It did not take long for Sony to bring its new A7 II full-frame camera to the US market. But then, even from the Japanese announcement article, it is clear that the A7 series of mirrorless cameras are very popular among photographers, and this new model adds the very welcome sensor-based 5 axis image stabilization that works with any lens. Ought to be a real success for the manufacturer, especially at this price.
Sony is very, very serious about the full-frame mirrorless cameras and would seem they plans no break for the competition. The Japanese giant has just announced a replacement for the first and (currently) cheapest full-frame compact system camera, the A7. Dubbed the A7 II, it brings, more than anything, refinement to what is essentially the same core feature set. Mind you, so far it has only been announced in Japan. It is still interesting to see where the manufacturer is going with all the full-frame offerings.
As part of my field work for my upcoming hands-on review of the 1 Nikon CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 telephoto zoom lens I went to the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory to take a few images. I spent a few very enjoyable hours at the conservatory taking photos of the various butterfly species and ended up with many usable images.
I would like to preface this article by saying it is not intended as a “do this, don’t do that” sermon from the mount. To me, using a camera is akin to playing a guitar. It is simply an instrument that a person uses to achieve a particular outcome. And, like a guitar, there are many styles and approaches in how to “play it”. What works for me may not work or feel comfortable for you. So, if this article provides a few useful tidbits for some readers, it will have served its purpose.
There’s quite a bit of text in this article so I will be showing a range of images shot with my Nikon 1 V2 to provide some visual breaks, and also to help illustrate the capability of the Nikon 1 system.
Have you ever traveled to the shopping mall in search of a product, only to be met by dozens of similar options to choose between? Lowest-price vs best-value, long-lasting vs quick-acting, eco-friendly vs cost-effective: we are drowning in possibilities that years ago didn’t exist. Perhaps nowhere is the epidemic of choice more prevalent than in the digital camera world today. Since I began reviewing mirrorless cameras a couple of years ago with my partner Mathieu Gasquet, I’ve been surprised by just how many models exist for each brand. For instance, in the six years since mirrorless cameras first began to appear on the market, a total of thirty-six Micro Four Thirds system cameras and nineteen Sony E-mount cameras have been released, an astonishing number if you consider that new film cameras would be released only every two or three years.
Waterproof, shockproof, mirrorless and with a 14mp sensor larger than most point-and-shoot sensors, the Nikon 1 AW1 (MSRP $799.95) is the only camera in its class. It seemed an ideal choice for a photographer with a bad case of pixelitis who was going to ride an overgrown innertube down the raging rapids of the Grand Canyon. To quote from Nikonusa.com: “At last, stunning images from a camera you don’t need to baby. From kayaking to mountain climbing, keep the rugged Nikon 1 AW1 by your side. Waterproof to 49 feet without a bulky protective housing—carry it rafting, swimming or snorkeling.” Okay.
I pick up the camera and, for what feels like a hundredth time, get surprised by its low weight. It’s not what you’d call hollow, more like… tightly packed. There might be a couple of areas where you touch and feel mild disappointment – the control wheel at the back could be metal and the bottom, well, can’t help but wish it felt as cool (literally) and solid as the top of the camera – but only because the rest of it is just so pleasant to hold. It has quickly become a very natural size and shape – that Nikon body, though that much more secure in hand, feels almost unwieldy. It’s not, really, but also is when you compare it to the Fujifilm X-E2. And the dials – save for the aperture ring on the lens, but that is a separate subject – offer very good resistance. In the case of exposure compensation dial, when doing such time-critical types of photography as street, perhaps even a touch too good. It’s not that easy to turn with your thumb whilst holding the camera to your eye. And that is exactly what I am doing right now, bringing it to my eye as my subjects still don’t seem to have noticed me noticing them.
And then another thing happens for what feels like a hundredth time. I did not understand it at first, might not have even noticed my own reaction (since, more often than not, I can’t afford being surprised by something), but after relying so much on an optical viewfinder – be that of the rangefinder Kiev 4AM, my digital Nikon body or medium format Mamiya RZ67 – that EVF feels weird. It’s not bad weird, or good weird for that matter. Just… weird.
When Samsung announced their first Android-powered mirrorless camera, I was really rather skeptical. The problem lies within the OS itself – its versatility also brings a whole lot of issues. Yet I feared the Korean manufacturer would keep at it, for better or worse. In a surprise move for me personally, they seem to have decided against it with the newly announced flagship of the NX system, the NX1. This is by far the most impressive camera in the NX line-up. It does away without Android, but Samsung still calls it a “smart” camera thanks to all the connectivity options. On paper, it is every bit as capable as the best in the class and then some.
A well-known editorial photographer Zack Arias recently touched a very sensitive subject, one that always spawns heated debates. In his entertaining video, he expressed his opinion on the full-frame vs APS-C sensor debate and we must say he made a lot of good points. Zack openly states on his website that he is not paid or sponsored by Fuji to advertise their cameras, and yet you might get the impression that this particular video is in fact an advertisement. Ignore that feeling, whether Zack is working for Fujifilm or not does not matter in this case. He talks about Fuji because it’s his system of choice (the X-T1 in particular), but the simple truth is every mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor – any camera with APS-C sensor, in fact – is good enough for great many projects.
Even though this topic has been touched on numerous occasions, I still get asked this one question rather often – which camera to buy? For someone who’s into photography, it is a very vague question. Almost impossible to answer without additional context as it spawns a number of followup questions – what are you planning to photograph? Are you going to invest more into the system? What lenses would you like to own? Are you planning to take up photography professionally? And for a beginner to be able to answer all these questions in return requires a certain amount of research. Truth is, not everyone is looking to take up photography professionally or even invest into more than one additional lens to accompany the kit zoom. A lot of people really only want a camera for family pictures – something a bit more capable than your average compact, something that would work in darker environments and be able to defocus the background a bit more, too, because it makes images look prettier. And the answer to the first question is usually very simple – everything.