Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

News and commentary about the mirrorless camera world (latest on top). Click on News/Views in the gray menu bar above to see the full list of recent articles and folders containing older ones.

Sony Completes the Mark II Upgrades

(news & commentary)

bythom a7s with lens

Today Sony announced the final Mark II upgrade, the A7s Mark II. As with the other A7 models, the new camera gets a bit of body work to refine the hand position and controls, 5-axis image sensor stabilization, and improved autofocus. In the case of the A7s, however, the autofocus improvement is still contrast detect based, now with 169 points. 

Video users will appreciate that 4K video can now be recorded internally, that S-Log and S-Gamut3.Cine are now selectable profiles, and that 1080P can now be recorded at 120 fps. Indeed, most of the improvements in the Mark II model do seem targeted at video users. 

The OLED EVF gets a slight tweak to make it higher magnification (0.78x up from 0.71x), and the lens mount reinforced (as it has been on all the Mark II A7’s). 

Unfortunately, the list price has crept up to US$3000, something we saw with the A7r Mark II, as well.

One thing you have to appreciate in the Mark II models is that Sony has been addressing customer-perceived weaknesses (hand position, grip, lens mount frailty) as well as providing useful new performance and functionality (additional video modes, sensor-based stabilization, etc.). What’s entirely missing in these upgrades is what I call “cruft,” features and functions that aren’t mainstream and don’t really add value to the product. Moreover, they’ve created three very distinct cameras that differ primarily in sensor. Bravo, Sony. I wish Nikon would get the same message. 

Support this site by purchasing from the following advertiser:

New Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm X


bythom roboshoot.jpg

RoboSHOOT-X is a new remote flash trigger and control system for Fujifilm X series cameras. For flash control it supports up to four groups of Manual or TTL flash, plus control over additional functions such as zooming of the flash head. The RoboSHOOT-X also supports a simplified a intervalometer and timed shot capability, as well as sensor based triggering. Communications is via a 2.56Ghz radio signal. You’ll need an MX controller (available in two models) and an RX receiver (also available in two models). 

Right now the products are available for pre-order at discounted prices (US$300 for the top kit, US$200 for the lower end kit). 

New Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 Lens


bythom panny25mm

Panasonic announced a new 25mm f/1.7 lens to their lens lineup at IFA Berlin in August. This low-cost normal prime is just over 2 inches in length and weighs just 4.4 ounces. 

Support this site by purchasing from this advertiser:

The GH4 Gets V-Log

(news & commentary)

Panasonic announced the GH4R and new firmware for the GH4 at IFA Berlin in August. The sole changes on the new version of the camera are that it allows unlimited 4K video recording and has a built-in V-Log recording mode. The new version 2.3 of the GH4 software adds the V-Log ability.

V-Log is a slightly different encoding of data that attempts to increase dynamic range of a video file by using a linearity curve that pulls deep shadows up a bit and places mid-tones slightly higher in the bit range. V-Log isn’t used for playback. Videos recorded this way have to be “graded” for final output, but there’s more data to grade, and the deep shadows aren’t as prone to blocking up due to lack of bit depth. 

The 2.3 firmware update for the GH4 has a fee associated with it (US$100). Besides the V-Log change, it also supports the ability to pause Time-lapse video via a function button.

Panasonic’s firmware update site

Speedlights on Nikon 1’s

(news & commentary)

One of the big complaints by many Nikon 1 users is that the Nikon 1 system can’t use the standard Nikon DSLR flashes and related items (such as Pocket Wizards). Indeed, the whole “proprietary” nature of the Nikon 1 coupled with Nikon’s absurd pricing and availability issues are the most frustrating things about the Nikon 1. As cameras, they’re pretty darned good, though a bit more attention to UI detail and some more lenses would be nice. 

bythom flashaccessory

A Swedish engineer introduced a hand-made accessory early on to adapt DSLR flash to the Nikon 1, but that disappeared for awhile. Now it’s back in version two: the V2-F1A (apparently Swedish engineers are as bad at naming things as Japanese engineers ;~). While expensive—US$91 plus shipping—the V2-F1A does give you the ability to run the big flashes and radio triggers off a Nikon 1 camera that has the standard Nikon 1 accessory port (currently V1, V2, and V3). Note that TTL is not supported, so the flash has to be run in Manual or Automatic mode. Also note there’s a weight limit of 4.2 ounces (120g), which rules out directly using some of the bigger Speedlights (the SB-300 works, the SB-500 is a bit too heavy). It’s suggested instead that you run the bigger flashes using a radio trigger or via the PC Sync Socket on the side of the V2-F1A. 

Olympus Introduces, Suspends EM-10 Mark II

(news & commentary)

bythom em10markii

The expected second version of the EM-10 has shown up, with minimal specification changes to this small m4/3 camera. The three-axis stabilization has been upped to five, the EVF gets a 2.36m dot upgrade, flash sync speed was upped to 1/250 second, focus bracketing has been added, while video gets 1080P/60 and some additional options. Some of the controls have been tweaked to better match the current OM-D standards, too. Overall, a modest update to a nice, small camera. 

Unfortunately, not long after announcing the camera and shipping it in some regions, Olympus temporarily withdrew it from the market to investigate issues with the lens mount not retaining some lenses properly. It’s expected that US shipments will likely happen in October at this point.

Support this site by purchasing from this advertiser:


Good Luck, Canon

(news & commentary)

bythom eosm3.jpg

Canon has announced that they’ll finally bring the EOS M3 mirrorless model into the US in October, along with the missing M lenses. Price for the body alone will be US$580. The 11-22mm f/4-5.6 will be US$400.

The only problem with this? People in the US have been buying the EOS M3 from overseas at discounted prices as low as US$350. A quick eBay search will find that you can get an EOS M3 from a variety of SE Asian countries for US$400-450 new in box with little hassle, and even the body plus EVF kit for US$500. 

One has to conclude from this that only stupid Americans will buy the EOS M3 at Canon’s official US price. Because the M3 has been available for a long time overseas and supplies exceed demand, the arbitrage opportunity has and continues to exist to undercut CanonUSA. 

I’m worried that we’ll return to the idiotic policies of the film era, where identical cameras were produced with different names for different markets, and others will do the same stupid thing that Nikon has been doing for decades, which is to deny warranty work and even paid-for repair of products originally shipped to somewhere other than the US. 

While I’ll provide the B&H link for the new Canon gear below, I don’t expect anyone to use these links. 

Support this site by purchasing from the following advertiser:

Fujifilm Returns to Forensics

(news & commentary)

Back in the days when Fujifilm had (Nikon-based) DSLRs, they targeted the forensic photography niche with cameras that had wide, unfiltered spectral abilities, from UV to visible to near-infrared light. 

Today Fujifilm announced the X-T1 IR, which is a version of its top-end mirrorless camera that does the same thing. Said to be responsive in light from 380 to 1000nm, the IR version is otherwise identical to the original X-T1. Cost will be US$1700 for the body. 

What I don’t quite understand in the Fujifilm press release is “pairs seamlessly with each high quality Fujinon XF lens.” I find it unlikely that the existing XF lenses are very good at transmitting UV light. Generally, glass and the coatings used on glass for photographic purposes, tends to be a UV filter. Likewise, internal lens design is a potential issue at near and deeper IR values, as you get ghosting. It’s unclear to me whether Fujifilm is just saying “works with all existing Fujinon lenses” or they’re suddenly implying that the Fujinon lenses were designed for UV and near-IR work from the get go. Somehow I doubt that. It’ll take some testing to figure out what works best and what doesn’t work. 

Many of us who explored UV shooting—including on the original Fujifilm forensic DSLRs—resorted to Nikon’s UV lens or other lenses where we stripped coatings off to increase UV transmission through the lens. Put another way, for UV in particular, yes, some UV will get through the lens, but your exposure may need to be higher to usefully capture that. 

I’m also a little surprised that Fujifilm didn’t announce corresponding filter sets for the new X-T1 IR (they did with the previous UV/IR cameras). What you really want are four filters: (1) UV pass only; (2) visible pass only; (3) IR pass only; and (4) visible plus IR pass. This would allow you to use the X-T1 normally, and in the three additional spectral modes that are most useful.

Support this site by purchasing from this advertiser:

How Does Panasonic’s Post Focus Work?


When set to perform Post Focus, the GX8 (and some other upcoming models and firmware updates) shoots 50 images at 30 fps with the focus point changed in each one. This function requires a DFD capable lens (Depth from Defocus). When a Post Focus image is reviewed, you tap on the point you want in focus, and the camera creates a new image with that point in focus. In essence, the camera is doing a focus rack during the 50 shot sequence, then letting you pick the appropriate image from any of the images shot. 

It strikes me that this is the least useful of the possible uses of this function. A more useful option would be focus stacking, or using the individual shots to create a deeper of very specific depth of field, as we often do with series of shots in macro. 

While Panasonic’s firmware is not yet complete, it appears that the 50 images do stay on the camera, so we can probably use them to focus stack after the fact. However, Panasonic really doesn’t have anything useful in the way of a macro lens that understands DFD, which apparently is necessary for this feature to work. It would have been more interesting to see a new longer focal length macro lens (say 60-80mm) being developed than yet another “normal” focal length lens (e.g. 25mm f/1.7). 

It really feels to me that camera designers are tracking each other’s features rather than developing true photographic improvements. It’s the old Marketing Check Box game in action. The “touch to refocus” aspect of Post Focus appears to be a response to Lytro. Why? I don’t know. Lytro isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Indeed, if Lytro is a match, someone dampened its head and then put it in the freezer. So why imitate that? Why not target a thing that photographers are actually doing (focus stacking) and more would like to do?   

Panasonic Announces GX8

(news & commentary)

bythom gx8

The m4/3 world just hatched another camera today: the 20mp Panasonic GX8, a rangefinder-style camera with a number of interesting aspects.

A lot of people are getting hung up on the 20mp aspect of the camera. While I always welcome a new sensor, given that sensors in general tend to make substantive improvements about every three years, note that this just nets you a 13% resolution gain, generally not enough to be visible to most people.

Compared to the previous GX7, the new magnesium allow body design features a more pronounced right hand grip, and a redefinition of the top plate controls with what I can only call a modern retro feel (similar dials to retro designs, but modernized). The body loses the built-in flash, but gets an almost lens-aligned hot shoe. The body is dust and water resistant. Note that the GX8 is bigger than the GX7 in every dimension, and a bit heavier, as well. It also uses a BLC-12 battery (330 shots CIPA). 

The sensor upgrade also nets 4K video at 30 fps, as well as improved DFD style focus that now includes a starlight mode capable of shooting at -4EV. The sensor features an electronic shutter, so silent shooting is possible, as is shutter speeds up to 1/16,000. 

Like the GX7, the GX8 features sensor-based image stabilization, and integrates with Panasonic’s lens IS system for a “dual IS” approach.

Rumors that the GX8 would be LX100-like in its controls were a bit off the mark, as we have a Mode dial on the GX8 and no shutter speed dial. Still, I get the reason why folk who used the prototype spoke this way: the GX8 has a fairly simple, direct, and photographer-centric control system. The tilting EVF has been redesigned, and the LCD touchscreen is now a swivel instead of tilt-only. 

Price went up a bit, too, something we’re going to have to get used to. At US$1199 the GX8 is US$200 more expensive than the GX7 it succeeds. I suspect that these price bumps we’re now seeing are mostly artificial. Since the expectation now is that any camera that’s been out for awhile has discounts on it, by starting at a higher price the camera companies can still appear to be giving large discounts, but better retain their product margins when they do so. Here in the US, everything looks very artificial in that respect though: in the time between the GX7 and GX8 the implied price should have gone down 20% due to the yen devaluation, not up 20% as it appears here.

bythom Panny100-400

As part of the GX8 announcement, Panasonic also announced development is in progress on two new m4/3 lenses: a 100-400mm f/4-6.3 and 25mm f/1.7. These lenses introduce a new function called “post focus”, which is similar to Nikon’s BSS: the camera shoots a burst in 4K resolution while shifting the lens slightly, then after the shot you can select the one that is best in focus. I’m more intrigued by the statement that the 100-400mm lens is DFD capable with 240 fps image data. This means it should be on par with the fast focus we see with Panasonic bodies with the shorter focal length lenses. The other nice thing about the new telephoto zoom is that it has a tripod collar (the current 100-300mm does not). No details on other specifications, date of release, or price were mentioned. 

Support this site by purchasing from this advertiser:

text and images © 2015 Thom Hogan -- All Rights Reserved   //    Follow us on Google+: Thom Hogan or on Twitter: @bythom, hashtags #bythom, #sansmirror