Great Mirrorless Camera Concepts

We have been seeing some great unofficial mirrorless camera concepts floating around the Internet lately. One that received a great deal of attention was the Canon AE-D mirrorless camera concept. While many of us are still waiting for Canon to release its own version of a mirrorless camera, David Riesenberg, the author of the design, apparently got tired of waiting and showed his own take at what the camera should look like and what its specs should be. Full-frame sensor, fast lenses to go with it, compact, elegant design – what a camera that would be!

Canon AE-D

Unfortunately, major manufacturers don’t have a reputation of listening to such ideas (except for the folks at Fujifilm – they seem to have given their fans just the camera they wanted with the Fuji X-Pro 1 after the wonderful success of the Fuji X100). Still, we can hope for a full-frame alternative to the super expensive Leica M9-P.

Here is another interesting full-frame mirrorless camera concept by Vladimir Markov. His idea was to implement as many direct controls on a small form-factor camera without making it too complicated to use ergonomically. What do you think about it? It sure looks like a fun camera to me and I love the original design with those circular OLED displays at the top of the dials.

Snima IRIS

I believe cameras like these are a new niche. The technological advancement has become the obvious, usual thing. It’s the character, the quirky, interesting design that starts to make its way into the hearts of photography lovers. While it will take some time, I’m sure we will see some real cameras as fun as Vladimir’s in the not-so-distant future. We can hope, right?


  1. 1) David Weihnacht
    March 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I know you guys do not take Olympus seriously, but the OMD is a mirror less micro4/3 camera with a 16 mpx sensor and a weather sealed body. Olympus has been developing lenses for the m4/3 for some time so the camera has quite a selection of accessories to compliment the camera. Initial tests indicate excellent high ISO performance. With retro styling great fast prime lenses and the small package, this is a camera that is already here.

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 1.1) Romanas Naryškin
      March 27, 2012 at 2:45 am

      It is a great camera, I completely agree. And I have nothing against Olympus or Panasonic and their m4/3 system – I’m sure there are plenty of loyal customers who enjoy those products. The goal of this article, however, was to show concepts made by the actual users, and not the manufacturers. The OM-D is a real camera :)

      On a personal note, I still don’t see where m4/3 fits. I find the format of 4×3 a little strange – it sits between 3:2, which is great horizontally, but can sometimes be too narrow vertically, and 6×7, which I find great both ways (6×6, for me, is the perfect format). It’s also in a weird place regarding sensor size – I’d see APS-C size to be the minimum small, and if I’d want smaller, I’d likely go Nikon CX size (of course, the 1 cameras are overpriced at this time, but that’s not the point). With that size, it’s also not exactly all that compact, and the lenses aren’t really fast, which again brushes off whatever advantages the system theoretically should have. With all that, they are also not much cheaper than some of the larger sensor alternatives.

      But that’s just my opinion, of course. I like the design of the OM-D and the technical side shows promise as well. :)

  2. 2) Marcus
    March 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    This “looking like the 50ies again” design apparently fulfills the need some (potential) customers have: The need to have a simple, retro-styled camera.

    For rich people with the same taste the solution is far easier: Get a Leica. It’s even an old German company, that does some actual assembly in Germany, too. For people not wanting to bother with too many options (because they are too old or unwilling to learn complicated menu systems and functions) this has to be the ultimate.

    But most of us aren’t rich and won’t ever be. Thankfully, the market supports us with a lot of different models that are affordable, though often not exactly cheap.

    Of course the camera companies know that we – as a mass – don’t want to bother with film anymore (many of us never have, actually) but want fast & good results. Of course the new retro bodies are all fully digital, perhaps sometimes so “daring” as using an old-style optical viewfinder.

    People apparently feel a certain curiosity to try out the cameras that they saw in the hands of their parents (or grandparents) when they were children. Cameras were optical precision instruments back then, often with solid metal casings that feels nice, not the plasticky digital wonders like smartphones we have today. We are so used to these digital wonders that something made of bare metal like some of these cameras are too exotic to pass for some people.

    So having them on the market is good because it broadens the market again.
    The only thing I hope these new retro camera won’t forfeit is 50+ years of experience in making cameras pleasant to handle. Good grips, dials and buttons close to the fingertips etc.
    I think the real test for most of these design will how they handle without taking they eyes from the viewfinder/screen.

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 2.1) Romanas Naryškin
      March 27, 2012 at 2:52 am

      Fast & good is a current trend, yes. But I see movement in another direction, away from it. Movements towards design and feel and sense of photography. You are also right about film, but only when speaking of masses. I’ve noticed sales in the used film camera market went up very quickly during the recent couple of years, as well as film sales. I’ve joined that movement, actually, and what’s really interesting is that it’s young people who buy those cameras. And it makes a LOT of sense, which I’ll explain in my upcoming Mamiya RZ67 review.

      As for the Leica, expensive as they are, I think they nailed the balance between the accessibility of digital and feel of film. Had I the money, I’d buy a Leica. An M9, likely. And an MP. Some might think it’s shallow :)

      • 2.1.1) Marcus
        March 27, 2012 at 9:40 am

        No, I don’t think it’s shallow. It’s a legitimate, individual decision. You like Leica because it’s simple to use, elegant in form and oozes tradition. Perhaps you want to concentrate on the art of picture making instead of using a complicated imaging system.

        But as you write: “Had I the money”. That’s exactly what turns the recent Fujis into successes, that’s what makes other manufacturers like Olympus try to cash in on modernizing their old best seller models, and that’s what will bring all other manufacturers like Canon sooner or later to the feeding trough.

        But all of them will be digital. Which is why I wrote about the masses – not about the individuals that want to experiment – or create – with film.

        Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji – to name some of the most popular modern manufacturers (or what’s left of them) – are all mass producers and they absolutely have to cater to the masses.

        The masses already have decided that they don’t want film anymore so these manufacturers don’t really have an alternative. In fact the world is steadily getting digitized and getting results quickly, easy accessibility and rapid distribution channels are for most people way more important than the warm fuzzy feeling of doing it like the elders, on “honorable” film.

        Which camera types the masses favor – point&shoot, bridge, mirrorless, DSLR – is a mere detail here. The critical point is that they are digital and all basically have the same advantages.

        • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin Romanas Naryškin
          March 27, 2012 at 9:43 am

          True, and yet there’s this one question – won’t you ever want to slow down? That’s why we have lake houses. And old, classic cars. And film. :)

          • Marcus
            March 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

            I won’t slow down because I’m already at snail’s pace!
            Most of my subjects also don’t run away that quickly (buildings) ;-)

  3. March 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Hi guys…. what about Samsung EX1? Model is pretty old, but has exactly the way of controlling the main features over 2 circular elements on the top.

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 3.1) Romanas Naryškin
      March 27, 2012 at 2:34 am

      That is true, but it’s not quite such a brave and retro design as the two cameras I mentioned. A good one, but it’s still just a point-and-shoot, while here, I showed concepts of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras. :)

  4. 4) Srini
    March 27, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Hi Roman,

    Probably, one day this mirrorless camera would replace the current crops.

    I wonder if you would educate people like us on how this mirrorless camera works compared to the current lots manufactured by Canon and Nikon. Examples with photo/drawing would be great….


    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 4.1) Romanas Naryškin
      March 27, 2012 at 2:46 am

      You mean a Mirrorless vs DSLR comparison?

      • 4.1.1) Srini
        March 27, 2012 at 4:21 am

        Not the actual performance of Mirrorless camera vs DSLR

        Educational piece on Mirrorless with pictures/diagrams vs how it is different to current DSLR’s manufactured by Nikon/Canon. It may be pretty naive question.

        I may have raised a pretty naive question.

  5. March 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I am completely Impressed by Validmirs concept cam, very modern, tank build, solid and modular;
    Great concept! As a Nikon User I miss the mirrorless wave in Nikons product line. The Nikon V1/J1 – no! They are not the right competitors to sony and co.


  6. 6) Mark de Vrij
    March 28, 2012 at 3:00 am

    The IRIS camera concept from Vladimir is a lovely camera, the idea of the circular OLED displays on the top are really good and hopefully are taken up for a real camera by someone. It’s a beautiful design for sure.

    What I would love to see one day though is a move away from traditional camera shapes. Camera form is really a result from the function of old film cameras and the limitations that were imposed by the technology for these. For example, why is the shutter button where it is? I would far prefer a trigger style button on the inside of the grip where the index finger naturally would rest rather than a button on the top plate. Why is the grip on the side completely vertical to the plane of the camera other than it has to be for the film to wind into, a slight slope outwards from top to bottom would suit the human wrist better.
    Also with the advent of the Electronic view finders, why still place this in the middle of the camera at the top? Maybe I have a big nose, but I find mine somtimes hit’s some of the buttons on the back panel when trying to take a photo. Instead why not place it vertically in the middle of the camera on the Left hand side so the lens is actually at eye level and the nose is out of the way. Actually, why have it attached to the camera at all? How about a wireless transmission to a pair of viewfinder glasses so even when trying to take shots over peoples heads, down low, behind you etc you can still see what the camera does?

    Given the possibilities of technology today it seems we have possibilities beyond the retro style, beautiful as they are.

    Kind regards,

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