I received the following email from 2 Guys Photo follower and friend, Rodney:
I have a coworker who wants to get a mirrorless camera. He wants to spend less than 1000 dollars. Was looking at the sony? Do you have any recommendations?
Well, Rodney, there’s a proper way to answer your question and… the other way. The proper way would begin with my asking a number of questions, such as: what does your coworker want to shoot? Does he want to have a lot of flexibility in terms of adding lenses? Does he want a camera he can grow with and to build a system upon? Etc., etc., etc. Then, based on the answers, I’d make a recommendation.
The other way is to just make a few assumptions and then to recommend based upon them. Here, I’ll suggest ideal cameras for two types of photographer…
Wants to learn, wants to build a system
Nowadays, there are many, many good options. In fact, it will be hard to go wrong with any of the major options (m4/3, Fujifilm, Sony) if your goal is to learn and to expand into the future. Camera bodies will come and go but if you play it right, lenses will last a lifetime. m4/3 is a mature system with two major players – Panasonic and Olympus – and their traction is pretty good. If you can get past the issue of “smaller sensor always means lesser image quality”, then m4/3 is a good place to be. If you have set your sights on printing large and like to shoot in dark caves, cameras with bigger sensors will be a smarter investment. APS-C cameras, such as those from Fujifilm and Sony, will do better here.
Fujifilm has launched a tremendous line of lenses and more are coming. When Fujifilm says they are developing a lens, they are. Sony’s offerings for its “Artist Formerly Known as NEX” line are more modest in numbers and quality. They make some nice stuff, but they make some iffy consumer stuff too. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for here. If you’re differentiating between the two, it’s best to consider Fujifilm to have a more traditional styling and interface. Its better cameras (XE2, XT1) don’t have scene modes or a PASM dial. You have to know that A on the lens means you’re shooting shutter priority. A on the shutter speed dial means you’re shooting aperture priority. A on both means program mode. A on neither means manual. If you’re willing to learn, the Fujifilm X-Trans sensor delivers. If you’d rather have a lot of (often useful) gee whiz features and the ability to download apps to extend the functionality, think Sony. I worry about Sony, though, because they are trying to develop three mounts right now (full frame A, cropped A, full frame FE for the A7 series). That’s a lot and Sony has has shown us in the past that they will drop it like it’s hot when they want to move on to the new new thing.
Two quick comments:
- Sony’s full frame mirrorless offerings are great (A7 series) but they don’t fit the ‘under $1,000’ requirement and their lenses are few and overpriced at the moment.
- Fujifilm makes lesser cameras but they don’t have electronic viewfinders so I’d avoid.
Some great cameras that fit Rodney’s description (under a grand… and I’ll assume that includes a lens):
I’d add a sweet m4/3 prime to these kit options and you’ve got a great start.
If Rodney’s friend can stretch a bit, this is the Fujifilm worth getting:
You pay more here, but the “kit lens” is far superior to the other offerings.
If autofocus performance is tops, go for the Sony. If pure image quality and a superior kit lens is most important, I’d say Fujifilm. For a good compromise, the m4/3 options are definitely worth considering.
Wants one camera, great quality, no fuss
I’m not sure mirrorless is mandatory here. The advanced compacts are getting better and better, with Sony leading the way with the RX100 series. Panasonic has just announced the LX100 which boasts a crazy fast lens, nice electronic viewfinder and a m4/3 sized sensor. Early impressions are very, very good. If Rodney’s friend doesn’t want to change lenses, wants some wizardry (e.g., ability to make time-lapse videos in camera), and great image quality, then this $900 camera could fit the bill.
The other interesting thing about this camera is that it blends old world (a la Fujifilm) and new world (a la Sony) into one interesting compact. Check it out.
In the mirrorless realm, I’d stay away from DSLR leaders Canon and Nikon until they figure out what they’re doing in this space and stop thinking like Blockbuster (gone) and more like Netflix (here).
Rodney — let us know what your friend decides.