Mirrorless on the Mind

Thanks to Shawn Blanc's post on mirrorless Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) cameras, I've been considering picking one up myself.

Like Shawn, my iPhone has become my default camera, mostly because I always have it with me and it performs pretty well in my experience. Still, I would like to take my photography up a notch.

As I mentioned in that Monochrome iPhoneography post linked above, I actually own a DSLR camera: the Canon EOS 20d. Even with my basic kit lens, I can achieve better results than on my iPhone, but the problem is that shooting with this camera is very un-fun. It's bulky, heavy, there are way more settings than I ever need, and the rear LCD monitor is laughably small. Images that looked perfectly clear on that tiny screen inevitably turned out to be blurry when I got them onto my computer.

It hasn't been an entirely negative experience, though. This camera is really what introduced me to hobbyist photography in the first place, and because it was already considered an old model by the time I purchased it used from a guy on Craigslist (which is the only reason I could afford it at all), I had to learn things in a slightly more difficult way than people using modern equipment did, and I think that was beneficial.

I've just gotten tired of lugging the thing around and dealing with all the little things. I'm pretty sure I spent more time fiddling with settings than I did taking photos. Every time I needed to charge the battery, it involved removing the battery pack entirely and hooking it into this enire other apparatus that I needed to have with me at all times; you couldn't simply connect a power cable. If I happened to be carrying my DSLR bag around somewhere (which was a pain by itself) and wanted to get a shot of something interesting happening, I would sometimes miss the shot because it took too long to get the camera out of the bag and primed for shooting.

Because of all this, the DSLR bag has been collecting dust in my living room closet for a couple months now. Nearly all of the most recent photos on my 500px page have instead been taken on my iPhone 4S. And why not? It's so much easier to take out my iPhone from my pocket, swipe up on the lockscreen, and start taking photos within seconds.

Lately, I've been seeing examples of photos taken with mirrorless M4/3 cameras, and I'm jealous of the quality they're achieving with such small devices. These things are like mini-DSLRs, in that you can buy different lenses and swap them out at will, despite the camera bodies being about the size of point-and-shoot devices. This type of camera looks right up my alley, and the fact that they're way more affordable than most DSLRs makes them even more enticing.

I'm still on the fence on which mirrorless M4/3 camera I want. From Shawn's research, the two cameras that look best suited to my needs would be the Sony Alpha NEX-6 or the Olympus PEN E-PL5. Based on price alone, the Olympus camera is the better deal (right now it's on sale for $600, $200 off the usual price) over the Sony's $999 price point, but the Sony takes better photos from what I've seen so far.

I'll continue to do some more research on my own and we'll see what happens.