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2014: Year of Mirrorless?

With the A7R and A7, Sony has blasted away cognitive committments on what a full-frame camera can be, showing that full frame can be smaller and lighter than Micro Four Thirds with prime lenses while offering very high resolution, a terrific EVF. And plenty of ill-conceived aspects too!

When I wrote Micro Four Thirds: Withering on the Vine comparing Micro Four Thirds to APS-C, I didn’t know that the comparison would become even more compelling in light of the A7R, though Olympus deserves credit for building a pro-grade body (Olympus OM-D E-M1) better in every way than its predecessor. The E-1 produces very fine images suitable for many uses, but reality is real, and to use a car analogy—the little 1.4-liter 4-banger with a turbo is no match for a 5.0L big-block twin-turbo V8. Though the 4-banger might be a gas to drive.

Also seen in 2013 was my camera of the year, the Ricoh GR, which shows that high image quality and usability and outstanding lens sharpness need not be bundled with a frustrating physical design or a hopelessly confusing and tedious menu system.

Also seen in 2013 was the arrival of the world’s best DSLR lens ever made: the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon, though the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar deserves similar praise.

For 2014, what I’d like to see is a beginning of the end of haphazard grab-bag designs, and see it all come together in highly usable and configurable and glitch-free cameras with world-class optics.

But there is something for everyone to work on in specifics, too:

  • Sony can fix the kitchen-sink randomized menu system on the A7R/A7 and deliver a firmware fix for shutter vibration, for starters.
  • The Sony E-mount prime lenses badly need lenses in the 18mm and 24mm and 100mm range.
  • Zeiss premium lenses for the Sony A7R would be wonderful.
  • Zeiss is hopefully hard at work on another Otus, perhaps an 85mm f/1.4 and my personal preference, a 28mm f/1.4.
  • Nikon and Canon are looking dated and dull and delusional. At the least, DSLRs should offer a high-res EVF option and ideally this will be accompanied by 50-60 megapixel sensors and ultra-accurate on-sensor autofocus.
  • Sigma could update the Sigma DP Merrill line with an EVF and better rear LCD and software that doesn’t suck. Oh, and the SD1 Merrill badly needs Live View.
  • Fujifilm X on APS-C is an interesting “why bother” in the context of the Sony A7 and A7R. Until and unless Fujifilm full-frame arrives and the focus creep problems are fixed (which won’t bother most shooters, but makes it unusable for me), well, Fujifilm X seems like Sony NEX APS-C: why bother? (yes, there are some reasons, but it’s still a ton of money for the system, and thus not a good long-term investment, full frame making a lot more sense).
  • Pentax should put the Ricoh GR design team in charge of the Pentax K lineup, and introduce high-grade lenses in optical terms. Well-built and attractive lenses are all very nice, but they have to perform.

A lot more could be said here, the 2013 blog has covered so many topics, these are just a smattering.

Sony A7R

Ricoh GR

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