Going for the low light performance. What format or camera is my fave in mirrorless?
By Steve Huff
I am knee-deep into my Hasselblad X1D review and make NO mistake. I love it, but at the same time I am well aware that there are other cameras that can do very close, similar work, for less. As I have explained, I am one who enjoys the designs and build of cameras just as much as what they can do for the output. The X1D is tops over any I have shot in that area. But there are also things I love about other cameras I own or have shot with. The Leica SL. I love it for some of the same reasons, but with the sensor and EVF of the SL along with great Leica Glass, it too puts out a “Medium Format” look to the images at times. It only lacks in low light when compared to the X1D really, and weight and size (when using something like a 50 Lux SL). The SL and Lux combo, though, is the same cost as the Hasselblad X1D setup with 45mm lens. I like them both equally as much, for different reasons. I even feel that at times, that SL can put out a nicer image than the Hasselblad. At times. Same goes for the Hasselblad, at times.
I shoot a lot in music clubs, and many of my images have never been published or posted here, or anywhere. In fact, I just started working on a year-long project for this club series. So it’s something I love and enjoy, a part of my life enjoyment. I tested many cameras in these environments. From the Leica Monochrom 246 (did great) to the M 240 (failed) to the Olympus EM1 (failed) to the Fuji X-Pro 2 (no go) Leica M10 (did good) and even a Canon 6D (did good). I have shot the A7RII and A9 in this environment as well, and they did wonderful.
My fave two setups here in this scenario though have been the A7RII with a Canon 50 1.2L lens and now the X1D.
Both provided rich, low noise results. This had me thinking today…in reality all I “need” for this series is a Canon 50 1.2L for my A9. Or a Sony 50 1.4 which is also an awesome fast 50 with a Summilux type character. But there it is again, the “need” vs “want”, lol. We all know about diminishing returns here but if my goal is low light performance, the realities are that there are only a few choices in mirrorless that will do it for me. There are a few DSLRS as well, but you guys know I am not a DSLR guy, so I will leave those out.
So as I test this X1D I am truly thinking hard about a few things for my “low light” camera choices..
- What solution will deliver the best results?
- What solution will deliver the most enjoyment?
- What system will inspire me the most to use it?
- What system will be the best “bang for my buck”?
- What system will give me the least hassles?
- What system will print the best at 16X20?
I will answer these below, as I have the answer..but 1st a few low light photos from a few cameras that worked well in these environments…
Below: The next two shots are from the Sony A7RII with Canon 50 L 1.2. This is a beautiful setup. The A9 would perform in a similar way.
The Leica Monochrom 246 at ISO 10k. Another gorgeous setup for low light, if you are OK with only B&W imagery.
The Leica SL is a bit tricky in this situation. I would not choose it as my 1st camera for these ultra low light clubs. But with the right lens, it can work. Just not ideal for really low light.
The X1d with 45 f/3.5 is pushing the limits due to the f/3.5 aperture. This means the ISO has to be jacked up to 12,800 or 25,600. Luckily, this is ok with the X1D as the results are beautiful regardless but its right at the limits. I ordered a 16X20 print of the shot below..and it is a 1/3 frame crop from the X1D original file.
So the answers to the questions above, I have them.
- The X1D is the answer to #1 as to which will deliver the all out best results for what I am doing. But the Sony/Canon comes in a VERY VERY close 2nd. Almost a tie.
- Enjoyment? Well, the X1D is. the camera I would enjoy more to shoot. It is what it is.
- Inspiration? Well, both really. The Sony and 50 L combo is fun to shoot due to the qualities of that unique Canon lens. The X1D is inspiring all by itself. Makes you want to go shoot.
- BANG FOR THE BUCK? Sony wins here. The A9 and Canon lens is under $6k or just about half of the X1D combo. THAT is a chunk O change.
- Least hassles? Wells so far neither have given me any hassles, so as of now, both are good here.
- Prints? Well, if comparing the A9 to the X1D, the X1D wins. The A7RII would be closer of course due to the higher res. X1D wins. Can’t deny the facts, and that sensor is a beauty.
So by looking at those answers, it is sort of tie between the Sony/Canon combo and the X1D.
If I end up keeping the X1D I may also have to buy a 50 1.2 L (well, in a couple of months) to go with my A9, and shoot them both in these clubs for my year long project. I would add the 90mm f/3.2 for the X1D in about 4-5 months and call it a day for my personal photo gear setup. Would be all I needed. But I am not sure yet on what I will do. That may take me another week or two to grind around in my head. One other camera above, that Leica MM..gorgeous. But I have given up rangefinders these days due to my eyes and deteriorating vision.
But from the Sony to the Leica to the Hasselblad, while none of these are “cheap” options, they are all amazing cameras, and the best bang for the buck in MIRRORLESS for low low light shooting like this with intent to print may just be the original Sony A7RII and that Canon 50 1.2 L. Gorgeous setup, not too large and practically sees in the dark.
If low light is not needed, then we can move onto Micro 4/3 for mirrorless as well, as in decent light that system rocks. Fuji as well. With great light the Fuji colors are so so nice. But this is an article about chasing that fading light into almost darkness, and today we have a few choices in mirrorless that can get the job done. I will say though, the best low light performance of the bunch here is the Hasslebald. It should be for the cost but that sensor made by Sony is a special one indeed. I can’t believe they have not implemented yet in a new Sony body ; ) Hmmm.