got the LA-EA2 adapter for my NEX-5N and just to inform you that AF does NOT work with the latest Tamron 70-200 lens, although metering and aperture does – even though it is supposed to be compatible with Sony’s dSLT range, a55,65 etc. Can’t speak for Sigma as I didn’t try one, but I know they have had issues with the Sony SLT system too.

            The SLT adapter doesn’t instantly make your NEX-5N a dSLR – I thought it would, that’s why I bought it – it doesn’t! It seems to be a bit picky about what lenses you can use, my guess is it’s Sony lenses only for full auto use, and even then not all of the Sony lenses seem to be compatible. It also has some funny way of handling video whe the SLT adapter is attached, it refuses to let you use it in manual mode, not letting you choose a fixed shutter speed (at least with the Sony Zeiss lens I had).

          • Good point. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t a newcomer thinking it would be fast enough without PDAF!

            Certainly if you have the skills for good mf on the nex have at it!

            I haven’t seen a telephoto worth buying yet…the 55-210 is uninspiring, and by the time I do the PDAF route, I’ll just use canon and a 70-200 2.8 ii

  55. Thanks for this post.
    And for all the others, by the way.

    You got me in the mood of starting some “serious” photography.

    I Just got the E-P3, chosen over the GX1 after your thoughts … Right now I’m so happy … it’s such a sexy and nice body.
    Now I have to learn and use it …

    • And! buy lots of goody lenses. With the M4/3 the full range of oly and pany m4/3 lenses are available to you as are most of their 4/3 lenses. It is possible to get a range that all use the same filter size to reduce cost. A polariser filter is the most useful. Have fun.

  56. Nice summary Steve! Maybe I’ll go to a store and try the nikons. See if my thoughts change.

  57. Thanks for this. It confirms my previous point that I have no idea what exactly is best for my shooting. 🙂

    • Go to the store, pick up the cameras. See what feels right in your hand. Think of the camera as an extension of your body. The body is never confused. It will tell you which one to buy.

      I didn’t know what to buy until I picked up the camera and compared how it felt in my hands. There was a Lumix Gf1, Samsung NX100, and EPL-1. The EPL-1 felt right. It was comfortable in my hand. I felt good about the purchase.

      • We are getting to the point where IQ is so close among the special tools discussed here. But in the end, Al-M has the test you give to all tools. Put it in your hands. I was crazy about my 5n, but the hands just could not weild the tool. I just got the NEX-7: my hands are happy.

        In the end it’s the carpenter, not the hammer, that builds the house.


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