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The Future of Non-DSLR and DSLR Cameras

Rancher’s Cabin, White Mountains

Yesterday’s comparison between the Canon 5D Mark III, Olympus OM-E E-M5 and Sony RX100 was not an idle curiosity, but rather a very serious comparison aligned with a sea change occur ing in digital photography.

See also Reader Asks: Sony RX100 or Olympus OM-D E-M5?.

Andreas Y writes:

Just read through your E-M5/RX100/5D3 comparison. What a super useful experiment!

So much of picking camera gear is making the right compromises for your particular needs and constraints, and seeing matched comparisons like this gives and idea of what you gain/lose with different options.

We're off to Iceland later this week where we're starting with a six-day hike. I love that the Micro Four Thirds, spare batteries, filters, and accessories I'm bringing fit in the top panel of my pack with room to spare (the tripod obviously gets strapped to the outside). The only time I plan to move off ISO 200 is for shooting auroras at night with the 12 f/2.0.

DIGLLOYD: the trend I see is more and more shooters looking for alternatives, either as a complete replacement for a bulky and heavy DSLR, or as a something to complement/supplement a DSLR system.

Who wants to carry a 20-pound DSLR system when a 4 pound system can do 90% of the job and make it more fun to boot?

For me, the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony RX100 are the “compliment” solutions for some uses. While the Olympus E-M5 and Sony RX100 are definitely not in the same league as a good DSLR for general capabilities (higher ISO, lens choice, speed, etc), they can do some things better and under ideal conditions their results can rival a good DSLR.

Consider the situation if current Sony RX100 sensor technology could be fitted to the Olympus E-M5: this would be a 43-megapixel sensor— and yet the E-M5 sensor to my eye lags the Sony RX100 sensor in terms of noise, albeit requiring ISO 125, vs ISO 200 for the E-M5. Consider two more years of sensor development— the quality possible in Micro Four Thirds might have reached a very high level with resolution to match or exceed today’s DSLRs, though still probably with ISO limitations. And the Micro Four Thirds lens market is dynamic and thriving, driven in part by video applications. Non-DSLR solutions will thus become even more compelling. Nikon and Canon are largely asleep at wheel, having failed to advance DSLR technology in any meaningful way.

These smaller cameras like the E-M5 are putting the squeeze on DSLRs. I see less and less market justification for cropped-frame DSLR (e.g., Nikon DX and Canon EF-S); this breed will die out once consumers figure out that such cameras are big, bulky and less capable— and a pain in the rear to boot.

Update: see Zeiss Plans Mirrorless Support (Micro Four Thirds, etc).

Blake R writes:

I wholeheartedly agree with your point here. While your site leans toward the highly technical and advanced shooter, I am a simple hobbyist that appreciates quality. That said, I've really grown tired of lugging my D300 and assortment of lenses around while spending time with the family. Whether it's a NYC vacation, or weekly beach visit, I found myself leaving the "good camera" at home and grabbing my S95 instead. Ultimately, I was never pleased with the quality from that P&S camera though, and so I looked to the mirrorless market.

After adding the OM-D E-M5 to my kit, I've found a new passion for shooting again - simply because I have my camera of choice with me. Just last week my family vacationed in Sun River, OR; it would have been impossible to film my wife and daughter riding bicycles while I was riding alongside them with a wonderfully stabilized OM-D (with a RRS grip) - I wouldn't have been able to successfully hold a DSLR camera one-handled while negotiating a bicycle, let along wanting to actually lug one around.

Having a lightweight quality solution along trumps the *slight* IQ compromises moving from DX to Micro Four Thirds. So much so, that I'm ready to completely sell my Nikon gear. As you say, I've found a complete replacement for my needs.

DIGLLOYD: the trend of the future—increasingly good image quality in a small camera to medium size camera 1/2 to 1/4 the size of a DSLR rig.
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