Creatives and the Law

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Camera Gift Giving Guide: Mirrorless and Compact Cameras

Time for the second part of my camera gift giving guide -- 'tis the season for electronic toys in the form of mirrorless and compact cameras. I will begin by explaining the difference between the two types of cameras.

Difference Between Compact and Mirrorless Camera

What is a Compact Camera?

Compact cameras (also known as point and shoot cameras) tend to be small and very light. They are equipped with automatic mode and various "scene" modes such as fireworks, landscape, portrait, sport, etc. Unlike a DSLR, you cannot adjust settings such as aperture or shutter speed. It is meant for the person that wants to point and shoot, giving the camera full control over the settings.

What is a Mirrorless Camera?

Mirrorless cameras (also referred to as interchangeable lens systems) fall between a compact camera and a DSLR. Like compact cameras, these cameras tend to be light and are equipped with auto mode and multiple scene modes. However, unlike compact cameras, but similar to DSLRs, these cameras allow the user to change lenses and are equipped with aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual mode. Mirrorless cameras use smaller lenses and have smaller image sensors than DSLR cameras, but the image sensor of a mirrorless camera is much larger than that of a compact camera, which results in nicer images. Basically, a mirrorless camera offers you the versatility of a DSLR in the size of a compact camera.

What Should You Choose?

Choosing between a compact camera and a mirrorless camera will really depend upon your needs and the trade-offs you are willing to make in terms of size, simplicity and price. If you are purchasing a camera for a person that is new to photography but you think that person will be overwhelmed by all the features and/or size of a DSLR, I recommend you try a mirrorless camera. The investment will be smaller and it will give the owner a chance to really figure out whether he or she wants to continue pursuing photography. For example, I purchased a Nikon 1 for my younger brother. He loves astronomy and is interested in learning more about photography, but I knew he simply would not use all of the features in a DSLR so I purchased a Nikon 1 for him to use. He absolutely loves the camera.

A mirrorless camera might also be good for an individual that already owns a DSLR and wants something smaller and lighter to carry on trips. Personally, I do not own a mirrorless camera but I do own a really nice compact. In light of my investment in a quality camera, great lenses and good gear, I prefer to use that equipment. Plus, as I may have mentioned before, I really do not like having to delve into menu options to change even the most basic settings. So, I will not consider purchasing a mirrorless system until a company releases a mirrorless camera in a film camera body.

You should purchase a compact camera for anyone that you know will not use the more advanced features found in a mirrorless camera. I also think a compact camera is a great alternative for the amateur or serious amateur photographer who needs a small camera for situations where a DSLR is not allowed. For example, I recently took a tour of the White House and guess what you cannot take with you - DSLR cameras. What did I grab instead, my trusty compact. It takes beautiful images, it is easy to use, and it is small.

Now, some people might argue that you do not need a compact camera because you have a phone. Well, the response to that is simple, a compact camera is going to take better pictures than a phone. I realize that you might think your phone takes just as nice pictures as your compact camera, but it does not. A phone is trying to handle multiple jobs but a compact camera is only focused on one. 

Finally, since mirrorless systems allow for multiple lenses, these cameras tend to be priced higher than compact cameras.

What Should I Buy?

So, now that you have taken the time to decide whether you want a mirrorless or compact camera, you are ready to start buying. Rather than adding yet another "Top mirrorless/compact cameras of 2015" list to the Internet, I have compiled a few of my favorite lists below. However, to help with your search, I am going to include a list of the top 5 cameras that I would purchase:

Compact Cameras

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX100 ($697)
Olympus Stylus I ($626)
Fujifilm XQ2 ($299)
Nikon Coolpix S9700 ($269)
Sony Cybershot RX1R ($2299) or RX100 ($399)

Mirrorless Cameras

Any Leica (seriously; oh these start at $4,000)
Olympus OM D E M1 ($899) or EM 10 ($449)
Samsung NX1 ($1099)
Fujifilm X-T1 ($1399) or X-T10 ($799)
Sony A7 II ($1698)

Note on prices, you will tend to get the best price at either Amazon or Adorama. I prefer to purchase most of my gear from an actual camera store, like Adorama, because there is a smaller chance of receiving a dud and if you do receive a dud, they will bend over backwards to fix it. Plus, sometimes Adorama offers bundles, which will include free accessories compatible with the camera you purchase.

When trying to identify my next camera purchase, I tend to rely most frequently on the reviews found on Cnet, Tech Radar and PC Mag. I also tend to prefer sites that offer expert reviews in comparison to user reviews. Whatever site you use, just ensure the camera you choose comes with the features that are most important to you.

Best Compact Cameras 2015 - Cnet
Best High End Compact Cameras 2015 - Tech Radar 
Best Mirrorless Cameras 2015 - PC Mag 
Best Mirrorless Cameras 2015 - Tech Radar
Best Interchangeable Lens Systems - Cnet 
Best Mirrorless Lens Systems - Pocket Lint

Conclusion and Where To Buy

If you plan to buy any of the cameras please consider using any of either the Amazon link or Adorama link. I receive a portion of the purchase, which enables me to keep bringing you great content. Plus, it's hard being unemployed during the holiday season :)

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