A Travellerspoint blog

February 2013

My 1st Mirrorless Camera

My plunge into the World of Mirrorless System. And a Brief Review of Sony NEX-6

As a reasonably serious shutterbug, I've been using various makes of DSLRs for the last decades. My latest being Canon D50.

Now I want to switch to a mirrorless camera. I want to share my shopping experience on how I had arrived at the decision as to which of mirrorless camera to buy. This begs the question, why do I want to switch from DSLR to the mirrorless camera? And what on earth is mirrorless camera?

"Mirrorless camera" is contraction for the more official name of "mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera" (or DMIL). The phrase "interchangeable-lens" is added to "mirrorless camera" to distinguish it from compact cameras, which are also mirrorless. In general, the 2 labels are interchangeable (pun not intended).

The lenses of compact cameras are fixed. I.e. you can't remove it, and put a different one on. Another important difference is that the compact cameras have smaller pixel size in their image sensors (or the 'electronic film'). I won't go into the more technical, but less crucial difference between compacts and DSLRs like the ability of shooting in raw format. etc. These minor differences are too many, and not consistent.

The 2 most consistent and significant difference between a compact and DSLR camera is the ability to change lenses and the pixel size of the image sensors. A DSLR camera with 12 MP easily has far superior spatial resolution than a 15MP compact camera. A single number 12MP and 15MP is misleading when comparing one category of camera (compact) with another (DSLR).

The mirrorless cameras is like a crossbreed or compromise between DSLR and compact cameras. It has the lens interchangeability of DSLR while at the same it's designed to be much more compact (and lighter) than the typical DSLR.

There's no more perfect cameras than there're perfect cars or wives for everyone. It's only perfect - or nearly perfect - for your individual need. The types of cameras you want to own depending on your typical shooting requirements. For a serious shutterbug who mainly shoots photos as a leisure activity on the weekends, DSLRs make sense as size and weight aren't the prime considerations. In general, DSLRs have a huge range of lenses from the serious photographers to choose from.

For someone like me who shoots travel photos 90% of the time while travel overseas frequently, I want - no, I need - something light weight. Carrying a chunky DSLR all day long could be quite a punishment on the neck (especially that I'm far from being spring chicken, nor a big person). DMIL provides such a weight and size reduction while at the same time not scarifying too much of the captured image quality that compacts can't deliver. Furthermore compacts simply don't have zoom lens built in that would remotely come close to those offered by DSLRs. In fact, Mirrorless option seems to be catered for such a niche market.

Having decided that DMIL is the way to go, the question now is which brand? Fortunately, this route is easier to travel than choosing a DSLR because of its relatively limited choices when comparing to either DSLRs or compacts. The limited choices are due to its rather new appearance relative to the other 2 camera types.

You know this is a rather Johnnie-come-lately type of camera because of its many names, ranging from mirrorless camera, DMIL, MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera), and even EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable-Lens). The various names are still fighting for supremacy until one wins out. This was true with many other technology.

Another indication of the growing popularity of this category of camera is that even the giant of camera maker Canon who produces cameras in all conceivable market niches is only started to play the catch up game this year with the debut of Canon EOS M. This also suggests that this market niche is growing, and it's real contender to DSLR, especially when more and more camera makers are jumping into this market. Well, the 2 things - a growing market and camera manufacturers - are feeding off each other. I'm doing my bit to encourage the camera makers to produce more mirrorless babies.

Olympus, Leica and Fujifilm have been the forerunners of DMILs, and Sony and Nikon came in a little later. My initial choice of DMIL was Olympus thinking that it's the most experienced maker of this type. After some thinking, I come to the realisation that whether I'm hunting for a DSLR or DMIL, it's the lenses that makes or breaks purchase decision. This isn't just the case from functionality point of view, but the cost of a lens can easily goes above the cost of the camera body.

Olympus has very limited range of lenses. More importantly it doesn't have the lens I'm after, which is minimum x8 zoom lens. Fujifilm is in a similar situation, but it promised to make a bunch of zoom lenses in 6 months. I don't want to wait for 6 months. Besides, it's only a promise. Show me the lenses!

And then I discovered that Sony's NEX-6, the newest of Sony's mirrorless offerings, has a x11 zoom lens (18 - 200mm) that exactly identical to the one I have been using on my Canon 50D. I'm quite happy with this particular zoom lens.


A little more research reveals that Tamron also produces an identical lens (Tamron 18-200mm Di III VC) to the Sony's one. After reading some reviews, and making comparisons I'm convinced that the Tamron is lighter and more superior than the Sony one. And it's even 10% cheaper, in Singapore, anyway).

Some of these mirrorless cameras have adaptor rings that let you make use of the lenses from DSLR cameras. I decline to even consider this option for 2 reasons,
1. The adaptor adds weight, cost, and extra moving part to break down.
2. The whole point of buying a DMIL is to reduce size and weight, and DSLR's lenses are tend to be bulky while DMIL lenses are made to a smaller and lighter specification for obvious reason.

Having these DSLR lenses mounted on mirrorless system with adaptor rings defeat its purpose. I find my newly acquired Tamron zoom lens' focusing is far more responsive than the my existing Canon zoom lens, which is a bit clunky.


Indeed, the Sony and Tamron's 18-200mm are both 460g while the same Canon EF-S 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS lens I have been using weighs 600g. As for the Canon 50D, its body weighs 822g while Sony NEX-6 weighs 345g (both with battery).

So I had been lugging around 1422g of Canon 50D while in my next trip I'll carry a 850g of Sony NEX-6, which is a 40% of weight reduction. This doesn't seems much, but after the end of a long day of walking, it feels like a millstone on your neck. Every gram counts. Let not forget about the size reduction as well, which means I can carry a smaller bag. This further reduces size and weight.

In situation where zoom lens isn't needed, my Sony can be mounted with the Sony E 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS lens that come with the package, which is so small that it makes the whole camera feels more like a big compact than a DSLR. This lens is designed to capture that spirit of compactness.

Another feature or set of features that I like about this Sony is the different creative effects. I know that digital compacts tend to have this function while DSLR tend not to include it. And all these effect seems too playful for DSLRs. If you need to do it, you can do it as part of the post-production process.

While I'm familiar with Photoshop, and other image processing software. In fact, I have Photoshopped hundreds of photos. I'm pretty sick of doing that. If the camera

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Posted by FrancisQ 03:37 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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