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Thoughts on Mirrorless Cameras For Travel, Cycling, All Around Use

During my current trip, I’ve had time to contemplate camera form factor and usability: size/weight/stowability, ease of use, quality of results, post-processing ease or difficulty, battery life, etc.

Here I share some brief thoughts from my in the field use during a 10-day trip in August and an ongoing trip in late September. Mountains, cycling, etc. I’ll be posting a bunch of new material in my Guide to Mirrorless in October.

  • Sony RX100 — I really miss this camera on my current trip— so small and so light that it just gets taken along, as it’s hardly noticed. So easy to get beautiful shots and self portraits with perfect fill flash, even if the 20 megapixels equate to only 8 megapixels of real detail over the frame (but very sharp in the center, say for a self portrait). The results come easily every time. It’s a rewarding camera, outstanding quality-to-size ratio.
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 — Next to the Sony RX100, most satisfying to shoot with interchangeable lenses. Terrific video results ad-hoc due to superb image stabilization (Sony RX100 unviewable by comparison). Inscrutable menu system. Much larger than the RX100 but a pleasure to shoot. Very quick on/off, superb image stabilization.
  • Sigma DP1 Merrill — Really astonishing image sharpness but so easy to blow-out highlights, boxy and heavy, very short battery life (5 batteries would be needed for a day’s shooting), HUGE RAW (X3F) files of 50-60MB each, fixed but excellent lens, extremely slow file write times, post-processing from RAW (X3F) a tedious chore. Awful grip, no image stabilization, tedious need to power off to save the battery. No EVF makes the glare-prone LCD a real problem in bright conditions. Too awkwardly sized and heavy to carry automatically. Love/hate relationship: love the image detail, frustrating box of a camera and odious RAW conversion software. Tempted to buy one and pissed off at it at the same time (hmmm... poor man’s Leica?).
  • Fuji X-Pro1— quirky menu system matched with so many buttons and dials constantly changing by accident (on/off switch, exposure compensation dial, redesign needed here!). Almost as big as a small DSLR in shape/size with a lens. Easily scratched rear LCD. Obnoxious lens in/out movement with 35/1.4. Lovely files overall but with strange RAW conversion digital artifacts. Hunk enough of a camera that it approaches “the heck with it, I’ll take the D800 instead”.
  • Sony NEX-7 — Just cannot get excited about any of the too large or not that good autofocus lenses which when mounted make the NEX-7 far larger than the RX100 and not much different than the Olympus E-M5 except that the E-M5 just fits to the hand much better. Just does not come together for me as a camera, and the 24 megapixels don’t overcome the feel issues for me.
Sony RX100, Fuji X-Pro1, Olympus E-M5, Sigma SD1 Merrill

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