Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013: The Camera Year


Blockbuster

This year has witnessed an incredible range of very interesting camera releases (can you guess how many?), there are a lot of tidal shifts in the market, players that are becoming stronger, and others that are referred to as stagnant and old fashioned. I am not attempting to analyze the market and company strategies in this post, instead I will be thinking aloud, analyzing what is going on around, what to do regarding any further camera purchases, and where to head to. The more I think about the new camera releases in 2013, the more I get confused, so I decided to get a white paper and a pen, and jot it all down so I can be able to make a clear analysis. Hit the jump to continue reading, and be astounded with the sheer amount of cameras released in 2013.

Before I begin though, one word about the opening picture, this is my niece in the foreground, and my daughter at the back. I have been trying to emulate movie images and posters recently (as a result of seeing some beautiful cinematic-looking images, but more about that later), and this was one of my favorites. I will be posting another one midway.

Back to the cameras. I headed over to the internet to find out what cameras have been released this year, and I found dpreview's camera releases timeline very helpful, so this is where I started. I decided to skip any camera with a sensor smaller than 1/1.7" (the one found in Canon's G and S series cameras), so what you're going to see below are cameras with the following sensor sizes: (1/1.7", 2/3", 1", Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, Full Frame). I will write a very short description beside each camera, so here goes.

P.S. Cameras are sorted in ascending order by the release date, starting from Jan 2013 till Oct 2013.
P.P.S. ILC = Interchangeable Lens Camera, usually goes with a mirror-less compact camera.


  1. Samsung NX300 (APS-C, 20MP, ILC, no VF)
  2. Fuji X100S (APS-C, 16MP, 23mm f/2 fixed lens, hybrid VF)
  3. Fuji X20 (2/3", 12 MP, 28-112mm f/2-f/2.8 fixed lens, OVF)
  4. Nikon 1 S1 (1", 10 MP, ILC, no VF)
  5. Nikon 1 J3 (1", 14 MP, ILC, no VF)
  6. Sony NEX 3N (APS-C, 16MP, ILC, no VF)
  7. Sony SLT A58 (APS-C, 20MP, DSLT, EVF)
  8. Nikon D7100 (APS-C, 24MP, DSLR, OVF)
  9. Nikon Coolpix A (APS-C, 16MP, 18.5mm f/2.8 fixed lens, no VF)
  10. Canon 700D (APS-C, 18MP, DSLR, OVF)
  11. Canon 100D (APS-C, 18MP, tiny DSLR, OVF)
  12. Panasonic GF6 (MFT, 16MP, ILC, no VF)
  13. Samsung NX1100 (APS-C, 20MP, ILC, no VF)
  14. Ricoh GR (APS-C, 16MP, 18,3mm f/2.8 fixed lens, no VF)
  15. Panasonic LF1 (1/1.7", 12MP, 28-200mm f/2-f/5.9 fixed lens, lousy EVF)
  16. Panasonic G6 (MFT, 16MP, ILC, EVF)
  17. Samsung NX2000 (APS-C, 20MP, ILC, no VF)
  18. Olympus E-P5 (MFT, 16MP, ILC, no VF)
  19. Leica X Vario (APS-C, 16MP, 28-70mm f/3.5-f/6.4 fixed lens, no VF)
  20. Pentax K-500 (APS-C, 16 MP, DSLR, OVF)
  21. Pentax K-50 (APS-C, 16 MP, DSLR, OVF)
  22. Pentax Q7 (1/1.7", 12MP, 23-69mm f/2.8-f/4.5 fixed lens, no VF)
  23. Galaxy NX (APS-C, 20MP, ILC, EVF, Android OS)
  24. Fuji X-M1 (APS-C, 16MP, ILC, no VF)
  25. Sony RX100 II (1", 20MP, 28-100mm f/1.8-f/4.9 fixed lens, no VF)
  26. Sony RX1R (Full Frame, 24MP, 35mm f/2 fixed lens, no VF)
  27. Canon 70D (APS-C, 20MP, DSLR, OVF)
  28. Panasonic GX7 (MFT, 16MP, ILC, great EVF)
  29. Canon G16 (1/1.7", 12MP, 28-140mm f/1.8-f/2.8 fixed lens, lousy OVF)
  30. Canon S120 (1/1.7", 12MP, 24-120mm f/1.8-f/5.7 fixed lens, no VF)
  31. Sony NEX 5T (APS-C, 16MP, ILC, no VF)
  32. Sony Alpha A3000 (APS-C, 20MP, ILC, poor EVF)
  33. Sony QX100 (1", 20MP, 28-100mm f/1.8-f/4.9 fixed lens, no VF, mobile phone add-on)
  34. Olympus OM-D EM-1 (MFT, 16MP, ILC, best EVF)
  35. Fuji X-A1 (APS-C, 16MP, ILC, no VF)
  36. Nikon 1 AW (1", 14MP, ILC, no VF, waterproof)
  37. Pentax K-3 (APS-C, 24MP, DSLR, OVF)
  38. Nikon D610 (Full Frame, 24MP, DSLR, OVF)
  39. Sony RX10 (1", 20MP, 24-200mm f/2.8 fixed lens, EVF)
  40. Sony A7 (Full Frame, 24MP, ILC, EVF)
  41. Sony A7R (Full Frame, 36MP, ILC, EVF)
  42. Panasonic GM1 (MFT, 16MP, ILC, no VF, tiny)
  43. Nikon D5300 (APS-C, 24MP, DSLR, OVF)
  44. Fuji XQ1 (2/3", 12MP, 25-100mm f/1.8-f/4.9 fixed lens, no VF)
  45. Fuji X-E2 (APS-C, 16MP, ILC, great EVF)
Olympus Stylus (1/1.7", 24-300mm fixed lens, EVF)?
Nikon DF (Digital Fusion) Hybrid (Full Frame, OVF, F-Mount, D600 AF)?


Can you believe that? 45 new cameras with large sensors released till now, and there are still two full months remaining in 2013. The rumors about the new Nikon full frame compact, and the Olympus Stylus are almost confirmed, it's just a matter of time, we'll see them in November.

Now let us do some quick stats, out of 45 new cameras:
  • 10 have mirrors (DSLR/DSLT), 21 mirror-less ILCs, 14 fixed lens compacts (except for the RX10).
  • 4 have Full Frame sensors, 23 have APS-C sesnors, 6 have MFT sensors, 6 have 1" sensors, 2 have 2/3" sensors, 4 have 1/1.7" sensors.
  • The most common APS-C sensors are 16MP (variance from 16MP to 24MP).
  • 23 have built-in view finders, 11 of them are optical (9 DSLRs + Fuji X20 + Canon G16), and 12 are electronic.
  • A handful of the ones without a built-in VF have the option of an accessory EVF, or even an accessory OVF (Sony RX1R).

Cinema Style?

And now is the time for some quick thoughts on a few select cameras and systems, this is where I think in a loud voice.

1/1.7" AND 2/3" SENSORS

These cameras were great and sought after two years ago, maybe even one year ago. But with today's tiny and much larger sensor cameras (RX100, Olympus PEN, Panasonic GM1, fixed lens APS-C or FF like the Nikon Coolpix A or the Sony RX1), they are not the rave anymore. Don't get me wrong, they still produce great images, and with a camera like the Canon G16 with a fixed f/1.8-f/2.8 zoom lens, it is a great choice. There are people (even proffesionals) that still buy them and use them, but for me, having owned a G11 and used it's RAW files, they are behind the larger sensors.


FIXED LENS APS-C OR FULL FRAME

Doesn't make sense to me because of the 35mm equivalent focal length, no matter how great the camera and the lens are. I said before that I wish Sony made their RX1 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens, and that would be something I'd buy and use exclusively (I know I can sort of do this with the A7 and the Zeiss 55 f/1.8, but I'll keep this discussion for later).

Famous cameras in this category are the Fuji X100/S, Sony RX1/R and to a less degree, the Nikon Coolpix A and the Ricoh GR. However they make sense to street photographers and people who make use of such a wide focal length, not me.


DSLR CAMERAS

After living with the OM-D EM-5 and great small lenses for almost a year, I have lost all feelings and attractions towards DSLRs. Whenever I handle my brother's 60D, it feels too big and bulky, and when I don't see the playback of the picture in the viewfinder, I am a little taken back, when I don't see the blinking highlights and blocked shadows when composing, it feels ancient.

That's not to say that I don't miss my 5D Mark III when I'm shooting my running kids and the EM-5 fails to track them, or when I want to completely eradicate a busy background with the 50mm f1/.4 lens. As I see it now, the main attractions for DSLRs is that they are getting better and better sensors, they have a huge range of established lenses to pick from, they produce great video footage, and they are becoming more affordable at the same time. Canon's 100D is a good try in providing the DSLR experience but in a small package.

As I see it now, MFT sensors are competing with APS-C sensors image quality wise, they are not behind anymore, and the DOF difference is not really that different, and most MFT prime lenses have exceptional image quality starting from wide-open. That puts an APS-C DSLR out of my radar forever. However, that being said, the falling prices of full frame DSLRs, along with the increasing prices of high-end MFT cameras are really appealing. Assuming that size and weight are not an issue, wouldn't you be inclined to get a $1,400 Nikon D600 or a $1,500 Canon 6D over the $1,400 Olympus OM-D EM-1? Just for that full frame look? Tough choice.


FUJI X, SONY NEX AND SAMSUNG NX (ALL APS-C CAMERAS)

Great performers, great image quality, interchangeable lenses and comes in a small package. What's not to like? The lens line-up, that's what. Fuji has produced very good lenses, and are doing good work developing more, but right now, there are like 5 lenses, and if they don't cover what you need you're out of luck. The Fujis also have that famous X-Trans sensor, the internet says it has very high quality, but there are RAW issues when used with Adobe's Camera RAW engine, which is what I use for 100% of my photos.

The same lack-of-lenses argument goes for the Sony NEX, I've been following Kirk Tuck's adventures with the NEX series (BTW, he sold all of them after a long love story), and before I decided on buying my EM-5, I was really considering the NEX 6 (as it was the cheapest one with an EVF), but the lack of lens choices, the weird flash hot-shoe compatibility issues and my general feeling that Sony won't be in a hurry to improve the issues, I decided to head to MFT instead. And now Sony have ditched the NEX series completely.

As for the Samsung NX, funny enough, Kirk Tuck is testing them out for us, he's the one who brought it to my attention. I didn't notice before that Samsung had an APS-C interchangeable lens camera. He tested the finder-less NX300 and the Android powered Galaxy NX, and is reporting they have great image quality, and that the 18-55mm kit lens is very good. However, lens choices for these cameras are very limited, and quite expensive in my opinion. I had a chance to shoot a friend's NX1000 with the kit lens, and it is erm.. bad.


SONY A7/R FULL FRAME MIRRORLESS GOODNESS

Sony is a mega electronics company, and they used to make (still make) great weird gadgets, I have always lusted after their products in the 80s and the 90s. So when they came up with the RX1 35mm f/2 fixed lens full frame camera, the internet went berserk, and despite the lack of a built-in VF and the astronomical $2,800 price, it sold very well and was praised in the reviews.

And now they've done it again. What was the hottest ILC camera on the internet a few months back? The Olympus EP-5 with the exceptional VF-4 viewfinder. Then Panasonic released the cheaper, better looking, tilt-able EVF GX7, and the EP-5 sort of went down the drain, as if it was never announced, I can't remember reading a blog about the EP-5 one month after the GX7 release. Next comes the $1,400 Olympus EM-1 and the whole world applauds, but the GX7 didn't have anything to fear because of the $400 price differential. A lot of people pre-ordered the EM-1.

Then Sony comes a little late to the party, bag in hand, shows everyone two full frame mirrorless cameras that are the same size as the Olympus EM-5 and (sorry for the expression) pisses on the party, or at least that's how it felt when they announced the $1,700 and $2,300 prices for the 24MP A7 and the 36MP A7R respectively. The internet went even more berserk, people were cancelling their EM-1 orders, and pre-ordering the Sonys.

For $300 more than an EM-1 you can get a full frame mirrorless camera that is smaller in size, has a built-in VF that is quite good. Who wouldn't want that? The crazy thing is that the entry prices are much much cheaper than the big boy full frames, the Canon 5D3 and the Nikon D800, and the 24MP A7 is even cheaper than bot the Canon 6D and the Nikon D610! Want to know a more crazy thing? The Sony A7 plus either the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 or 55mm f/1.8 is cheaper than the Sony RX1R. And when Sony released the A7, it claimed that it focuses much faster than the RX1R, now that's a company that's innovating, not afraid of competing with its self and not crippling it's own products to make you buy another of its products.

So after all this gushing, am I going to buy one? Nope, won't happen I'm afraid. For starters, it is a very new product that is not available yet, and is destined to create a huge tidal wave in the market, during which I would prefer to be eating popcorn and watching the market go crazy. Then there are the lenses, the only interesting one right now is the $1,000 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss, I'd rather wait and see, remember, it's Sony we're talking about here, they have no issues killing or creating a whole eco-system whenever they feel like it. And then there's the Nikon DF that shall be announced by the 6th of November, the key advantage I see here is the F-Mount, with all their lenses available for immediate use. We'll see.


MICRO FOUR THIRDS

And I finally reach my current system of choice. The EM-5 is serving me really well, and I'm extremely happy with the images I am getting, if you haven't seen my 43rumors article, please do, it is the perfect summary of how I feel about the MFT compared to owning APS-C and FF DSLRs.

I have posted before about the GX7, and my expectations from the EM-1 before, so I'm not going to repeat them, but I've not commented on the EM-1 yet. I still have doubts about the looks of the EM-1 leather finish (top view looks even sexier than the EM-5 though), it just looks odd in the photos or the videos I've seen, maybe it looks better in hand, but that will have to be a leap of faith. I have promised myself since the day I bought my EM-5 and discovered the faulty eye-sensor that I would buy it's successor. The EM-1 is not the EM-5's direct successor, and at $1,400, it is expensive for a MFT camera, so I am not yet sure I am ready to buy one, especially with all the shifting in the market. Maybe the $1,700 full frame Sony A7 will force the EM-1 to lower its price? I have a feeling that Olympus might quickly drop $200 from the EM-1's price after the holidays, or even earlier, but that's just a hunch based on zero facts.

As for why I'd want an EM-1, here are the reasons in the order of their importance:
  1. Focus tracking that works, and 6.5 fps with continuous focus, 10 fps without.
  2. The best EVF ever, detailed, true colors, large magnification (same as FF DSLR).
  3. Better ergonomics and customizable buttons.
  4. Wi-fi, would be very useful during product shoots, where I can show the pictures on my iPad immediately.
  5. Better video options, mic input, levels, someone said you can touch to focus during recording.
  6. Better LCD resolution, the EM-5 weakness appears at 100% magnification.
  7. Larger buffer, the EM-5 gets filled up in two seconds after a 9 fps burst.
  8. Better IBIS and focusing speed.
  9. Slightly better image quality.
So, unless sudden GAS hits me (with my friend traveling to NYC mid-November, it might just happen), I won't be getting the EM-1 that soon. We should hear about an EM-5 successor next year.


Now that I've said all I have, what do you think?

P.P.P.S. I have not had time to proof-read the post, so please excuse any mistakes, it took me a long time to prepare and write this post.