Still walking around with 2012 camera prejudices? Don't think "Mirror-Free" cameras focus fast enough? Watch this:

All material ©2014 Kirk Tuck and presented exclusively at www.visualsciencelab.blogspot.com  If you are reading this on another site, without proper attribution, it is not an authorized use of the material. If you are reading this on an unauthorized site DO NOT CLICK on any links in the body copy as it may infect your computer with serious viruses. Sorry to have to put this warning here but a recent search turned up dozens of similar infringements. Thanks for your authentic readership.


I love the camera reviews that are done by the Camera Store on YouTube. Their spokesperson, Chris Nichols, is bright, fun, informed and very good in front of a video camera. For most cameras they are definitely part of the information well I go to with my bucket to find out about new camera capabilities.

In the video I linked to above they test the continuous auto focus, tracking autofocus and point to point, single autofocus of the top four mirror free cameras: The Sony A6000, the Fuji XT-1, the Olympus EM-1 and my personal favorite, the Panasonic GH4. Their control and comparison camera is the current king of the hill for action shooting, the Nikon D4s.

If you still think that the much smaller and much less expensive cameras don't have a prayer of matching the performance of a $ 7,000 specialty sports camera you need to watch the video all the way through to the bitter end. I think the results will surprise you.

Not to be a spoiler but I think I'll be holding on to my Panasonic camera for a while.

While you are at their YouTube channel you might want to sample some of their other videos just to see what they've got going on. No obscenities, scatological humor, or sexist comment like you get from Kai on DigitalRev TV but just as entertaining and a lot more to the point.

I just wanted to share an interesting test from my recent walk around on the web. 


Mike Mundy said...

Wait a minute. What ever happened to "Ripe Camera?"

David Liang said...

I'm definitely impressed by the focus speed, I had an x-pro 1 and nex-6 and weren't really impressed. But this new generation seems to have hit it's stride.

I'm anxiously waiting for the a7s to come out. I do a lot of work on flycam and with the weight, low light and awesome adapted lens selection, the a7S seems like a winner on paper.

mosswings said...

I'll just say this: cut the light levels down, make the subject move erratically in front of a busy background or even worse make it surrounded by that background and watch what happens. Oh, yeah, and put up a midrange DSLR in the mix and watch what happens. I was impressed with the GH4 and surprised by the A6000, but these tests basically proved that top-end (expensive) mirrorless performs as well as midrange DSLRs, and that the A6000 is a remarkable value proposition, particularly for APS-C photogs. But the end for DSLRs is near. At least in good light.

Nelson said...

As processor power increases they can perform AF calculation much better and faster, I think the next big boost would be 64bit ARM

Anonymous said...

I didn't find anything surprising in those results. I also agree with mosswings in the sense that in low light and busier environment the results would probably have been somewhat different. Although I don' think it matters much since any AF system will struggle under certain circumstances. That's what the MF + old school "Anticipation AF" is for.

I'm a bit tired of the whole "fastestest AF evah" meme by now. It's a marketing gimmick. An irresistible piece of nerdy-nam-nam for the gadget geeks to obsess and bicker about.

Even my dodgy old mirrorless camera originally released in late 2009 can snap sharp photos of moving targets like martial arts students with a 2.8 or faster lens. No doubt these new ones would be better and faster, so would some dSLR's, but that's beside the point. Also when shooting video and/or with a non-native lens, the AF would be off most of the time, anyway.

The bottom line is, the whole AF thing is overhyped these days, and any photographer who shoots regularly with more than one camera probably knows that. It's just one feature in the feature list and not likely to be the only critical one for most shooters IRL.

As for the top two mirrorless cameras in this comparison, if fast AF really is the only meaningful criteria for you, keep in mind that the GH4 with only marginally (if at all) better AF costs twice as much as the a6000. Even the EM-1 costs a third more, so does the XM-1.

So again, surely all the other features of the camera are likely to have more weight than the AF performance alone, aren't they. I doubt that anyone who buys a $7,000 Nikon D4s buys one for that alone, either.

Forget the nerdspeak, ignore the hype, just pick a camera that feels right in your hand and then shoot away. With or without a mirror.

If you're starting from scratch without any previous gear baggage, a 'mirrorless' (=native digital) camera would make more sense to go for these days.
Which is not a problem at all, as there are plenty of nice alternatives to choose from, with fast enough AF, nice lenses and many other goodies.

Frank Scallo said...

I'm a wedding shooter primarily and would love for these systems to be able to AF properly during receptions (most receptions). When the lights go dim and the action gets fast there's only one way to go for me; my 5D III earns its place. I own (and love) the E-M1. I took a few frames at a recent wedding in the same dim conditions I just described. While I was able to grab a few decent images, it was very fussy and slow. I feel the E-M1 (and possibly the GH4) are the pinnacle of AF performance in mirrorless currently. Unfortunately, they are just not ready. I think another couple generations and they'll be there. We'll see. (I could try different focusing techniques and stopping down to grab more 'keepers' of course. It's not how I work so that should be said.)

BUT!!! I go for my E-M1 for everything else. My family pics or shooting 'just for fun'. There's a zen quality to it and the system. I really enjoy the EVF. I'm not holding my breath on Canon competing in this area... The AF in good and even just decent light is fast and accurate; beating my 6D pretty easily in most cases...

Steve said...

Thanks - I enjoyed this, and like you I find this source really excellent; also like you I'm not that keen on the Kai style. Not sure the GH4 offers enough over my GH3 to justify a purchase though.

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

The subject is a bit of a snore to me. I don't really care much about ultimate autofocus speed. But...

My experience with midrange DSLRs is that they're pretty poor performers in other than good light too. All of the ones I've used have shown their limitations just as fast as the comparably priced Oly E-M1 or Panasonic GH4.

Double that money and the situation changes. Double again and the DSLR is even better in this niche.

But as I said, it's hardly something of much interest or value to my shooting. I just don't use AF all that much other than as a convenience.

Andrea said...

"Cut the light levels down, make the subject move erratically in front of a busy background or even worse make it surrounded by that background and watch what happens."
Translation: "Try to shoot toddlers running around the house".
Lately, this seems the main market targets for full-frame "Pro" DSLR.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. :)

Dave Vargo said...

The real advantage of the little 4/3 cameras is that they have the potential to squeeze into places where big cameras can't go. A lot of stadiums have 5" limits on lens length. Nikon + 70-200mm ain't gonna make it past the gate unless you have previously arranged permission. I've taken the old k-01 with some small manual lenses to sporting events. The 135mm 3.5 Pentax is only 4 inches long. With the focus peaking it works pretty well for quite a few sports with set plays.

Mark Chan said...

I suggest trying the 9af box setup for EM-1. I too had to deal with the slower af issue under dim lighting conditions at my sister'wedding.