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Weather-Sealed Mirrorless Digital Cameras

Weatherproof Mirrorless Models

Professional photographers are required to produce publication-worthy images no matter the weather. This requires tough weatherproof gear. To take hold onto the professional market, the latest generation of mirrorless cameras includes several weather-sealed models. Such cameras can handle rain, snow and dust when combined with a suitable weatherproof lens.

In this feature article, we compare the latest generation of cropped-sensor mirrorless cameras. Each of these cameras offers high image-quality in a relatively compact body and is compatible with native lenses which are comparatively smaller than their DSLR-equivalent. For completeness, we briefly describe full-frame weather-sealed mirrorless cameras in the right column. Those are not only larger but require significantly larger lenses which reduce the advantages of a mirrorless system. They are also much more expensive, reaching several thousands of dollars for the body alone.

Weather-sealed camera bodies require weather-sealed lenses for the whole to stand against the elements. This generally means that relatively more costly cameras demand more costly lenses. The only current exception is the Nikon 1 AW1
Nikon 1 AW1
which is not only weatherproof but waterproof as well. That one is designed for entry-level users rather than professionals, offering a basic feature-set and limited number of controls. The right column on the next page goes into more details regarding its waterproof feature.

Table 1 - Model Prices
Brand Camera Recent Street Price
Fuji X-T1 819 USD 1499 CDN
Fuji X-T1 Graphite 1199 USD 1699 CDN
Nikon 1 AW1 579 USD 809 CDN
Olympus OM-D E-M1 999 USD 949 CDN
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II 815 USD 899 CDN
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 810 USD 1399 CDN
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 1048 USD 1369 CDN

There are 7 contenders. Fuji has the twin X-T1
Fuji X-T1
and X-T1 Graphite
Fuji X-T1 Graphite
which are nearly identical except for a more durable finish on the Graphite version. Nikon has the single waterproof 1 AW1
Nikon 1 AW1
. Olympus offers the high-end OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M1
with built-in Phase-Detect AF to support legacy Zuiko lenses and the newer OM-D E-M5 Mark II
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
which relies on Contrast-Detect AF. Panasonic has the large GH4
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
with its emphasis on video and their flagship GX8
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
which offers newer technologies such as dual image-stabilization.

For the remainder of this article, the X-T1 and X-T1 Graphite are equivalent and we shall simply refer to them as X-T1. Neocamera reviewed every single of these cameras, so if any of those appears interesting, follow the links above to reach the in-depth-review. There is also an older OM-D E-M5
Olympus OM-D E-M5
which is nearly identical to its Mark II version. Neither Canon nor Pentax has produced any weather-sealed mirrorless cameras yet. Sony makes all weatherproof full-frame mirrorless cameras. They do have an SLT APS-C camera which is the size of a DSLR and uses the same lenses, so it is not included here.

The prices above were found at the time of publication based on availability and usually good down over time. They are only quoted for the body, no lens or memory card is included, so do leave room in your budget to complete the system. Remember that the lens is an important aspect of DSLR image quality and should be given careful consideration. Check the lens buying guide for more information on how to choose lenses.

These mirrorless cameras, with exception of the AW1, are all aimed at professional photographers. They have extensive feature-sets and a high number of external controls. The non-Nikon ones have at least 2 control-dials, up to 4 in some cases. The AW1 is also the only one in the group without an EVF or a hot-shoe. The minimal feature set covered by all the cropped-sensor weatherproof mirrorless presented here is summarized in Table 2 here:

Table 2 - Weather-Sealed Mirrorless Common Features
14 - 20 MP 1.5X - 2.7X Crop-Factor Interchangeable Lenses PASM Exposure
ISO 200-6400 1/4000s - 30s, Bulb Multi-Segment, Center-Weighed & Spot ±3 EV EC
1920x1080 @ 30 FPS 8 FPS Drive 37+ Point AF ±2 EV FC
Auto & Preset WB Custom WB WB Fine-Tuning, 2 axis, 15 steps JPEG / RAW
SDXC Memory Lithium-Ion 3" LCD 920K Pixels Remote

Primary differences are detailed on on page 2. In deciding among one of these cameras, primary differences relevant to your photographic needs should be considered first. Should no such difference affect your photographic needs, then it will come down do secondary differences which are described starting on page 3.

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Weatherpoof Full-Frame Mirrorless

Sony makes a series of full-frame mirrorless. Their 3 nearly identical models differ mostly in their sensors. All these offer a built-in 2.4 megapixels 0.5" EVF in a weather-sealed body with triple control-dials and built-in 5-axis image-stabilization. They also have a tilting 3" LCD with 1.2 megapixels.

The Sony Alpha A7 II
Sony Alpha A7 II
base model offers a 24 MP sensor with anti-alias filter and 117-point Phase-Detect AF system. It can shoot at 5 FPS and capture full 1080p HD video. Its sensor covers an ISO 50 - 25600 sensitivity range.

Sony Alpha A7R II

The Sony Alpha A7R II
Sony Alpha A7R II
features a class-leading 42 megapixels Back-Side-Illumination (BSI) CMOS sensor and manages to reach ISO 102400 expanded sensitivity, up from its native ISO 25600 maximum. This unique sensor is anti-alias filter-free and packs an impressive 399-point Phase-Detect AF system. This model introduces 4K Ultra-HD video recording at 30 FPS.

The Sony Alpha A7S II
Sony Alpha A7S II
takes low-light capabilities to the next level with a 12 megapixels CMOS sensor with ISO 100-102400 native sensitivity range which expands to a stellar ISO 50 - 409600. This sensor has an anti-alias filter and is capable of capturing Ultra-HD video without scaling or skipping to deliver the smoothest possible 4K output. The A7S II offers a 169-point Phase-Detect AF system with sensitivity to -4 EV.

These cameras reach $3200 USD for the body alone and require full-frame coverage lenses. Sony already offers a good number of full-frame E-mount weatherproof lenses which are pricey as well. The advantage of full-frame is obviously high image-quality and, while the cameras are impressively compact, corresponding lenses are not.

Neocamera Blog is a medium for expressing ideas related to digital cameras and photography. Read about digital cameras in the context of technology, media, art and the world. Latest posts links:

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