By November 29, 2012 3 Comments

How To Choose the Perfect Camera

Choosing a camera…  there’s a lot of shiny new gadgets out there to entice you, but what is it that you’re really looking for?  You have to realize  that the average camera body has a relevance lifespan of about 2 years before it’s replaced by the next generation of newer, better, brighter, shinier toys.  Just over the span of the last four years there have been major advancements in image quality, focus speeds, low light capabilities, etc. in mirrorless cameras, but if you’re someone who’s just getting into Hybrid Photography then  your goal should be to cultivate a relationship with your image making  equipment that will last much longer than 2 years.  That’s why I recommend that, instead of just looking at cameras, you look at a camera system as a whole.

As I state in the video, a camera system is not just a camera body.  It’s also a collection of lenses, gear (tripods, lighting, filters, etc.), accessories (camera bags, straps, cases, etc.), software and apps (Lightroom 4, Final Cut Pro, etc.) that you use to produce still photos and videos and get them to look the way you want them to look.

Like Goes with Like

Of all the components in your camera system, pay particular attention to the relationship between your camera body and lenses.  Your lenses will be one of, if not THE most important component to your system, because a high quality lens will go a long way towards helping you to produce a high quality image or video.  Unfortunately, the majority of camera brands will only take lenses of the same brand – in other words, Sony will only play with Sony, Fuji will only play with Fuji, etc.  The only exception to this are micro 4/3 cameras, a type of mirrorless camera that was originally developed in 2008 through a joint venture between Panasonic and Olympus.  The result is that there is an abundance of micro 4/3 lenses to choose from made by Panasonic, Olympus and other 3rd party manufacturers that will work with any micro 4/3 camera body.

For those of you who already have a large collection of legacy lenses and are considering adding a mirrorless camera to your system, there are also a wide variety of adapters available so that you can use your old lenses with the new body.  But be forewarned that when using an adapter, any electronic functions or your lenses (i.e., zoom, autofocus, etc.) may or may not work.

So what’s the right camera system for Me?…

If you’re asking yourself that question, keep in mind the 3 criteria that I laid out for you in the video:

  1. Your Goals (what do you want your camera system to do?)
  2. Form Factor (what do you want your camera system to look like?)
  3. Cost (how much do you want to spend?)

Below is my list of suggestions that take all three criteria into account.  I’m going to omit point and shoot digital cameras because over the last few years, advancements in cell phone cameras have put a serious dent in the point and shoot market and I don’t think it’ll be too long before the point and shoot camera goes the way of the Twinkie.  [**CONTROVERSIAL STATEMENT WARNING**]  I’m also not going to talk about DSLR cameras either.  After watching the advancements in mirrorless systems over the last few years and seeing how they have closed the gap, or even surpassed DSLR cameras in just about every category, I believe that mirrorless is the best (or even the ONLY) way to go for Hybrid Photography.  I’m also sticking with Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and Fuji for now as they are the major players in the mirrorless market (hat tip to Samsung and Nikon, who seem to be getting more serious).

Below is my short list recommendations for mirrorless systems broken down by price:  (All prices are in USD and current at the time of this posting.  All compact system cameras  listed are kits that come with a lens.  **NOTE:  This is NOT a complete list, just a few recommendations)

 

 

Price Range

 

Brand, Model, Price and Description

 

Lenses

 

Hybrid Ratings (out of 5)

 

Notes

Stills

Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over $750

Sony RX1 ($2,798.00)

Touted as “The World’s First Fixed Lens Compact with a Full Frame Sensor” – The RX1 does indeed pack a full sized 35mm sensor.  This camera is brand new and still under evaluation.

Carl Zeiss High Quality Fixed Lens

N/A

N/A

Looks like a great quality camera, but at a very high price.  Other features such as EVF are available at additional cost and should be standard.

Fuji X-Pro1 ($1,399.00 Body Only)

Best of Class in still image quality.  Poor autofocus speed, especially in video. 

Takes Fuji X-Mount Lenses.  Small selection but high quality lenses. 

5.0

3.0

Great for those focused on still photos.

Limited lens selection, but the lenses are of high quality

Fuji X-E1 ($1,399.00)

Same sensor and processor as the X-Pro1, but in a smaller package, yields same image quality, but same weaknesses. 

Takes Fuji X-Mount Lenses.  Small selection but high quality lenses.  . 

5.0

3.0

See above

Sony NEX 7 ($1,349.00)

24mp sensor produces superb quality stills and video images.  Points off because of sensor overheating issues in video (stick to short clips 0f 5 to 10 minutes and you should be fine) mode and small lens selection.

Takes Sony E-Mount Lenses.  Small selection of good (but not great) lenses.  Sony finally seem to be getting serious about creating more lenses for the NEX lineup 

4.9

4.9

Great for stills and video

Panasonic Lumix GH3 ($1,299.00 Body Only)

Excellent upgrade to the GH2 now puts in at the top of the class in still photo image quality and it is the undisputed King of the Hill in Video.  Weather Sealed, OLED Viewfinder, and a ton of micro 4/3 lenses from which to choose.  Pro Level in every sense. 

Takes Micro 4/3 Lenses.  There are over 30 lenses available to date and many are high quality, yet low cost.  This is a real strength of Micro 4/3 cameras. 

4.9

5.0

The Best All Around Hybrid Photography Machine available today.  DSLR Makers are sweating…

Olympus OM-D E-M5 ($1,299.00)

Top of the class in still photo image quality and the best image stabilization bar none, with Olympus’ 5 point IBIS. 

Takes Micro 4/3 lenses. 

4.9

4.8

One of the best cameras of 2012 and a favorite of Pro and Enthusiast Photographers alike.

Does great with stills and video.

Sony NEX 6 ($998.00)

Superb new offering from Sony.  Very similar to the NEX 7 except that this has a 16mp sensor vs the 7’s 24mp sensor (not a big deal for most people).  Also features built in Wi-Fi.

Takes Sony E-Mount Lenses 

4.9

4.8

One of the best new cameras introduced this year.  Great for stills and video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$350 to $750

Panasonic Lumix GH2 ($749.00)

Released in 2010, this camera takes very good quality still photos but has achieved a cult following as a top quality video shooter that has been a favorite of Pro and Indie Videographers.

Takes Micro 4/3 Lenses.

4.3

4.8

Great for those who are focused on Video, but can’t yet afford to go for a GH3.

Sony NEX 5R ($748.00)

Less frills than the 6 and no EVF, but still a superb all around camera.  Also features built in Wi-Fi.

Takes Sony E-Mount Lenses 

4.9

4.7

Another solid offering from Sony.  Great for stills and video

Panasonic Lumix G5 ($699.00)

Great new camera from Panasonic is easy to use and sports a new 16mp Live MOS Sensor, Venus Processing Engine, a great array of creative filters and a fully articulated touch screen.

Takes Micro 4/3 Lenses.

4.8

4.8

A great all around camera for stills and video.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 ($699.00)

Loaded with the same 16mp sensor and image processor as the Flagship OM-D E-M5 and bundled with a Wi-Fi Card.  Tilt out touch screen swings up and faces forward for self portrait shooting.

Takes Micro 4/3 lenses. 

4.9

4.7

A great option if the OM-D doesn’t fit into your budget.  Great for stills and video.

Sony RX 100 ($648.00)

Named by Time Magazine as one of the “Best Inventions of 2012”, this fixed lens compact takes great stills and video and will fit right into your pocket.

Takes Sony E-Mount Lenses 

4.9

4.8

A perfect hybrid machine for those who don’t want to fiddle around with interchangeable lenses.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2 ($599.00)

Loaded with the same 16mp sensor and image processor as the Flagship OM-D E-M5 and bundled with a Wi-Fi Card.  Less on body controls than the E-PL5 and no tilt out screen.

Takes Micro 4/3 lenses. 

4.9

4.7

Another great option if the OM-D doesn’t fit into your budget.  Great for stills and video.

Sony NEX 5N ($598.00)

We loved this camera when it came out a year ago and it’s still a great choice.  Look for the price to drop even further now that the new NEX cameras have been released.

Takes Sony E-Mount Lenses 

4.7

4.7

Great for stills and video

Panasonic Lumix GF5 ($519.00)

Small, compact interchangeable lens camera features a 16mp Live MOS Sensor and a great array of creative filters.  Easy and fun to use.

Takes Micro 4/3 Lenses.

4.5

4.5

A great all around camera for stills and video.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 ($499.00)

Last Years PEN Lite is a good bargain this year.  Not quite up to the Image Quality level of this year’s models, but still provides outstanding results.

Takes Micro 4/3 lenses. 

4.5

4.5

Great for stills and video.

Fuji X-F1 ($499.00)

12mp Fixed Lens Offering from Fuji comes in black, brown and red.

Fixed Lens 

4.5

4.3

Good option for stills and video that will fit into your pocket.

Panasonic Lumix LX7 ($449.00)

10.1 mp fixed lens camera.  It’s sensor is smaller than the Fuji X-F1 or the Sony RX100, but it has one of the best lenses in it’s class.

Fixed Lens

4.5

4.5

A great all around camera for stills and video.  Fast and bright lens make it one of our favorite fixed lens compacts.

Panasonic Lumix GX1 ($449.00)

This year old 16mp camera is hands down, the best bargain on our list (it sold for about twice the price a year ago)!  Features a beautiful 3 inch touch screen and an array of creative filters.  Produces high quality stills and videos.

Takes Micro 4/3 Lenses

4.7

4.7

A great all around camera for stills and video and small enough to take anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under $350

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 ($349.00)

The original “PEN Mini” from Olympus.  Great interchangeable lens camera which is a favorite of our pal Giulio Sciorio

Takes Micro 4/3 lenses. 

4.5

4.5

Great for stills and video.

Panasonic Lumix GF3 ($329.00)

Another year old model that will produce great results.  Fun and easy to use.

Takes Micro 4/3 Lenses

4.4

4.4

A great all around camera for stills and video and small enough to take anywhere.

Panasonic Lumix LX5 ($249.00)

1 year old 10.1 mp fixed lens camera

Fixed Lens

4.3

4.3

Good results in stills and video from a small, go anywhere camera at a bargain price.

 

About the Author:

Scott Giorgini – Scott, the creator of MirrorlessCentral.com, is a veteran of Radio and TV, having been involved in those industries for over 20 years. He got his start as a DJ in 1987 and was producing mix shows for radio by 1989. By the mid 1990s, he was producing radio commercials and shows, which later led to TV, where he was producing ads and shows on the local scene. In 2006, Scott started consulting for a TV Advertising Studio and got involved with every facet of production, from conceptual, to writing scripts, to directing, editing, graphic design, web marketing, to shooting (using HUGE studio camera rigs and DSLRs for b-roll and location shooting) and even hosting shows. Through his voracious study of mirrorless cameras, Scott also realizes that most of the technical advances in imaging were coming from the mirrorless category, and he wholeheartedly believes that mirrorless is the future of digital imaging.

3 Comments on "How To Choose the Perfect Camera"

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  1. Thanks for this list Scott. Like you, I’m leaning towards the Lumix GH3 and hope to replace my dSLRs someday soon. I’d definitely have to see how it worked in a corporate portrait shooting situation with strobe lights etc. Can’t wait to try!

  2. tcurley says:

    Great list Scott! I like the way that you have provided your hybrid ratings for both still and video.

  3. MrLumix says:

    Excellent. Excellent breakdown.

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