Sunday, 4 March 2012

Focus on Imaging 2012

Another year of Focus but this time around there were more interesting cameras to play around with, mirrorless options grew and got more and more interesting over the years.
As interesting and innovative some of the mirrorless cameras are, as uninspiring are the model numbers of the cameras. Starting with Fuji with the X-Pro 1 or is it X1 Pro, the Olympus OM-D or E-M 5 or both (or whatever silliness Olympus has done by using two model names), the Canon GX1 or G1X or something else with this combination of letters and number 1 (which seem to be the only ones in the alphabet for camera manufacturers), the non-functional Sigma DP1 and DP2 Merrill (seems Sigma only uses the DP1 and DP2 naming for the compact cameras and did not purchase the rights to any higher numbers or different letters) it seems Nikon was the most innovative with their 1 series, shame the cameras are cheap plastic toys. Naming is not something the manufacturers have really figured out.

But let's look at the actual cameras, like last year I was again interested in a new camera from Fuji. The X-Pro 1, like the X100 and X10 before it, is a great looking camera and shows that Fuji has figured out that retro is in and sells. The X-Pro 1 is their first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera and should prove very popular and give Leica a well deserved trashing for not being innovative at all and re-hashing outdated designs with their M series.
Handling the camera actually feels very good, it is nicely built and Fuji has listened to complaints/feedback and improved the menu and external controls from the X100 and X10. The camera is also way more responsive than the sluggish X100, offers more customization options and a improved menu system.
Unfortunately (or as usual) Fuji falls short of having the best camera of the show with some annoying but avoidable problems. My most hated feature in cameras is the screen freeze when focusing and the X-Pro 1 not only has this but the AF is also very slow and mostly not very reliable and misfocusses very often, especially at close distances. While the AF is pretty poor (like the X100 in terms of speed and reliability), the MF speed has been improved so now turning the ring actually moves the MF point at a reasonable pace, unfortunately there is no focus peaking so MF is done by assessing fuzziness on the screen. The last point is the screen does not tilt, this would not have been a major point a while ago but right now there is no excuse not to have a tilt screen.

I did not expect much of the Olympus OM-D (I will call it OM-D since this is the only sensible name for it and not E-M5) given the poor track record of Olympus with their other m4/3 cameras with their poor controls and build. They did manage to surprise me though and this camera stole the show, it is THE best m4/3 camera to date and one of the nicest built and handling mirrorless you can buy. It has a great screen which you can tilt, a very good built-in EVF, customizable controls with wheels, very good build quality with weather sealing, it's very fast (the AF especially is impressive) and very responsive and has some nice accessories available for it.
It basically shows that Olympus has been listening to feedback and has improved their cameras, unlike Panasonic who have got worse an worse. Right now I would go as far to say that this is the only m4/3 camera one should consider and if I were not in the process to get rid of my m4/3 gear or even if m4/3 would be better at supporting M lenses I would be very tempted by it.

I have also played around with the Sony NEX-7 a bit more and still like it, next to the OM-D it's probably the best camera at the show but it feels a bit hollow and way too light compared with the GXR or GRD cameras which feel solid. The lens selection is still not there yet and without proper support for M lenses it is too expensive right now compared with the IMO more capable (in terms of M lenses) and cheaper NEX-5n, despite the great results Björn is getting with his camera.

As for the rest, the Canon G1X is simply a G11 with big sensor, which is not a bad thing per se but it's not very innovative and the OVF is a joke. The Panasonic GX1 is simply a GF1 with handgrip and a (way overdue) improved sensor but without any flip screen, built-in EVF, weather sealing or any features worth mentioning. The Nikon 1 series are horrible plastic cameras with huge (and slow lenses) and some of the worst controls since the Sigma DP1. The Sigma DP1 and DP2 Merrill look like what the original DP1 or at least DP2 should have been but they are years too late to the party.
As usual neither Ricoh nor Pentax were around so unfortunately I could not check out the new, funky looking Pentax K-01 or the new A16 Zoom module.

So overall mirrorless offers have been growing and have got better. Still, after the GXR Mount A12, I am not tempted by anything but a new GXR body with a flip screen.

Having said this, I did end up buying something. I got myself a Holga lens for the Samsung NX mount which I intend to convert to M mount and use on the GXR. I do like the one for the GF1 and wanted to have one for the GXR, too.


  1. Hahaha, I bought a pinhole Holga the other day. Not tried it yet as not really sure what to do re the exposure...

  2. You've got the focus just right. ; )

    The OVF of the G1X is not a joke really. It is a big joke. The AF is also wonky on which a Canon official tester agreed with me.

    Oh, the Nex7 is great except that I can't be quite sure whether I have really turned the top twin wheels. And I found the flickering of the EVF screen display upon focus confirmation annoying.

    Look forward to your shots with the new lenses. Have a nice day!

  3. Thanks for your report, Cristi. I welcome your views. You always tell it as it is. The OM-D has caught my interest too and I like the idea of the Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens. With the 12mm and 45mm lens, it would comprise a small and compact kit that would cover the subjects and situations I encounter. But like you I would miss the opportunity to use M-mount lenses.

    I had been rather keen on the X1 Pro but recently read about the half press freeze and far from stellar AF.

    I take it the model featured in the photograph had a more inspiring name than those of the cameras. :)

  4. Thanks for your comments, glad you found this report informative!

  5. I see all these new mirrorless models appearing averywhere. It's as if all the major makers are desperate to capture the market. Fuji seem to be trying to get the retro lovers. Nikon seem ultra modern, but lack soul (if that makes sense).

    I think this camera format has a good future, but I think it will take a few years before the real great machines appear. Let the dust settle and we shall see who is winning.

    This was a really well written account, and it's good to hear your view point.

  6. Thanks for your comment Bill!

    I agree that it will take a while to really see in which direction the mirrorless market will develop but it's great to have so many choices (even if they are all called the same).