Camera Ponderings

I’ve been quite happy with my Nikon D7000 for my photography. It’s got a good feature set and I’m pleased with the quality of the photos I take. But I’ve been pondering picking up another body to expand the ways I take photos. My first inclination is to upgrade to a more prosumer Nikon, the D500, but the cost is way out of my budget. An alternative would be the newer models of the D7xxx series, but I’d like to move into something which feels different. So I’ve been pondering some of the mirrorless cameras which are out on the market.

The older standard for photography, known as Single Lens Reflex 1, relies on a mirror and prism setup to allow a photographer to frame a photo while looking through the lens. When the shutter is pressed, the mirror lifts up and exposes the sensor to light. Mirrorless cameras opt instead for an electronic viewfinder which removes these elements from a camera. This brings several benefits. First, the removal of the mirror and prism allows manufacturers to shrink a camera’s body and reduce weight. Second, the EVF can show what a photo will look like at current settings in real time. Third, EVF’s allow for overlays to be set over the field of view. These can display a level, histogram, and even focus peaking 2. I didn’t care for the EVF’s in early mirrorless cameras, as it always felt as if it distanced me from my subject, but the technology has progressed to the point where the EVF image feels more natural.

So, what mirrorless cameras appeal to me? This was my biggest question. I’m a budget-conscious purchaser 3, so picking up the latest models is out of my price range. This helped me focus on either an older Sony a6xxx model, or one of the Panasonic models. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and these are what I’m balancing.

The a6000 is the model I’m exploring from Sony. It’s an older model, but is known as a workhorse by those who use it. This body will record video in 1080p, has a very nice control scheme, and excellent autofocus. It’s also the same size sensor as my Nikon D7000, which means my learning curve for both framing and depth of field would be non-existent 4.

I’m also exploring the Panasonic G7, which looks more like a mini-DSLR. The Micro Four Thirds sensor means it wouldn’t be as good in low light situations as the Sony, and it’s autofocus system isn’t nearly as good, but it’s also able to record video in 4k resolution, and that’s something I’d be interested exploring. MFT lenses are also tend to be less expensive than Sony’s e-mount lenses. That’s something which appeals to me.

I’m still teetering a bit between the two. The challenges of practicing photography with a MFT sensor appeal to me, but Sony’s autofocus system is about the best in the business. I’m leaning toward the Panasonic at the moment, but that changes with my mood!

What does this mean for my Nikon? Not much. In all likelihood I’ll carry both bodies with me for most of my photowalks. The Nikon is too good a camera to collect dust!

  1. SLR, the “D” is for digital. 
  2. Peaking is when framed elements which are in focus are highlighted. 
  3. In other words, I have no budget. 
  4. A bit about sensor sizes. The basic camera sensors are all based off of old 35mm film. A “full-frame” sensor is the same size as 35mm, which means photos taken with a full-frame sensor have the same amount of light hitting as old film cameras and produces the same depth of field and frame as 35mm film. Other sensors are cropped from full frame. Most common is APS-C, which is considered to be a 1.5 crop factor from full frame. The smaller size results in a narrower frame, and a reduced depth of field. Another popular standard, used in the Panasonic camera I’m exploring, is called Micro Four Thirds. This sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio, and has a crop factor of 2. The frame is half that as a full-frame sensor and depth of field is similarly reduced.