Last week I explored the two extremes of optical enthusiasm: the world of the big, black, boxy-yet-beautiful images of DSLRs and the chic, cheap, convenient and somewhat crappy pictures from cameraphones. There’s an alternate universe out there, a universe of DSLR-quality images from cameras that can be 1/4th the size of DSLRs.
After point-and-shoot cameras lost the battle to cameraphones, and DSLRs continued to become more and more niche, traditional camera manufacturers tried many tricks. Devices with amazing zoom features, prosumer cameras that bridged the gap between DSLRs and compact models, cameras with mobile-phone-like features, cameras with WiFi and Bluetooth.
Yet, nothing really worked. But now, mirrorless cameras have suddenly become the lifeline and future of all standalone cameras. These are small, light, can take brilliant pictures, have interchangeable lenses (some of the new ones are amazing), have some of the fastest auto -focus capabilities in the world, are priced sensibly, have a lot of add-on technology, have excellent battery life and can be carried on a trip without a second thought about bulk. It’s going to take another five years for a cameraphone to come close to what an ML camera can do.
Here are some of the best mirrorless cameras I’ve recently encountered:
While many swear by the Sony Alpha 7 with the world’s first full-frame sensor, I find the A6000 to be even more remarkable. Its miraculously small body packs in a 24MP sensor, facilitates high-speed shooting at 11FPS (frames per second) with continuous auto-focus, and has the new range of e-mount lenses that do anything a professional device can do.
It also boasts the world’s fastest auto focus, has an actual built-in viewfinder and a great price. For almost anyone who is getting started in this category or is a serious photography enthusiast, this is the camera to beat. The A6000 costs about Rs 45,000.
I’ve played around with the Panasonic GM1 and I can’t explain the feeling I get when I actually take that camera around and shoot with it. It’s unimaginably light and the size breaks every rule of the ML game.
Size matters: Panasonic GM 1’s (right) size breaks every rule of the ML game. The GH4 (left) is expensive, but shoots video at true 4K, has WiFi and a weather-sealed body.
The GM1 is actually smaller than most run-of-the-mill point-and-shoot cameras. For some reason though, Panasonic hasn’t officially released it in India. Thus the GH4 is the one to go for. While this one is as capable, it’s not as small and light.
What it does give you though, as a bonus, is the ability to shoot video at true 4K. That’s four times better than full-HD, plus high-speed continuous shooting at 12FPS. It also has WiFi and a body that is weather-sealed. Although, at about Rs 95,000, it’s rather expensive. Samsung NX1
The Samsung NX1 may not win any prizes in the looks category. It’s almost shaped like a DSLR. And that’s a surprise, as Samsung is known for making some good-looking cameras. It makes up for this faux pas with some serious features: 28MP sensor, 15FPS continuous shooting, full blown 4K video recording, tilting touch screen, a large electronic viewfinder and built-in WiFi connectivity.
Most of these would give any DSLR a run for its money. Don’t confuse this with the Samsung NX mini though, that’s just a point-and-shoot camera. All the goodness of the real NX1 will cost you around Rs 90,000.
Samsung NX1 (left) may be shaped like a DSLR but offers some serious featureswhat a beauty! Olympus’s Pen 7 is referred to as the best looking camera of them all.
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7
Olympus was one of the first (and continues to be one of the biggest) propagators of the mirrorless camera category. And adding another swashbuckling PEN to its already excellent line-up is the PEN 7. Many have called this the best-looking camera of them all.
Adding to the great optical capabilities are new features like WiFi, a nifty tilting selfie touch screen, art filters, a 16MP sensor, a metal body and easy-to-use controls. The PEN will set you back about Rs 45,000 or so.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, June 14
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