Sunday, 7 June 2015

Systems compared

When buying into an interchangeable lens camera system, it is wise to evaluate the system as a whole, not just the most recent cameras. Perhaps you find the full sensor 4K and 28MP resolution of the Samsung NX1 intrieging, but is the rest of the system to your liking?

I have tried to compare the camera and lens lineup that a serious enthusiast would typically buy. Now, there are no two equal enthusiasts, of course, so this comparison is not going to be relevant for everyone. But I am going to assume that a typical serious user wants an ergonomic camera body, with a lineup of a fast normal lens, a fast standard zoom lens, a fast tele zoom lens, and a wide angle zoom lens.

Sure there are other lens types as well, for example one might want a fast wide angle lens, a portrait lens, and even a fisheye lens. But in this comparison, I am keeping it simple.

The stars indicate a fitness to purpose, i.e., how well would a serious enthusiast think that this lens satisfies the expectations? This is of course quite subjective.

CameraFast normalFast standard zoomFast tele zoomWide angle zoom
Panasonic M4/3

Total price: US$4,790

Total weight: 1,725g


US$1500
560g

US$600
200g

US$900
305g

US$950
360g

US$840
300g
Olympus M4/3

Total price: US$5,050

Total weight: 2,429g


US$1100
497g

US$350
136g

US$900
382g

US$1400
880g

US$1300
534g

Micro Four Thirds


You'll find the biggest and most mature lens lineup among mirrorless camera systems in Micro Four Thirds. I have made two rows in the table, for Panasonic and Olympus separately, but you can mix them if you want.

For the zoom lenses, you would normally want to match the brand names, though, as they have different strategies towards image stabilization.

I deducted a star off the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, as it is not super for video use, and it is aging a bit now. We can expect a new version of the camera within the next year.

Look out for: Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye (my review), probably the best value fisheye lens ever.
Samsung NX

Total price: US$5,010

Total weight: 2,380g


US$1300
550g

US$210
85g

US$1300
622g

US$1600
915g

US$620
208g

Samsung NX


Samsung has been very innovative and packs a lot of features into their products. They have a very good value for money at the moment, but the lens lineup is still a bit immature for what a serious enthusiast expects. They don't have a "proper" normal lens, for example, and not a very wide zoom lens.

For the most bang for buck, keep watching Samsung.
Fujifilm X

Total price: US$5,030

Total weight: 2,687g


US$1150
440g

US$450
187g

US$1200
655g

US$1600
995g

US$800
410g

Fujifilm X


Fujifilm have been good at addressing the "conservative" serious enthusiast, who expects retro designed cameras with old style shutter dials, and aperture rings on the lenses. At the same time, they also pack their cameras with very innovative technology.

Looking at their lineup of lenses and cameras, they have come very far in the relatively short time span of their mirrorless endeavour. They are committed to the APS-C sensor size, and will not be developing full frame cameras.
Sony E APS-C

Total price: US$2,400

Total weight: 1,185g


US$550
344g

US$450
155g

US$300
116g

US$350
345g

US$750
225g

Sony E APS-C


Sony were one of the first movers into mirrorless, but appear to have abandoned their APS-C offerings at this point. They are probably going to release an update of the Sony a6000 camera soon, but they don't appear to plan releasing more enthusiast friendly lenses for this system.

Their kit lens is quite poor, see my test here. And there is no fast tele lens.

Look out for: Yasuhara Madoka 180, a compact, well performing, afforable circular fisheye lens. See my review.
Sony E Full-frame

Total price: US$5,850

Total weight: 2,357g


US$1700
600g

US$1000
281g

US$1200
426g

US$1500
850g

US$450
200g

Sony E Fullframe


On the other hand, it is clear that Sony's focus now is to make a proper fullframe mirrorless system. This is where the bigger margins per unit are. Looking at the table above, you'll see that the Sony fullframe system is the most expensive, but not by a big margin.

Looking at the weights, the system is not that heavy. But keep in mind that the lenses are much more bulky than the other systems here. So even if you don't need to carry heavy, you'll need a larger bag anyway.

However, the zoom lenses are not as fast, and there is no wide angle zoom lens yet. But I am sure Sony are going to fill these gaps soon, especially the wide angle lens. They appear very committed to this fullframe system.

Look out for: Several different versions of the camera, Sony a7R (high resolution, but somewhat sluggish performance), Sony a7S (high sensitivity and 4K video), and Sony a7 II (basic version, features in-body image stabilization).
Nikon 1

Total price: US$2,090

Total weight: 841g


US$1150
381g

US$190
70g

US$0 (included in kit)
85g

US$250
180g

US$500
125g

Nikon 1


The Nikon 1 system, in general, does not have what a serious enthusasist expects. There are no fast zoom lenses, and not many fast prime lenses beyond the Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 portrait lens.

I would say the Nikon 1 system is only for those with very special needs. For example, with the extremely long and compact zoom lens Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, it is the best system for bird photography when you want a very compact and light combo.

Also, the cameras have an impressively fast framerate, up to 60fps including full RAW capture. This makes it useful for sports and other types of specialized photography.

But for general use, I would not recommend Nikon 1 now. The zoom lenses in the table above are certainly good, but not what a serious enthusiast is looking for in terms of the maximum aperture.

Other systems


I did not include the Canon EOS M system here, for obvious reasons: They don't have nearly a system yet, and no lenses which would make it to this list.

When people buy camera systems, a lot still buy DSLRs, i.e., not mirrorless cameras. I did not include DSLR systems on this list. But if I did, you would find that the prices are mostly the same, but the sizes are larger.

DSLR systems are very mature, which translates into moderate prices. But with the longer register distance due to the mirror, both the cameras and the lenses become bigger. And heavier.

4 comments:

  1. Like you said, everyone will have their favorite lenses. I love my EM1 for the OOC jpegs, IBIS and ruggedness. Nowadays I've gotten to the point that I just leave my 12-40mm on all the time due to the versatility and weather sealing, only swapping it for the 17mm f1.8 when I need to take flashless indoor photos, and the 45mm f1.8 for the occasional portrait. I still consider Olympus (and m4/3 in general) to still be the best compromise, but it's crazy how fast the peers have caught up. Thanks for this chart!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the competition has come a long way, fast.

      It is also interesting to see who the competition is: Not Canon and Nikon. They are barely on the map at all. How is that for a surprise?

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  2. Would have loved to see a Lumix GM system in your systems comparison table:

    - Panasonic GM5 body (180g)
    - 12-32mm pancake zoom (70g)
    - 20mm f/1.7 prime (87g)
    - 35-100mm f/4-5.6 compact zoom (135g)
    - 7-14mm f/4 UWA (300g)

    Total weight 770g price $2150

    Or using the Olympus 9-18 UWA instead:- Total Weight 620g price $1750

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree with you. I guess your point is that an enthusiast user may choose other kits than the "traditional high end kit" of fast normal zooms. Exchange the fast normal zooms with a couple of fast prime lenses, and you have a much more compact kit, and less expensive too.

      But to make the kits comparable, I felt I had to stick to one single type of lineup. And there are a lot of people who want the fast zoom lenses, supplemented with a fast normal and a wide angle lens.

      Photo enthusiasts come in many categories. If you are into wildlife or sports, for example, mirrorless is still not a very good choice, there are better kits to be gotten within DSLR cameras from Canon or Nikon.

      Delete