15th February 2013, 08:58 AM #1
Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras
You know mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (I'll refer to them as MILCs from now on)? These rather compact cameras pack an image sensor and processing power fit for a DSLR, but do away with the internal mirror and the optical viewfinder without giving up the ability to swap lenses. The look like a compact with a comically oversized lens most of the time.
MILCs used to be something more of an interesting experiment, but there's this strange thing going on with MILCs - they seem to be more popular than ever. Unlike compact point-and-shoot cameras, you can change the lens of the camera, and they almost always utilize only an LCD for display (some come with an electronic viewfinder) and framing.
I still remember when MILCs are slow in auto-focus performance and tracking, but these days, as long as it's not a Canon (ew, EOS M is a disappointment), recent MILCs have hybrid auto-focus systems that utilized both the fast phase-detection and the accurate contrast-detection.
I was gifted a Sony Alpha NEX-5R a few days ago, and the camera felt like second nature, very unlike a real, entry-level DSLR, more akin to a point-and-shoot and smartphone camera. It does have a rather sizable touch-screen for me to, well, do things, with the most important thing with it being able to tap to focus and shoot. The camera itself is also much easier on my hands compared to the DSLR I've used in the workshop months ago - I actually managed to hold it for more than 10 minutes without getting fatigued.
Due to the APS-C sensor inside it, I was able to get excellent picture quality all the way up to ISO 3200 (which is also the maximum auto ISO mode will let you go before you opt for manual), and the camera still produces usable - dare I say, respectable results - even at ISO 12800, and even ISO 25600 works in a pinch without having things look like a mess. High ISO performance also means that I can finally get away with very low shutter speeds without compromising on quality - 1/2000 to freeze almost everything, anyone?
The built-in scene modes for night shots are a bit different - for once, I can actually take a night shot well hand-held, partially thanks to optical image stabilization that actually works, partially thanks to its ISO performance, but especially thanks to its software magic. Combining several noisy frames to make one noise-free frame? Mmm, tasty. HDR photography is also something built-in, and with the shutter going rapid-fire, you don't need a tripod for most shots - it's probably the first camera I have that I can get away with just holding it in one hand. It even helps me recompose portraits.
Also, works for self-portraits because the LCD tilts all the way to "towards me", working as an impromptu front-facing camera. I think the LCD screen seems to be something very high-end - unlike most cameras, the screen is very bright, even outdoors, doesn't have colour shifting, doesn't ghost, and doesn't have the "fuzzy camera LCD grid" problem - it's all square pixels, and I like that a lot. Then again, not having an optical viewfinder in something high-end means that the screen better be good. Sometimes I think I'm looking at a high-end smartphone screen instead of a camera screen.
The menu system might be a kludge when it comes to the organization, I got used to it really fast, knowing that the Fn button is all I need. Being able to access aperture, shutter, and full manual modes on the camera comes very useful, and I was able to get nice bokeh with the camera, too.
The videos look like a video game at 1080p/60 FPS, though. Can't go back to 24 FPS of my phone, though, seeing everything coming alive...
What do you think of MILCs? Do you use them? Or do you use a DSLR?