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Mirrorless Camera Roundup: So Who's the Best?

Fstoppers Mirrorless Month really got me rethinking the entire small-camera strategy. I’m normally someone who doesn’t mind lugging a camera mounted to an 18th-century cannon, so long as it can take better photographs than the thing before it. But holding so many small cameras every day gets me thinking, is there another, better way to do this? And if so, what’s the best...?

All-in-all, I’m interested in usability and image quality. And that includes a delicate balance between compact bodies, button operation, and sensor size. So what’s the best of the three worlds?

Third place goes to the Sony Alpha NEX-7. It’s a great camera with excellent image quality. The APS-C sensor really pushes it up a notch, but the whole thing stays quite compact (though the lenses have to be on the slightly larger side to cover the APS-C format). And finally, extremely easy operation and programmable dials/buttons put the nail in the coffin.

Second place goes to the Fuji X-Pro1. Image quality is outstanding. Some people commented about the X-Pro1’s ‘painterly RAW files.’ And RAW conversion is not perfect in third-party applications like Lightroom because it’s difficult to convert from a new sensor design such as the X-Trans sensor that Fuji has in this camera. But you can convert the file with Fuji’s own included software to then use in another editing application (which which takes a little extra time that pros won’t mind sacrificing in exchange for a fantastic result) -- or you can just shoot JPEG, which 90% of users will undoubtedly do anyway. The button layout and ease of operation is among the best, and the still-new firmware update breathed a whole new life into the camera. What kept it from first place? The price, at over $1500. Hands down, though, this still gives the best image quality for the money.

First place goes to the Olympus OM-D E-M5! This is because it truly is a perfect blend between portability and performance. A micro-four-thirds sensor is still loads better than other tiny pieces of silicon and keeps the lenses relatively small. Operation is fluid and logical, and the fact that Olympus includes a flash with the camera is just another added bonus. So who hit the home run? -- the weather sealing did it in. Being able to take the Olympus into a variety of different weather conditions is something that helps the camera truly be portable.

I was going to give an honorable mention for an extremely compact camera that I reviewed. But in all honesty, not in one instance did I think the sacrifice in image quality justified the size-savings. If anything came close, however, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is a great, middle-of-the-road mirrorless body for a very reasonable price.

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kuskuss2's picture

".....All-in-all, I’m interested in usability and image quality...."

you should test the new E-PL5 .. the image quaility is better then that of the OM-D.

the E-PL5 has NO low-pass AA filter:

and it´s much cheaper then the OM-D.

as a DSLR user the OM-D cost too much for what are my needs (a smaller second camera to carry around all day).

i would buy an E-PL5 in a second if onyl the display would not be so lousy.

i hated the 410k display on my E-PL1... that´s why i sold the camera (beside that the AF was to slow).
the E-PL5 display is still a low resolution 410k display :-(

Dragan Jereminov's picture

dont you know there is high res evf on it. its essential if you are serious or even enthusiast. I had vf-2 on my e-pl1 and it was great. its 1.5 mp and you can use it for reviewing your photos, not just shooting and also its great use in videography as you have live view always on it brings you more stability. Not to mention omd's 5 axis in body stabilisation

Leif's picture

The E-PL5 uses also a different display technology so you can't really compare them just by the resolution. Try to see one in a store or so and give it a try. 

the pictures are in the wrong order

Dafydd Owen's picture

I've read about others discussing the suitability of an APS-C sensor i.e. no point having a compact system if the lenses are big.

Did you consider the Fuji X-E1 in this ? Or does that just take same lenses as X-Pro1.....

Adam's picture

The X-E1 is very similar, being essentially a stripped-down version of the X-Pro1. I only reviewed the Pro-1, as I was looking at the best that is offered today... Even though it's more compact, you said it -- the lenses still do make it less so. Mirrorless isn't fit-in-your-pocket point-and-shoot. It's just an opportunity to get great quality out of a package that doesn't break your back. That's what I've been considering, here...