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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DSLR Performance In A Point-And-Shoot Size?

The new class of cameras—mirrorless, interchangeable-lens models—gives serious nature photographers some interesting options

Labels: CamerasD-SLRs

You’ve likely heard the buzz about the new mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras by now (some call them EVIL, for “electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens”). And because half of them resemble point-and-shoot compact digital cameras, you may have dismissed them as not being serious shooting machines well suited to your needs as an outdoor photographer. If so, you may want to look again. From a feature and image-quality standpoint, these are essentially DSLRs tucked into truly tiny packages.

The idea is simple: Put a big DSLR image sensor in a compact-camera body with interchangeable-lens capability. How to make the body tiny? Eliminate the bulky (and costly) SLR mirror box and prism viewfinder assemblies.

Mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras come in two basic form factors. “Mini-DSLRs” (Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GH1, G2 and G10, and the Samsung NX10) look like little DSLRs, but have built-in, eye-level electronic viewfinders (EVFs) instead of SLR mirror boxes and pentaprisms. These are noticeably smaller than DSLRs, but not pocketable. “Flat” models (Olympus’ E-P1, E-P2 and E-PL1, Panasonic’s DMC-GF1, and Sony’s new Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5) lack the eye-level EVF and thus look like compact digital cameras. Composing (and manual focusing, when desired) is done via the LCD monitor, as with a compact digital camera.

Think about that for a moment: Have you ever thought twice about carrying your big DSLR or a bulky DSLR system out into the field? Well, now we have interchangeable-lens cameras that can produce DSLR image quality, yet fit into a (admittedly large-ish) pocket. And all the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras do HD video! A compact camera not only is easier to carry than a DSLR, but you can easily take it places it would be difficult to take a DSLR—scrambling up rocks to get that perfect viewpoint, for example. And the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras always are in Live View mode, so you don’t have to fumble around to enter Live View before doing high- and low-angle shots using the LCD monitor to compose. And now you don’t have to give up image quality to a tiny compact-camera image sensor, or full control over everything, to have a truly compact camera system.


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