Although I love my Canon S90 point and shoot, I decided to purchase a mirrorless DSLR. This small size camera with its larger sensor will give me better quality images than my point and shoot. I did my research and narrowed my choice down to the 14 megapixel Sony NEX-5 or the 12 megapixel Panasonic Lumix GF-1. Both are very good cameras and both come with pros and cons.
The Sony NEX-5 does better at higher ISO’s, does sweep panoramas, has a tilt out LCD screen and has as internal stabilization that works for all lenses. I plan on using a pancake lens with my system to keep the package small. Sony has a 16mm lens that’s equivalent to a 24mm on a full frame camera. It’s a good lens but it may be too wide for my everyday use. For me, the down side of the Sony is that it doesn’t have a hot shoe or a built in flash. I like having a hot shoe because I can slide an optical viewfinder on the camera. The optical finder helps me to compose in bright sunlight when the LCD screen is difficult to read. The finder also is a plus when shooting at slower shutter speeds. It allows me to press the camera against my face for added stability. Although the Sony has no built in flash, there is a small add on unit, but it is a bit awkward and changes the camera’s profile.
Panasonic Lumix GF-1
The Panasonic GF-1 does have a small built in flash and a hot shoe. However the sensor is a little smaller than the Sony and the image quality at higher ISOs isn’t as good. The GF-1 is larger than the Sony but it fits my hands better. I like the physical exposure mode dial and the drive selection lever on the GF-1 in contrast to the Sony’s exposure and drive functions, which are buried in a menu on the LCD screen and are not as user friendly. As far as pancake lenses go, the GF-1 comes with a 20mm lens that is the equivalent of a 40mm on a full frame camera. This lens is too long for me and I would prefer something wider. That problem has been addressed by Panasonic with the addition of a14mm lens, equivalent to a 28mm on a full frame. This focal length works well for my purposes.
Yesterday, still undecided on which camera to buy I stopped at Fotocare my camera store in New York. I had the opportunity to play around with the new Panasonic Lumix GF-2, which will be available next month. What I had read about this camera didn’t impress me: the physical exposure mode dial and the drive selection lever had been eliminated and installed into the touch screen menu in order to make the camera smaller and more competitive with the Sony. I thought these changes would be a deal breaker and would force me to look around for the soon to be discontinued GF-1 if I decided to go the Panasonic Lumix route. I was pleasantly surprised, however when I found that these functions were extremely easy to access and would not be an issue. The newer Lumix GF-2 also has the ability to shoot almost 3 frames per second, a rate fast enough to capture changes in people’s expressions. It also has a new processor which I hope will make better images at the higher ISOs. For video users, the camera shoots 1080 hi definition video a feature the Sony also has.
There are some other good, small pocket sized mirrorless DSLR cameras on the market; the Olympus Pen EP-2, or the Samsung NX10 are two of the more popular ones. And all these cameras have a lot more features than I mentioned. My choice is based on how and what I shoot. You can find more detailed reviews and information on the web, a good starting point is the bythom website. As of this posting, however the GF-2 looks like the camera that will work for me. I hope to have one in my hands in the next few weeks to use in a real world test. I will post the results on the blog.
The way the digital camera market is changing, Sony may come out with a new camera by the time I return from my current trip to Abu Dhabi. Nikon plans to enter the marketplace in the near future and I’m sure Canon won’t be far behind. One thing is certain -though you can’t keep a head of technology, you still can keep taking pictures with the equipment you have.