Before we begin…
I should state now that a lot of these features and stats my go over your head, please bear with me as I’m highlighting a lot of stats within the camera itself that I enjoy and look for in a camera. Owning your first mirrorless camera is a pretty neat event as it sets you on the path of photography. What it can handle as a workload should be directly in line with what you are doing. For example if you aren’t doing sporting events let’s say you would necessarily need a camera that can do a high speed of burst shots over another camera, possibly saving money in the process. Yes as the last piece of the “three pieces of photography gear” you need, the camera should be an important decision but the last decision. That being said, and I cant stress this enough; from hobbyist to serious minded photographer… Get Quality Glass First.
Lastly, I want to state the obvious. While the camera takes in the light to make a photo, it is you and you along who pushes that button. The cameras sensor can make the image tack sharp, and the quality glass (you purchased first, no I won’t stop harping on this) will give you wonderful bokeh and clear details, but it is you who points the lens where it needs to go. I talk a lot about gear (to a fault really, which personally I’m breaking myself on) and I don’t stress enough that the photographer needs to be as mindful and knowledgeable as the camera is decked with features. Gear only will get you so far, but it is not a substitute for talent, so please… Work on you photographic eye, and be happy with the gear you have. Rather than constantly upgrading to keep up, examine if you talent has been unoriginal and stagnate or hindered by the limitation of your gear.
Let’s Go Store Shopping
Like anything in life you need to shop around and find the best deals/savings. That being the case I have a few suggestions of shops to check out that you may or may not know about already;
This little storefront is where I got a good amount of my gear I still use. Shop around here and the best advice I have for those that aren’t sure about the reliability of the site, I can say for certain I have never been cheated on eBay, but I’m also mindful of who sells me these things. You should stay away from the following.
low seller scores (like if the seller has a 0 or >15) next to their name
things that originally come from China (nothing against China, you just want to buy initially within North America). save the knock-off brands for other things later,
Hot Items. Some less savory characters don’t know how much a lens or camera is worth so they low ball by a lot. In that case never buy a $3000 latest model camera for $500 . You’ll know more on the average price of a camera as you do a little research into the one you want
“As-Is” listing. Just read carefully through the description of what you want and spare the snap purchase reflex you may have. You may be purchasing that “non-operable camera to be used for parts only” in error.
I know that’s a lot of caveats to add, but if you scoop a camera or lens you want for $100 or so less than it normally goes for then I saved you money.
I have mixed feelings about this place, but I love its price competition more than the harm it did forcing businesses to low ball or go out of business. One of the biggest killers when shopping online is shipping, but if you have Amazon Prime you get shipping free for 2-day shipping… so there’s that. The only other thing is that since Amazon was the first to be a popular price cutting online store, it has to constantly stay competitive making a great place to start gauging prices under the suggested MSRP for many other online stores. Heavy is the site that wears the crown of lowest prices, so look around and if Amazon is the best price that day, scoop up the gear you are looking for.
B&H / Adorama / 42nd Street Photo / Samy’s Camera
I bothered to just lump the photography eStores into one category, as they are all shades of grey. In short:
They all offer credit
They all have physical stores (either East or West Coast stores)
They all sell the latest gear under MSRP
They all offer refurbished older gear
They all offer bundles for starting gear when buying a camera
If in the physical store and can wheel and deal they will throw in some extras here and there, which is nice if starting out but mostly pointless if well established in gear.
The Mirrorless Cameras
I’ve prefaced some sage like advice, I’ve given you options on where to shop….
So, you wanna buy a mirrorless camera. Here are some suggestions.
I gotta respect a company that continues to show up on the photography radar with some of their crazy innovations. My first camera in the digital realm even was a Sony CyberShot point-and-shoot camera w/ whopping 2.1 megapixels…ahem...as I was saying. The Sony a6300 is an APS-C cropped 24.2 MP CMOS sensor. Able to shoot a burst 11fps continuous at RAW this small camera packs a punch. For the model photographer this little monster has Eye-AF, tracking your subject no matter the movement and with 425 AF points, you are assured that every image will be in tack sharp focus. If you are looking for a camera that can take video as well, this is your swiss army knife, as it can do 4K at 30fps and 120fps in full HD. Allow me to splash some cold water on your face here as everything is not wine and roses here. Last I saw the camera has a little bit of a rolling shutter issue when filming video, so buyer be aware. Also the starting camera price of ~$900 can be a bit of a knee jerk reaction to this camera as it is pricey… and that not including the price(s) of any glass you attach to it. Take comfort in knowing that your limitations are what you make of it in the camera, as even using other lenses like all of these cameras are just a third party adapter away.
As I am a Canon user, believe when I say I won’t be biased on this product. I originally was looking at this list kinda surprised the Canon and Nikon had nothing really of value to offer, and then this came along. If 4K were a cuss word, Canon would be a PG movie. Offering literally NOTHING on a beginner/hobbyist level for 4K video options (w/ Canon’s 1D X and 5D mk IV being the only other cameras to do this) is unforgivable. Only now does it start to dab its toe in the 4K pool only so far thought as this isn’t true 4K as the sensor is a APS-C cropped 24.1 MP CMOS sensor. This also wouldn’t even be on the list unless it made up for its shortcomings, and it does. First, price. At $650 w/ kit lens, and the availability of a first party adapter ($150) that has the ability to connect all EF / EF-s lenses, this is a great starting point for beginners to Canon, photography, or Canon mirrorless cameras. The option is out there with a third party adapter to lessen the crop factor significantly. This is a x.71 adapter that also increases your lens’s light in by one full stop, which can make the difference in low light situations. If this is canon’s first entry level attempt at delivering 4K in one of their cameras it fell slightly flat since its 4K cropped, but I give an A for effort. Thanks for joining the rest of us Canon, better late than never I suppose.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Coming from outside of my expertise wheelhouse I consulted a few sites, bloggers, and message boards; this and the next camera come recommended, but I have no clue of outside lenses that would be great for it or where its limitations start/end. This camera has a tiny cropped 16.1 MP Micro 4/3 CMOS sensor, but don’t let that rule it out as this has 121 Auto Focus points w/ In Body Image Stabilization. It films in full 4K, but can only do 120fps in 720p. The other attractive feature is of course, the price. this comes in at $649! Real talk, this is a stepping off point for beginners. It is incredibly affordable, and as I’ve witnessed, has amazing image quality. That being said, I strongly feel this is for a hobbyist or vacationer, but who am I to tell you what and when you can use this.
Fujifilm. I have had extensive experience in their film, and short of the rerelease of Kodak’s Ektachrome or the ever hopeful return of Kodakrome, would take Fujifilm’s film quality over ever other color film out there, period. So when I expect to see image quality and get blown away with its color logic inside the amazing 24.3 MP cropped APS-C CMOS sensor, then I know photography speaking this is where it starts. If you a looking for brands to follow up the product ladder until you get that Pro-level camera and shoot at a Pro-level, then the labels go Canon Nikon Sony and Fujifilm. Fujifilm, sadly has no real horse in the race of sporting photography in a sea of Yellow and Red (Nikon and Canon). This fact is not a detractor for you to stay away from Fujifilm, when a rising amount of Mirrorless users use Fujifilm and do street photography, photojournalism, modeling, wedding, and landscape photography. This, if you are strictly going mirrorless and not deviating from Fujifilm, should be your starting point and as other entry level mirrorless cameras go, should be The Bar at which every other camera is judged by its abilities and drawbacks. Of course it films in 4K, do you think all this praise would be given if it couldn’t? Coming in, with 23mm (effective 35mm equivalent @37mm) lens, the total comes to $950. It is the most expensive camera of the group I can suggest, but the quality far outweighs any shortcomings I know.
A few words to wrap up my review right now. Most all these cameras have a third party adapter that allows you to use any lens with that camera, sometimes even with the Auto Focus. That being the case, it blurs the lines you may have, when set on a specific brand. How so ever, I will say that nothing works better than an EF mounted camera to and EF lens, if you get what I’m saying.
… but what if you don’t like what mirrorless has to offer?
Well then, stay tuned next Sunday (before I start going Thursdays again for my regularly scheduled blogging time) for a buyers guide to dSLR cameras. For now, I hope this was some help in deciding a mirrorless camera, and thanks for stopping by.