Mirrorless Camera ISO Signal/Noise Shootout: NEX5, NX10, E-P2, E-PL1, GF1, G2, GH1

JoepLX3

Regular
Jul 11, 2010
8
Amin, that is a great comparison!!!

May I ask two questions?

First one is easy, do / did you own a DSLR?
Second one is more difficult though. Which of these mirrorless camera's does have to you opinion the best balance of good handling for candid kids portrait applications vs compactness gain over e.g. a Pentax K-x?

Maybe I should split the second question up as follows:
- Which mirrorless camera has best handling for candid kids portrait applications?
- How does handling of this camera compare to a (small) DSLR?
- What is the compact gain of this camera compared to a small DSLR?
 

Sam Rowlands

New Member
Aug 2, 2010
1
Thanks so much for doing an ISO test of all the cameras, would it be possible for you to do another kinda of test?

I love to see a real world comparison, where each camera is paired with it's lens and set to P or Auto and used to take low light photos. The reason being is that not all cameras use the same ISO for low light photography, but I'd love to see which one produces the best results when the camera is left to choose. Could you also mark, the shutter speed, aperture and ISO of each photo.

Thanks for all your hard work and keep it up.
 

Amin Sabet

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 3, 2010
124
Amin, that is a great comparison!!!

May I ask two questions?

First one is easy, do / did you own a DSLR?
Second one is more difficult though. Which of these mirrorless camera's does have to you opinion the best balance of good handling for candid kids portrait applications vs compactness gain over e.g. a Pentax K-x?

Maybe I should split the second question up as follows:
- Which mirrorless camera has best handling for candid kids portrait applications?
- How does handling of this camera compare to a (small) DSLR?
- What is the compact gain of this camera compared to a small DSLR?
Thanks, Joep. I no longer own a DSLR but have owned many in the past (most recently Nikon D700, D5000, Canon 5D, 30D, Olympus E-420, etc). For candid kids portraits, I think it depends on which angle of view you prefer. If you like working with a "normal" lens, the MFT cameras with Lumix 20/1.7 and Samsung NX10 with 30/2 are great choices.

The Pentax Kx with 40/2.8 is also very compact and great, but 40mm on a 1.5x body is a little long for my purposes. The 35/2.8 macro is less compact and also slower than the Samsung/Panasonic lenses (though the better sensor performance and image stabilization of the K-x body balance that equation). If you like to shoot longer, the Pentax 70/2.4 is a very nice lens and quite small. Closest thing in MFT land would be the Pana-Leica 45/2.8.

I think the Sony NEX3/5 would also be fantastic for candid child pictures, even with just the kit zoom, but more lens choice will help. I've already seen some wonderful child candids using NEX bodies and adapted manual focus lenses, but manual focus isn't for everyone. Same with MFT - tons of manual focus options being used to produce great portraits.

Lots of other personal factors come into play. For my personal needs (I take lots of pictures of my kids), autofocus speed is not critical. When I look at the times that my D700 got me the shot because of fast AF, those are few and far between. For someone whose kids do real sports and want to capture the action, DSLRs still are superior.

As far as compact gain over a small DSLR, the mirrorless cameras and pancake lenses are a good bit (my subjective impression) less thick than an small SLR with standard-size prime (eg, D5000 and 35/1.8 or XS and 28/1.8). The smallest DSLRs with pancake lenses (eg K-x and 21/3.5, 40/2.8 or E-420 and 25/2.8) come closer, but those lens choices are less appealing to me than the ones already available for the mirrorless cameras.

These are both complicated questions which I could give a better answer for if time permitted, but that's all I can say for the time being.

Thanks so much for doing an ISO test of all the cameras, would it be possible for you to do another kinda of test?

I love to see a real world comparison, where each camera is paired with it's lens and set to P or Auto and used to take low light photos. The reason being is that not all cameras use the same ISO for low light photography, but I'd love to see which one produces the best results when the camera is left to choose. Could you also mark, the shutter speed, aperture and ISO of each photo.

Thanks for all your hard work and keep it up.
Sam, that kind of test has so many variables. I try to take a rigorous approach to comparisons, and that would be very difficult for me to do in such a test. Many sites focus on what happens when the camera is left to choose, and I think I have more to offer in terms of showing what we can get out of these cameras when we make all the choices.

I will, however, try to rigorously test some of the other factors which play into low light potential of these systems (eg, effectiveness of different image stabilization systems), so hopefully that will be helpful in complementing these data. Thanks for the kind words.
 

JoepLX3

Regular
Jul 11, 2010
8
Amin, Thanks for your extensive explanation, very interesting to read
- I agree with you that the 20 mm F1.7 is a great lens and the compactness a nice match with a Panasonic GF1 or any of the Olympus PEN camera's.
- My, I want optical viewfinder and notice m43 doesn't have real fast long zooms nor dedicated portrait primes

Besides the kit lens I am planning to get the Pentax 50-135 mm F2.8 lens and I had (or in some way even still have) the same concerns like you mention on that 40 mm F2.8 prime. That means 40/50 x 1.5 = 60/75 mm (35 mm full frame equivalant), where "your" 20 mm F1.7 is only 20 x 2 = 40 mm. I already have the LX3 (and the 18-55 mm kit lens as replacement / backup) for these wide angle applications, so decided I wanted something mid/long. Today in the shop I checked and at 50 mm I will still be able to take candid portrait pictures as close as only 3 meter away, but then it soon will become mainly the face only (which is what I like). But of course the 135 mm will give me reach to also do that further away (which is what I really like)!!!

I am curious (not a question to you, my challenge to figure out over time, as specially from 3 and up) which will give the nicest brokeh:
- Assuming enough space to make distance to model and then create face vs body portrait just filling the picture frame (aperture as far open as possible to maintain sharp result)
  1. GF1 + 20 mm F1.7
  2. GF1 + 45 mm F2.8
  3. K-x + 50-135 mm F2.8 @50 mm
  4. K-x + 50-135 mm F2.8 @90 mm
  5. K-x + 50-135 mm F2.8 @135 mm
  6. K-x + Pentax FA 31 mm F1.8 AL Limited (345 g) - Focal length is pretty close to the 20 mm F1.7
  7. K-x + Simga 50 mm F1.4
  8. K-x + Simga 30 mm F1.4

Either way, more compact camera's is a good direction for many people. More people buying results in more competition, so better lenses at affordable prices (if the companies not only focus on bodies...).
 

Björn Utpott

Rookie
Jul 17, 2010
3
Amin, it's rare that a photographer has so many cameras available at the same time. I'd really like to hear your feelings on how their user interfaces compare in everyday use. I know you're more familiar with the Panasonic interface, but perhaps you could share some initial reactions to the other cameras.

I tend to use Panasonic cameras, but felt immediately at home on the Nikon D300 interface (however, like you I no longer own a DSLR). With the Olympus E-PL1 it was the opposite. So I'll be really careful about purchasing another Olympus camera in the future. I played with the Sony NEX-5 in May and thought to myself: different, but perhaps I could learn to work around/with it. I'd be curious as to your thoughts. When a system has the lenses I want to use, the user interface is also an important consideration.
 

Amin Sabet

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 3, 2010
124
Björn, I'm still getting to know the interfaces, but I had the same immediate comfort with Nikon and took easily to Panasonic and Canon as well. The Olympus menus are a bit clunkier for me, but having owned Olympus cameras in the past, I get around just fine. The Samsung feels a bit cheap, in terms of the dials and switches, but the interface is easy and straightforward.

Sony interface is easy enough, and the screen was usable even in the bright sun. In aperture priority mode, aperture is controlled by the rear wheel, so that is simple. Changing ISO takes too many button presses to change on the Sony, and to be honest, I still haven't figured out how to change aperture in manual mode - I go to A mode, change aperture, then back to M and change shutter, but I'm sure there's an easier way :redface:. I'm allergic to manuals :biggrin:. Overall, I could certainly work with it, but it will take me time to see whether I can feel "connected" to a Sony NEX. Will have much more to say about interface and usability as time goes on!
 

Armanius

Bring Jack back!
Jan 11, 2011
123
Houston, Texas
Jack
Wow. Thank you so much for this comparison. It must have taken forever to get all of this done. Took me forever just to scroll through all the comparisons. Certainly much more comprehensive testing than any other photography site. Thank you very much!

And glad to see that one of my favorite cameras came out ahead! :)
 
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Armanius

Bring Jack back!
Jan 11, 2011
123
Houston, Texas
Jack
Is it difficult to hold the NEX5 with the 18-55 steady, given no EVF nor OVF?
The NEX3/5 are meant to be held with two hands. With the left hand under the barrell of the lens, there are no problems. However, I've shot my NEX3 one handed w/ the 18-55, and didn't seem to have many problems either. The 18-55 has a image stabilizer built into the lens. So that helps too.
 
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BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Welcome Country Parson, there's a bright future for the NEX system. Please stop in to our Sony NEX Forum and see if you can't find some more information that might give you heart about the lenses.
 

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