A little rant about… incomplete mirrorless camera systems

Fuji X-Pro1

The popularity of mirrorless cameras (also known as CSCs or EVIL) has been unprecedented, thanks to their compact form factor and full range of features, plus superior image quality compared to their point-and-pray… er, I mean “shoot”, counterparts.

The technology inside these cameras has evolved in leaps and bounds since the first generation of mirrorless cameras – including the Panasonic Lumix G1 and Olympus Pen E-P1 – were introduced. (Though arguably one of the first “real” non-DSLR cameras was the Sony F828.) Following these cameras, almost all the other big brands including Sony, Pentax, Samsung, Fuji and Nikon have each developed their own interpretations of the technology.

All have something in common – not only the nature of their technology – which is the fact that all cameras in this format lack a complete feature set. Any function that one camera is short of, another camera might have, but it’s missing something else… ad infinitum. The growth of this technology, as mentioned before, has been rapid, but this has taken little account of what users really need. (The brands appear to “assume” they know the needs of users, but photography forums are full of comments echoing what I write here.)

For example, the Olympus Digital Pen series have in-body image stabilisation but no Focus Peaking (for manual focus) as found in Sony NEX cameras. The Sony NEX system, meanwhile, has many of its essential functions hidden in menus and only one model (the NEX-7) has a proper hotshoe (which is a non-standard Sony one needing adapters). Conversely, the Fuji X line-up of cameras (X100, X-Pro1) all have standard hotshoes but no Focus Peaking… And so on, and so forth, for every make and model.

For me, one of the most important commonly-missed functions is Focus Peaking, which I think is essential for all cameras of this type, since most people choose to get manual focus lenses to augment the poor, limited range of autofocus lenses available. (In the case of the Fuji X-Pro1 and high-end range of Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Nikon, it’s almost a sin that they don’t have Focus Peaking.)

For those not familiar with the concept: Focus Peaking is a visual aid to assist manual focus. If you want to see how it works, watch the following video:

Even without the hotshoe, many brands are missing the entire market of photographers who use flashes off-camera seeking to maintain compactness and light weight…

Strobi… whaaaat?

So, mirrorless camera manufacturers: please have the decency – instead of creating many new versions with minor adjustments – to read what people are saying about your cameras in internet forums. Use this to plan new models; don’t “assume” what we want when it is better to listen.

Table flip

  • khuzul

    So true, had a NEX 5n for some time but the lack of decent pancake primes, hotshoe and such made me sell it, altho i loved the compactness of the body and the IQ of the sensor.

    • http://www.eduardofrances.com Eduardo Frances

      Yeah I don’t know why Sony hasn’t released a Pancake lens, as for Hotshoe there’s now a hot shoe adapter for the NEX5 and NEX5N, I think the article we wrote about it is scheduled for today or monday. I love the idea of a compact camera too specially for the tilt adapters available in Ebay however the lack of features is throwing me off from buying right now…

  • http://ranger9.net Ranger 9

    Nobody had “focus peaking” and nobody missed it until Sony introduced it, and now all of a sudden it’s a universal must-have feature? Come on, it’s just a convenience, and one that will become less and less relevant as more native-AF lenses become available.

    This whole business of using adapted “legacy” MF lenses, popular though it is now, is just a stopgap. When I first bought a mirrorless camera, I thought I was going to use my legacy manual-focus lenses a lot; I convinced myself that I actually preferred focusing manually. But now I find that as soon as an equivalent native AF lens becomes available, I tend to switch to it and never go back.

    If you want to talk about incompleteness, though, here’s one void that’s very relevant to Lighting Rumours. There are now several wireless-TTL radio triggers for Canon and Nikon (and reputedly at least one for Sony, although I don’t know if it works with the NEX).

    So how come nobody offers one for Panasonic/Olympus? The Lumix G, GX and GH-series cameras, the Olympus Pens, the Olympus E-series DSLRs, and the new OM-D cameras all use compatible TTL flash systems, so you’d think there would be enough of these around by now that at least ONE third-party manufacturer would cover them. Hello, Pocketwizard? Phottix? Pixel? Anybody?

  • Charge5photo

    I believe in a open, modular camera system. Give the user the benefit of picking which features/apps work for him/her.

  • Markdphoto

    One thing that is not mentioned here is that the manufacturers have a patchwork of patents that they negotiate/collude between themselves to offer on their cameras that do not necessarily show up on every camera. AF itself is licensed from Honeywell. Had Honeywell still manufactured cameras you can be sure that they would not license that tech to others.
    In the same way IBIS is not part of the NEX architecture though they have it on their DSLRs.

    Now let us have a good rant about a solid, open source connector for flash that accommodates shoe mount and a cable connector. While we are at it, an accessory mounting bar that allows us to mount a flash and trigger and some other accessory to the camera. Oh, and all camera bottoms be machined as Arca -Swiss baseplates.

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