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Step 2More Mirrorless Systems Guide 2018

Overview

Mirrorless cameras each fit in a system which determines its sensor-size and which lenses are available for it. For general information on mirrorless cameras, start with Step 1 of this mirrorless guide. In Step 2 - this page - all mirrorless systems are compared and described in detail.

MostWith the exception of Panasonic and Olympus which share one. camera manufacturers introduced their own mirrorless systems, or even two for some, and bootstrapped them by providing preferential compatibility with their existing system. This lets a mirrorless camera use lenses compatible with DSLRs from the same manufacturer with few limitations via a mount-adapterExcept for Pentax K and Sony SLT systems which use a DSLR mount and Fuji whose discontinued DSLRs use a Nikon F-mount..

Nikon 1

Given the fast market-growth of mirrorless cameras, people highly anticipated the biggest two camera makers to join in. Nikon did so first as they unveiled the unique 1 system. Its CX format defines a 1" sensor with a 3:2 aspect-ratio and a 2.7X crop-factor.

Nikon CX Sensor

The 2.7X crop-factor puts the Nikon 1 system right between compact cameras and Micro Four-Thirds in terms of image quality. This was certainly a deliberate choice, probably to avoid cannibalizing sales of Nikon's lucrative DSLR lineup. In other words, the CX format offers a notable advantage over typical fixed-lens cameras while not approaching the image quality of DSLRs.

At the same time, Nikon directly addressed the biggest criticism of mirrorless cameras at the time by being firstFuji pioneered this on fixed-lens cameras but has yet to use in on mirrorless ones. with a focal-plane Phase-Detect autofocus system. With the launch of their first two mirrorless cameras, Nikon claimed to have achieved the fastest autofocus speeds of any camera.

Cameras

Nikon produces a number of mirrorless cameras, split along 4 series. A built-in 1.5 megapixels EVF with Eye-Start sensor appears on the high-end series uses both an electronic and a mechanical shutter. Two entry-level series consist of cameras with an all-electronic shutter and differ mostly in terms of design. An intermediate waterproof mirrorless, the AW1 reviewed here
Nikon 1 AW1
, stands alone and is the only waterproof interchangeable lens digital camera ever made.

Nikon 1 V2

The electronic shutter available on all models lets these cameras shoot extremely quietly and fast. Continuous drive speeds up to 60 FPS are available at full-resolution or 15 FPS with continuous autofocus. Video capture up to 400 FPS is also possible at reduced resolutions.

The latest 1 V3
Nikon 1 V3
has the most direct controls with a proper mode-dial plus triple control-dials. Other 1-series cameras have full manual-controls too, they just take longer to use. Even so, the user-interface of Nikon 1 cameras is not designed for people who use manual-controls extensively.

Nikon 1 cameras are comparable in size to Micro Four-Thirds models and thus have no size advantage against competitors with larger sensors. The same is true of Nikon 1 lenses, discussed next. There is certainly room to make them smaller, so usability may be the issue.

Lenses

Nikon offers a growing number of 1-mount lenses. Most of those are variable aperture zooms with built-in image stabilization. The lineup includes four prime lenses and an ultra-zoom in mechanical and power-zoom versions.

All lenses are rectilinear and together they cover a 6.7 - 300mm range, equivalent to 18 - 810mm which is very impressive. There are no macro or other specialty lenses. Two lenses are waterproof to a depth of 10m, just like the Nikon 1 AW1. Only with those two lenses can the AW1 be used underwater, but it supports all other 1-series lenses for over-land use.

Nikon 1 Lenses

Nikon offers a mount adapter to use F-mount lenses with a 2.7X crop-factor. This adds coverage at the long end and allows for better normal-to-telephoto lenses to be used. Given how different the 1-system is from others, it is unsurprising that no third-party produces Nikon 1 lenses.

Sony A-Mount

Shortly after launching their NEX system, Sony, who was being criticized for not having video-capable DSLRs yet, unveiled two
Sony Alpha SLT-A55
additions
Sony Alpha SLT-A33
to the Alpha family. These cameras featured a semi-transparent mirror to divert light continuously to a Phase-Detect autofocus system and used a 1.5 megapixels EVF for eye-level shooting.

Sony SLT See-Thru View

This design adds the ability to measure focus and meter during exposure and video capture which allows for high-speed shooting with continuous autofocus beyond what is currently available on most cameras. Movie capture also gets Phase-Detect AF which is much less bothersome than the usual Contrast-Detect AF.

Sony sees this as the evolution of DSLRs and so their marketing department calls them SLT, for Single Lens Translucent. Only the mirror is not translucentA translucent mirror would not allow for a sharp image. Instead a semi-transparent pellicle mirror is used.! After a while, Sony simply started calling these DSLR cameras while keeping SLT as part of the model-name. Unlike other mirrorless systems, Sony's SLT cameras do not offer a saving in size since their bodies are not much smaller than similarly specified DSLRs.

Cameras

Sony SLT cameras use the Alpha mount acquired from Konica-Minolta. This mount allows for a full-frame image-circle, since it was used in the days of film, but the initial models used an APS-C sensor with a 1.5X crop-factor. The lineup now includes a full-frame model as well which requires lenses with the right coverage.

Sony A-mount cameras feature built-in stabilization which was actually invented by Konica-Minolta and acquired by Sony before being adapted by other manufacturers. This means that stabilization works with all lenses, even legacy ones.

Sony Alpha SLT-A99V

The lineup of SLT cameras offers four series. The top-of-the-line Sony Alpha A99 II
Sony Alpha A99 II
is full-frame. Like the SLT-A77 II
Sony Alpha SLT-A77 II
mid-range offering, it is weather-sealed and features dual control-dials. Both entry-level series have had multiple cameras all with light-weight bodies having a single control-dial.

Sony has implemented an Exposure-Priority Live-View on all its SLT cameras which all offer a large LCD and high-resolution EVF, with up to 2.4 MP. An Eye-Start Sensor, also inherited from Konica-Minolta, automatically switches the between the EVF and LCD and is a pleasure to have.

Lenses

Considering the use of the original autofocus lens-mount, SLT cameras can accept a huge variety of lenses from Sony, Konica-Minolta and most third-party lens manufacturers. Sony makes rectilinear lenses covering 11 to 500mm. Additional coverage down to 8mm rectilinear or 4.5mm fisheye is provided by Sigma.

There are lenses currently in production for most purposes. This includes constant-aperture zooms, bright primes, ultra-zooms, super-telephoto lenses and a number of high-quality autofocus lenses by Carl Zeiss. The major gap is having almost no weather-sealed lenses which is understandable considering that two years ago, Sony did not have any weather-sealed Alpha-mount cameras.

Sony Alpha Lenses

Fuji GFX

Fujifilm joined the Digital Medium Format race with an all-new GFX system. Inspired by their success with the X-system, their initial GFX 50S reviewed here
Fujifilm GFX 50S
sports a similar hybrid design blending analog and digital controls into a body the size of a DSLR, yet with a larger 50 megapixels 0.8X-crop sensor. Like traditional Medium Format cameras, this one has a 4:3 aspect-ratio.

The larger sensor area, similar to other Digital Medium Format cameras gives it exceptional image quality with incredible dynamic-range and low image-noise. As a professional tool, the GFX 50S offers dual control-dials in a weatherproof and freezeproof body. This initial model is uniquely modular, offering an optional ultra-high-resolution 3.7 megapixels EVF with Eye-Start Sensor which makes it possible to introduce a tilt-adapter between the body and EVF to allow a great deal of framing flexibility.

Along with their first Medium Format mirrorless, Fujifilm introduced a new all-electronic G-mount. It offers a handful of G-mount lenses, covering a 23 to 120mm focal-range. The 0.8X crop factor makes this roughly equivalent to 18 to 96mm on a full-frame. All these lenses are weatherproof, although only one is stabilized yet. The camera itself is not stabilized either, nor are any other Medium Format cameras.

Pentax K

Pentax introduced a K-mount mirrorless camera, the Pentax K-01
Pentax K-01
which has already been discontinued, two years ago. This is the same mount as they use on their DSLRs with a similar APS-C sensor having a 1.5X crop-factor. This therefore gives a negligible savings in bulk.

Cameras

Rather than aim for existing customers to upgrade from models they are already happy with, Pentax went for a completely different market with the launch of their K-01. Pentaxians were therefore shocked when they saw a camera not designed for practicality and ergonomics but rather for its unusual modern look.

Pentax K-01

The K-01 offers a paired-down feature set from Pentax entry-level DSLRs. It cannot be used at eye-level though since there is no EVF nor provision to add one. The body is neither weather-sealed nor freezeproof.

Lenses

The K-mount is one of the oldest mounts still in use. It is compatible with the entire legacy and current lineup of Pentax K-mount lenses, plus all K-mount lenses from third-party manufacturers. While Pentax has one of the smallest lineups among DSLR makers, this gives them the largest lens lineup among mirrorless cameras.

Pentax makes lenses from 10mm fisheye to 560mm rectilinear and most are designed with APS-C coverage. This makes them more compact than most other lenses designed for SLR cameras. Pentax is famous for its ultra-high quality Limited lenses and very slim pancake lenses. Sigma produces fisheye lenses down to 4.5 and rectilinear ones down to 8mm in Pentax K-mount.

Pentax K-01 and Lenses

Hasselblad XCD

Hasselblad introduced a Digital Medium Format mirrorless system around the same time as Fujifilm did. This one also uses a sensor with 0.8X crop-factor and 4:3 aspect-ratio. The Hasselblad XCD system uses its own new all-electronic XCD lens-mount.

Hasselblad X1D-50c

The first XCD camera is the highly compact X1D-50c
Hasselblad X1D-50c
which sports a 50 megapixels CMOS sensor. Uniquely, this camera does not feature a shutter mechanism. Instead, it relies on lenses having a built-in shutter which offers the advantage of high sync-speed. However, legacy lenses cannot be adapted to this system since they have no shutter which would make exposure impossible.

Hasselblad created its own interface and style of ergonomics to optimize handling of such a small mirorless camera, despite having a Medium Format sensor. There are still dual control-dials, a traditional mode-dial and a large 2.4 megapixels EVF with 100% coverage and an Eye-Start sensor.

Lenses

There are exactly 3 lenses for the XCD system, all from Hasselblad themselves. Requiring a leaf-shutter makes it unlikely that many third-party will produce compatible lenses. For now, there are just 3 relatively slow prime lenses, a 30mm, 45mm and a 90mm one.

Next

Proceed to Step 3, , for advice and considerations before buying a mirrorless.

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