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Which Mirrorless System is Closest to ‘Arriving’?

By Anthony Thurston on February 24th 2015

A common thing you hear about mirrorless systems is that they are close, but not quite to a point yet to where they can be truly taken seriously. It is a point that many mirrorless users would argue, myself included, but nonetheless, it is a common line of thought in the SLR community.

samsung-nx1

So I got to thinking, which mirrorless system do you all think is closest to ‘arriving’? to clarify, by arriving, I mean is at a point where you would be comfortable ditching your DSLR entirely and moving to that system.

If you ask me, it is a tough question. Micro Four-Thirds has been around the longest, and certainly has a great lens lineup and plenty of bodies in place. But the sensor size and lower light performance have always been an issue.

Fujifilm is doing a lot right, and is the company that attracted me the most with their superb lens selection and sensor performance. But the lack of a good flash system, and a few other small things prevent it from being quite where it needs to be for a true mass appeal.

samsung-nx1-sample-shot-3

Sony has made the biggest splash, for sure, with their A7 full frame mirrorless cameras, but it is also the system with the least lens support and is not quite where it needs to be either in terms of battery life and AF performance.

Canon and Nikon also both have mirrorless systems, but when compared to the other competition, both have a LONG way to go before being taken seriously.

large_sony-a7s-camera

Samsung is a somewhat newer player to the mirrorless game as well; they recently made huge strides with the release of the NX1 and more pro-focused lenses, but they still have a very consumer feel to them and the pro lens selection is very limited.

I want to know what you think. Vote in the poll below and make sure to leave a comment to elaborate on your thoughts.

Which Mirrorless System is Closest to 'Arriving'?

View Results

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*Note: I specifically left Leica off this list; traditionally when speaking of mirrorless systems, Leica’s are not what we are referring to. Though, yes, they are mirrorless. 

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jean-Francois Perreault

    If Fuji X-Mount supports FF then I think Fuji would be closest. My guess is that it’s easier to release a FF camera than to create a new bunch of lenses. But it’s still not clear whether X-Mount can support FF, some say it does, others say it doesn’t. I’m hoping it does but I doubt it.
    If not, then Sony is the closest.

    But it’s surprising how so many photogs say that lenses are what’s most important in a system, yet many switch to Sony…Also, many photogs complain about how mirrorless AF is soooo much slower than DSLR, yet many use adapters and put on “third party” glass on it.

    Even though Sony’s strategy doesn’t make sense in a purely photography’s point of view, they seem to be right by releasing tons of cameras and practically no lenses.

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  2. Mircea Blanaru

    Great achievements can be done with even a small compact camera or a classic film one so this discusion is not relevant!!!! Personaly, I found the micro 4/3 system the best for beginners or amateurs while a medium format camera is the best for pros!!!!!

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  3. Mark Henry Dela Torre

    For me as a programmer, I will go with Samsung. In the long run they will beat the others. Because they are trying to put there cameras like computers and cellphones. Were software or firmware updates are important like what they did with the NX1. Instead of making another hardware update like NX1 Mark II or NX2. They updated the NX1 fixing and added more features.

    Most camera makers are just building new cameras from old hardware, reshaping the camera body. Then updating just the firmware then calling it Mark II, III adding S, etc.

    I hate companies just trying to make money the easy way.

    Hardware today can be pushed to the extreme just by updating the firmware. Then if overheating is already happening, that is when you should be updating the hardware.

    I would be more interested if they made a camera like medium formats. Were the camera has 3 parts (Lens, Body, Camera back (sensor) . Just update the parts that are important. Make a camera body like the X-T1, Then have a camera back or sensor of Sony’s A7s, Then a standard lens mount like the Micro 4/3. The first company which does this on APC or Full frame will be a hit. Peoples jaw will be dropping. I will buy this kind of setup.

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    • Petr Kulda

      I past i had samsung phone (Omnia) without system update, or with very late system update (Window Phone 7). So maybe one morning you will wake up and find, there is no update for NX1, but Samsung is advertising NX1 mark II. Just my experience.

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  4. Jason Markos

    I shoot with a D7000 and I just spent the weekend shooting a 2 day outdoor event. And with that mid range DSLR (that you can now buy for less than £500), I get over 1000 shots from a single battery, operationally fast (power on, focus, and taking the shot), easy controls for shooting in manual and the availability of a wide range of lenses.

    For me, mirrorless will have ‘arrived’ when these capabilities are essentially standard, just like they are taken for granted in a DSLR.

    It seems like Fuji is closest… but still has a way to go.

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  5. Brian Stricker

    m4/3 is the closet. They have a vast array of lenses including some real standouts that rival L glass, they have great aftermarket lens support, the bodies offer a good choice of levels, and they are priced well enough. Discounting the system due to a perceived inferior sensor size seems a little short sighted. Sensor size alone does not make the image. Detail and DR of the “tiny” 4/3 sensor can easily be compared to the big bad FF but sure a high ISO fight will be lost (good thing Oly has great IBIS). I contend that if Sony didn’t have a full frame sensor it would barely be a blip.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Sony’s FF really did change their fortunes. If you look at sales, Olympus topped the market in Japan in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 periods. For 2014-2015, Sony apparently sold about as well as both Olympus and Panasonic together. What that stat (from one of the Japanese-market watch companies, don’t recall the name offhand) didn’t reveal on its own is just how much of that was market shift and how much was market growth — eg, did Sony take actual sales away from Panasonic/Olympus, from Nikon/Canon… or did the market shrink overall?

      And for video, sure, mirrorless makes sense, which is of course why the A7s was aimed squarely at taking down the 5D a few notches. But otherwise, the A7 body is 7oz lighter than my 6D, and the only reason an A7 lens kit would weight less is that the FF lenses I use just don’t exist in E-Mount yet. The EVF alone isn’t an advantage for still photography by itself. The extra info available is great (I use the levels in the OM-D viewfinder all the time), but that’s something DSLRs can evolve as well.

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  6. David Blanchard

    I bought a Sony NEX7 a couple of years ago. Since that time I have only had my Canon 7D kit out once. Last week I sent the whole kit off to KEH to be recycled into dollars.

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  7. Frank Villafane

    I own the Nikon D750 and love the IQ, AF and overall feel of the SLR. It is difficult to beat, but I use it as my base for judging a mirrorless. To date I have owned and used: Olympus EM1, Fujifilm XT-1 and Sony A7II.

    Of all the mirrorless cameras I’ve used, I enjoy shooting the EM1 the most. It offers outstanding performance in a small body and its IQ is equally outstanding. Yes, I know it’s a 2x crop, but I find it has not limited me in any way. I use it primarily for events and portraiture.

    The Sony A7II is a fantastic camera, but the lenses available are inadequate when compared to Nikon’s (or even Olympus’) offerings. The fact that I can use an adapter and retrofit my Nikon glass on it is a big factor in its favor…but I long for a really good native lens. Time will tell.

    Fuji XT-1 is greatly lauded, and there are not a few photographers who are sold on its capability vs the DSLR. The crop works against it, imho, but Fuji has 2 things in its favor: great firmware support and outstanding glass. I personally don’t favor the rangefinder style of body, but it hasn’t hampered its use either (and some prefer it, frankly).

    I think the mirrorless camera is in its ascendency…once we see full-frame mirrorless cameras as the norm, I believe the technology will catch up and surpass that of the current crop of DSLRs. (but hey…the current crop of DSLRs now encroach on the medium format)

    All this just proves that It’s a good time to be a photographer.

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  8. Dave Haynie

    It’s tempting to say “Sony”, simply because they’re the only ones, so far, with a full-frame mirrorless line. However, I have two functional problems with that, as a FF Canon shooter (and mirrorless Olympus shooter, just to have my prejudiced out on the table). For one, Sony just doesn’t have the FF lens selection to compete with Canon or Nikon, and won’t likely for the better part of decade, even if they’re crazy successful and Sony gets back to profitability, rather than losing $2-3 billion every year. Even factoring in APS lenses, Sony’s behind m43 and probably even Fujifilm on lenses, even if the do make a new body every three months.

    Second problem is the “advantage” of mirrorless. To me, it’s all about quality and size. I have used a number of other cameras for years, but until the OM-D, always had regrets about not taking the Canon. Now, sure, if I know I’m going to be shooting in the dark, on a tripod, I will have the Canon with me. But if I’m climbing a mountain, it’s probably the Olympus (certainly was a week-and-a-half ago). And unlike past efforts at a DSLR alternative, the OM-D doesn’t leave me wishing I had brought the Canon. This is the first sign that I could at least see using the OM-D full time. Taking a full Olympus kit means I’m carrying 1/3-1/4 the weight of the Canon… or better, since the IBIS on the OM-D is just freaky good, so I may get by without a tripod, where I’d probably want one with the Canon. Changing out a Sony A7 for a Canon 6D means I save 7 ounces off my roughly 25lbs of Canon gear — or would, if those lenses actually existed in E-Mount.

    If Olympus didn’t exist, I might have looked at Fujifilm. I have a couple of Fujifilm X-series P&S cameras, and they’re easily the best P&S cameras I’ve owned, better lenses and larger sensors. But you’re still going to have a larger system with the Fuji. If the advantage of mirrorless isn’t significant, why would I give up the rather obvious advantage of FF DSLR? What I do like in the Fujifilm line is compact (eg, rangefinder/Pen style) bodies with viewfinders. Olympus… they make tiny bodies, my Pen E-PM1 with a pancake lens isn’t much larger than my Fujiflm X-F1. But on built-in viewfinder, and sure, there are add-ons, but with that, you might as well bring the OM-D. The other thing that attracted me to both the OM-D and Fujifilm has been the retro notion.. not just the styling, but the gestalt of making a still camera that’s really, really good for still photography. Really usable in the real world.

    And in support of micro-four thirds, there are over twice as many m43 lenses as any other mirrorless system. Even more if you count companies only in m43 for video/cinema. And that’s also a big thing: all the companies doing good video in m43. While I got into m43 strictly for still photography, one attractive feature was their video orientation: Panasonic, Blackmagic Design, JVC, Zeiss, Rokinon, etc. Until the recently announced Samsung NX-500, Panny had the only still-for-video solution with on-camera 4K and longer-than-29’59” recording. Canon kind of started that whole market, and while I like my Canons for video, I’m not sure I’d go there for the next body, now that I have the m43 system.

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  9. Paul Nguyen

    I would say Fuji, because of the lenses and the coherent system feel. The best thing about DSLRs is their systems, Canon and Nikon have such complete systems that you can just shoot anything with them, there’s lenses for everyone, accessories for everyone and you can buy lenses today and use them for the next few decades.

    Fuji seems to understand the importance of lenses. They have a stellar set of primes that are probably as good as LEICAs and the zooms they’re releasing now are excellent.

    Sony seems to be obsessed with releasing new bodies. Right now, they have 4 full-frame E-mount bodies, with more to come, but they only have like 5 lenses? No roadmap, no plans. That’s just such a joke, they’re fine if you fall into the “middle” group of shooters, who are happy with a 24-70 and a couple zooms, but if you need fast primes, or longer lenses, you’re out of luck unless you adapt lenses, which brings other issues.

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    • James Rogen

      to say fuji is as good as leica is like saying a lancer evo is as good as a lamborghini. Sure it make keep up in a few corners, but overall you just cannot compare.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      James I believe that he was referring to the Lenses that Fuji makes. In that regard, I agree with him, Fuji makes some fine lenses, Leica has some nice brand recognition, but that doesn’t mean their lenses are above reproach.

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    • fotosiamo

      What are you talking about? Sony definitely has a lens road map, have already announced the release of several lenses for this first half of 2015, and are releasing more lenses later this year into next year.

      At least they’re not Canon or Nikon with their anemic system support for their joke of a mirrorless system.

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  10. James Rogen

    i’m submit to the school of thought that the most expensive is the best, in which case Leica is the best. Can all the rich snobs like my comment now?

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  11. aaron febbo

    Its hard to say but i would give it to sony. Although they lack in some areas their overall cameras are amazing. They have been making giant steps with each system and they,as well as fuji, strive to continually better their products to meet consumer’s needs. Also doesn’t hurt that they are full frame not to mention they are competitively priced as well.

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  12. Stan Rogers

    None of the above. I have tried, and fundamentally like, Fuji, Sony and Samsung (and disagree VERY strongly about the “consumer feel” statement), but frankly it all boils down to the finder when it comes to replacing an SLR completely. It’s not about lag anymore (though that was a significant problem in the past) or resolution (ditto), but about being able to see everything that my eye could see *without* the finder, unrestricted by the contrast range of the sensor/display pairing and without colour bias of any sort. (And it doesn’t need to be reflex; I was just as happy viewing an upside-down ground glass with a dark cloth over my head.) I don’t want to see what the camera sees (except in the through-the-lens framing sense of things) when I’m using the finder, because what the camera sees at that point will have next to nothing to do with what it’s going to see when the picture is taken. I’m not totally opposed to the idea of an EVF and all of its possible aids and overlays–really I’m not–but that EVF has to be able to show me more or less what I can see with the naked eye. I think that’s doable, if not now, then in the near future, even if that means compressing the display values a little bit. Of the three “almosts”, the first one that figures that part out will get a lot of wallet votes.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I should elaborate on my ‘consumer feel’ statement. That wasn’t really meant in regards to the NX1, but for the cameras previous to it. The NX1, in my opinion, is probably the most DSLR-like mirrorless I have used in terms of size and weight. A nice middle ground between the “small” mirrorless world and the “big” dslr world.

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    • robert garfinkle

      I have a tendency to side with Stan. I own a Nikon DSLR, I am comfortable with TTL, and that would be the first rung on the ladder, in criterion, towards mirrorless, regardless of other features…

      let’s discuss the “being taken seriously” aspect for a moment, shall we.

      Bluntly, whether it’s a mirrorless or DSLR you have in your hands, it probably does not make a difference, right? As professionals, not speaking about myself of course, but you guys and gals here in this forum, will probably have the tendency to pick up a camera (make the purchase) based on professional / experience, based needs, more so than anything else, am I correct?

      My point is, mirrorless is being taken seriously by any of you who own one (or two, or three, etc…) and use it to serve you…

      I understand Anthony’s general question about them being taken seriously – as a whole, yet I think they are, more or less, being taken seriously.

      Whether or not the general photographic community “thinks” of them as serious gear or not, any of you, who own / work them already know the riddle’s answer – it get’s the job done for you… that’s all that matters…

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  13. Peter McWade

    Sony is close. I’d like to see a 50+mp Sensor that can do fast frames per second and excellent low light. Where maybe it can do as well as the A7S and 4k Video in camera. So if someone is into video or photography they can do both with one camera. for now Im looking to get my hands on an A7S for my in shop interviews where most low light problems will be held to a minimum. I feel that there are plenty of native lenses available but it could I guess use more. If you don’t mind manual, which I don’t, then there is a world of excellent glass available and Im betting that Sony knew that was what most would do. If you need auto then there are enough native to do the trick for most situations.

    Im happy with my choice of Sony. I currently have the A7R.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I agree with you about not needing autofocus. I use almost exclusively vintage MF lenses on my Fuji. But, that still doesn’t mean that many Pro’s don’t find the AF performance on the current crop of mirrorless cameras subpar to their SLR, and in most cases they are right.

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