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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The New Wave Of Mirrorless


Today’s mirrorless cameras offer the nature photographer DSLR image quality in much smaller packages

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This Article Features Photo Zoom
>> Sony NEX-6. Sony's NEX-6 provides the functionality, performance and control of a DSLR in a compact-system camera. Like the older flagship NEX-7, the NEX-6 has a built-in, 2359K-dot OLED TruFinder eye-level electronic viewfinder to complement its 3.0-inch, 921K-dot tilting LCD monitor, providing convenient eye-level shooting when you want it. And it introduced a new hybrid AF system, with 99 phase-detection sensors at the focal plane working with 25-area contrast AF to optimize AF performance in a wide variety of shooting situations.

About the size of the NEX-7, the NEX-6 shares many of its fine features, but with a 16.1-megapixel Exmor APS-C sensor in place of the flagship's 24.3-megapixel unit, ISOs up to 25,600 (vs. 16,000 for the 7) and adding built-in Wi-Fi for linking to TVs/PCs or smartphones. It also adds a mode dial (P/A/S/M/Sweep Panorama) for easy navigation between shooting modes. Like the NEX-7, the NEX-6 has a built-in, pop-up flash.

The NEX-6 can shoot still images at up to 10 fps with continuous tracking AF. It can also shoot full HD 1080 AVCHD video at 60p and 24p, as well as MP4 1080, 720 and 480 video at 30p—all with continuous AF, plus stereo sound via built-in microphones.

While the NEX-6 can use all Sony E-mount lenses, it's especially sweet with the new E-mount 16-50mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens, which features Optical SteadyShot image stabilization and is just 13⁄16 inches thick when retracted—a pocketable package. Sony offers 12 native lenses for NEX cameras, from a 10-18mm through a 55-210mm, providing 35mm-camera-equivalent focal lengths from 15mm through 305mm. The LA-EA2 adapter lets you use Sony A-series and legacy Konica Minolta lenses, and provides phase-detection AF with them.

An especially nice feature for those who like to focus manually is peaking, which outlines in-focus edges in your choice of white, red or yellow, making it easy to see just where focus is in the image. For those who like the camera to do it all, there are iAUTO and Superior Auto as well as program, shutter- and aperture-priority AE.

A Brief History Of Mirrorless
Sigma was the first to put a DSLR sensor in a compact digital camera, with their DP1 back in 2007. Today, Sigma offers three compact cameras with the Foveon sensor from their SD1 Merrill DSLR: the DP1, DP2 and DP3 Merrill. But these don't offer interchangeable-lens capability; rather, they have built-in wide-angle, normal and telephoto lenses, respectively. Sony has managed to put the full-frame sensor from its SLT-A99 DSLR into a compact body to create the RX1 and RX1R (same camera without the low-pass filter—but, again, with a non-interchangeable, built-in lens). Leica's X Vario and X2, Nikon's Coolpix A and Ricoh's GR have since joined the compact fixed-lens APS-C camera field.

Panasonic introduced the mirrorless interchangeable-lens digital camera (and the Micro Four Thirds System) with the Lumix DMC-G1 in 2008, a model that looked like a tiny DSLR, with a built-in eye-level electronic viewfinder to complement its free-angle LCD monitor. Olympus soon followed with the PEN E-P1, a "flat" compact-style Micro Four Thirds model that was even smaller. Note that MFT cameras use the same 17.3x13.0mm sensor size as the original Four Thirds System DSLR cameras; the "Micro" refers to the new smaller lens mount, not the sensor.

Samsung (NX series) and Sony (NEX) soon introduced mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras featuring APS-C sensors, followed by Fujifilm (X-Pro1), Pentax (the now-discontinued K-01) and Canon (EOS M). Today, we have around 20 mirrorless interchangeable-lens models with DSLR-sized sensors from six manufacturers.

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