Close, but no cigar: how to design mirrorless right

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Too large/expensive; too slow and unresponsive, power hungry; no finder or IS

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Limited sensor resolution; overambitious image quality and fragile feel; too many steps to get shooting

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Fixed lens; great UI with terrible ergonomics; classical controls don’t work for digital, sensor limits

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Ergonomic and workflow challenges; IQ limitations from sensor size; needed two years to fix FW

And this is barely half of the mirrorless cameras I’ve used and reviewed on this site in the last couple of years. I still have not found a complete replacement for the DSLR, and I suspect there are many other photographers in the same situation. It isn’t for want of trying or stubbornness; it’s because the product simply does not exist. We’re not asking for the unicorn here, either: there are ergonomic/UI/UX/engineering solutions that have already been implemented and received well in other cameras – just not in the same one. And to clarify (since judging by email and comments, many are missing the point): this post is not to complain mirrorless isn’t a DSLR. It’s recognising that mirrorless is the future for so many reasons – but we are still suffering from stupid design that has already been solved. All of these problems beg the question: just how difficult is it to get it right?

Important: Read this first.

Evidently very much so, because not one of the cameras above is free from at least one massive glaring flaw – even ignoring system completeness – that forces you to look elsewhere for a complete solution. It is a shame since if these models had been seeded to photographers and that advice actually listened to, a lot of these things could have been avoided by small firmware fixes. Worse still is that a lot of the behaviour could still be fixed by firmware if the camera manufacturers cared enough to listen: few do, and even then, it seems to take a long time to fix – after a long period of denial. (Olympus’ E-M1 shutter shock issue, and Sony’s compressed raw format are both very good examples). Worse still, some problems appear to be baked in by lazy design choices – the A7II/A7RII/A7SII’s poor battery life, for instance could have been fixed by a slightly larger grip and physically larger battery – but that would have meant extra work.

Sometimes the problems are because there’s been too much creativity and desire to change things for the sake of changing them: the Leica T’s UI was a great idea, but the ergonomics are a disaster and a good example of form over function. The Sigma Quattro is just uncomfortable to hold and pack, period. The Leica SL should just have been  Q with a lens mount – but no, they started from scratch with the firmware and design and missed some fundamental things like the fact that the grip wasn’t really the right shape for 1+kg lenses, and exposure compensation is a critical photographic control.

If I’m coming across as cynical and critical, well, that’s because right now, I am. We have collectively spent a lot of money on product that a) doesn’t really work properly, and b) been vocal (at least I know I have) about simple fixes that would make life a lot easier – many of which are just a few lines of code to add extra button assignments or change default behaviours. I don’t know about you, but if I’m handing over a lot of hard-earned cash for something, I at least expect it to do what it says on the box.

So let’s do something positive, once and for all. Here is a list of all the really good things that every mirrorless camera should have, and where it’s been done before and not necessarily to the exclusion of other functions. Do the entire photographic community a favour and social-media share and forward this article to whichever camera company reps you might happen to know. Hopefully, something good will come out of it and we will all collectively benefit. They need to understand that building a good product doesn’t mean the death of obsolescence: it means more people will buy it, and there’ll be more R&D budget for the next generation.

For ease of reference, I’ve broken things up into a few sections. Some things have not been done, but are feasible (in italics)

Haptics/ergonomics/ responsiveness

  • No delay in operations for exposure setting or menu navigation – the Q, SL and M4/3 cameras win here.
  • Customizable menus and shortcuts – with no arbitrary limitation on assignable functions. Olympus gets this right, Sony is close.
  • Direct exposure adjustments (user selectable) on wheels with adjustable directions – not hard settings because you cannot change rotation direction. Again, Olympus and Sony get this right.
  • Fully customisable auto-ISO with minimum and maximum sensitivity and shutter speed thresholds, including 1/FL or 1/2FL for zooms etc.  (Nikon gets this right)
  • Weather sealing. The SL has the beefiest seals I’ve seen, with thicker/more solid gaskets than even my Sony ‘underwater’ compact.
  • A body/grip that is the right size to balance with the lenses it is intended to use; FF bodies need to be larger than M4/3 and have more substantial grips – which helps with packing larger batteries, too
  • A ‘small’ and a ‘large’ configuration: the small configuration for compact lenses, and the large configuration (e.g. adding a vertical and front grips) for larger lenses – the E-M5 II’s two part grip gets this right, but really doesn’t need to be in two parts.
  • Instant (or near instant) power on: 1 second is acceptable, 4+ seconds is not.
  • Power switch around the shutter button for quick access and single action to be ready to shoot: Q, Sony.
  • Deliberate action (either right friction or interlocks) required to move controls. Nothing to catch on coats/bags/etc.
  • Frame rates don’t have to be high, but there should be as little lag and blackout/shot-to-shot delay as possible; the Q and SL are the fastest for this with the Olympus cameras close behind
  • Touch screens are good – but make them useful. Panasonic allows for a touch-pad like operation to select AF point – keep this ability when using the finder. Leica’s menu implementation is well done.
  • Top panel status LCDs (a la SL) are welcome too. Especially if we can turn off the rear LCD to save power and not make a bright beacon that is very un-stealthy in the dark and ruins our night vision.
  • Why not built in Arca-compatible rails?
  • Interchangeable grips to suit different hand sizes might be a good idea, too.

Autofocus

  • The speed of the Q, SL or current generation Olympus M4/3 cameras
  • (Reader suggestions): The tracking ability of the Nikon 1 series, or Samsung NX1
  • Direct focus point selection with quick reset-to-centre or preselected point; the SL’s joystick is perfect here
  • Ability to decouple focus and shutter release
  • PDAF is nice to have but not necessary if CDAF is fast enough

Live view/ EVF

  • The high resolution, low-distortion view from the SL
  • Don’t clutter the live view area with icons and information; keep things minimal and the view clear – the Q and SL get this right, and the Olympus cameras in some modes. The Sonys are the worst: I don’t need every single logo you have on your box in my finder, too.
  • Peaking and exposure zebras are a must.
  • An ETTR metering option that exposes until a certain percentage area of the frame clips (settable by the user).
  • At least a tilting rear LCD, if not fully articulated.
  • A large LCD magnifier if you’re not going to provide an EVF, like the Sigma Quattro.
  • The ability to turn off the rear LCD completely for night use, or to set playback in LCD and live view in EVF (with LCD off). I’m surprised nobody really gets this right. I stand corrected: Fujis can do it, but why do they need a menu and two separate buttons to get there?
  • Instant review with one press to 100% at focus point, and the ability to skip through images at the same point with one of the dials – like the pro Nikons, SL and Olympuses. The Sonys also behave the same, but take a very long time to magnify and page through images.
  • DOF scale in the finder. Fuji gets this right.
  • One-press shortcut to magnify live view, preferably to 100% or a selectable magnification, with peaking. The Q has the best MF implementation of any mirrorless camera, bar none – it does all three when you turn the ring out of the AF mode.
  • Instant preview of exposure even when magnified, and EVF brightness that either represents the scene or represents the exposure – the SL, Q and Olympus cameras get this right. Sony does not, and the lag in previewing exposure can cost you the shot.

Sensor and image quality

  • Whatever the format, no compression or cooking of raw files – or at least a choice.
  • The ability to zoom a raw image without having to also write a JPEG.

System

  • Both fast/large and small/slower lenses. No compromises in optical quality.
  • Lenses with hard infinity stops, or a focus clutch like the Olympus pro lenses. Better still, an ‘AF’ position and an instant override ‘MF’ position like the Q. We recognise that AF isn’t always perfect, but with such precise MF possible, there is no excuse not to make this possible with all lenses – that would also encourage buyers to keep purchasing within the system.

Power and power management

  • An adequately large battery that you could shoot heavily for a day on one, or at worst, two, batteries.
  • The option to charge or run over USB power like the A7II series.

Other neat features

  • Sensor-based IS like the M4/3 or A7II series cameras
  • The ultrasonic cleaner of the Olympus cameras
  • If the camera claims to be video-centric, then we need audio input/output jacks, log gamma, uncompressed HDMI out, variable frame rates and a high bitrate
  • Selectable mechanical and electronic shutter options. Leaf shutters are great (and combined with an electronic shutter like the Q to hit higher speeds). Electronic first curtain should be standard.
  • Do away with the battery door entirely, like the SL and T; put the grip contacts inside the battery compartment to eliminate the little rubber grommets we all lose (and can compromise sealing) and avoid having removable doors (ahem, Sony)
  • UHSIII support, preferably with dual slots. Big files are fine; we have big cards. But choking them down slow interfaces is not.

If any of the camera makers wants to make a really serious go of it – and not just send me a camera before embargo with the expectation that I’ll write a positive review – then I’m more than happy to be involved in the design process from an early point where things can still be changed. I really hope this is the reason Nikon and Canon are late to the game: better last and pick up where the operationally and ergonomically mature 5D/D810 series leave off than make something all-new with all-new issues. Hell, at this point, I’m frustrated enough that I’d even work for free. MT

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Comments

  1. I think the contrary: classical controls DO work for digital 😉 ..unfortunately not many follow it.

    • If implemented well, and with concessions for digital-specific operation, I agree – but most are not. Or they get the digital part totally wrong, and overcomplicate it compared to the ‘traditional’ controls.

  2. Your article was a REVELATION to me. I sense that I’m at a disadvantage to most of the people contributing to this forum, who seem have been involved in photography far more than me, and probably studied far more websites. I’m looking towards buying a mirrorless camera, and (without spending a vast amount of time) I have been casually glancing at web reviews, most of which seem to be saying that everything is rosy. But your article suddenly brought me down to earth. I’m so glad I read it. I shall explore the rest of your website for other hard-hitting articles.
    I had been drawn towards the recent Sony A7 series mirrorless full frame cameras, which seem to be too good to be true (apart from the price which is as about as high as I can stomach), for reasons like the compactness and light weight (for a full frame camera), the in-body image stabilisation, the high megapixel count, etc. For lenses I would probably have bought a standard zoom, and either a wide-angle prime or wide-angle zoom, then possibly another prime or two at a later date. As a pure hobbyist, I would probably have been satisfied with a micro-four-thirds solution, if I hadn’t noticed that with only a small increase in size and weight I could go for the Sony system. I particularly like outdoor photography of landscapes and historic towns, but I also like photographing objects in badly lit museums.
    THEN CAME THE SECOND REVELATION. As I read through the comments, I noticed a lot of people talking about the wide variation in the quality of Zeiss branded Sony lenses. You said yourself that you’d had to try six copies of the 55/1.8 FE before finding one that was even symmetrical. If only one in six primes are good enough, surely even fewer zooms will be good enough, since they have more complicated components inside. Perhaps this fact should have been near the top of your article, since it’s such a major factor in choosing a camera system.
    Can you and anyone else in this discussion draw on your past experiences and state which manufacturers of mirrorless cameras are best at producing consistently high quality lenses (without costing the earth).
    Alternatively, if it really is the case that there is always going to be a fair chance of buying a sub-standard lens, could you tell me the easiest way that I can evaluate a lens when it arrives, so as to decide whether or not to send it back.
    (By the way, I am keen on a mirrorless camera as opposed to a DSLR, because I am long-sighted and can’t see an LCD screen clearly, therefore I want to check any picture I’ve just taken in the electronic viewfinder.)

    • Oh, I’d say a good portion of the commenters for this particular post also have a lot of experience with cameras, but almost none with photography 😉

      How to test lenses.

      Olympus has actually been pretty good for mirrorless in my experience. I don’t really have enough first hand data to comment on the others, other than Sony – the zooms are all a bit of a disaster.

      • “Oh, I’d say a good portion of the commenters for this particular post also have a lot of experience with cameras, but almost none with photography”

        Ming I used to read your articles on Olympus back in the day and I had so much respect for you before this thread. However you have not given a balanced view and then you accuse everyone who disagrees with you of being a bad photographer. Also the comment about a lot of them having experience with a lot of cameras, you review cameras mate, I would look in the mirror.

        The main post above where someone has decided against a purchase is horrifying to me and what worried me about your original blog in the first place. To those outside looking in and thinking about making the leap to photography it paints a picture that its all a waste of time and the equipment is not there yet unless they get a DSLR which is what put them off in the firts place becuase they are huge.

        Way to go. when I got back into photography again 3 years ago it was with a Lumix GH1, a camera that is so far behind all the cameras in this thread, but with good glass (the most important thing) I got some lovely images and most importantly I got the bug again. Surely its stories like these that will save the camera industry, not putting people off because the camera does not have every single perfect feature you could wish for. I fear you have become jaded and that that is going to rub off on people.

        Respectfully but sadly
        G

        • Respect lots for somebody who disagrees with you is not real respect to being with. If you’d bothered reading anything else I wrote on photography – not equipment – I think you’d understand the point of this article. I would have thought I’ve demonstrated enough times that the ability to produce good images is independent of equipment, but it seems some people just don’t get the point – nor do they care enough to educate themselves out of gear obsession.

          If you want to hand over money for half baked product, fine. Personally, I’m tired of it and I don’t have the money in the first place. I do not write to make people feel good about their purchases. I’m not writing for amateurs or people ‘thinking about taking up photography’, and never have.

          Frankly if somebody decides that the emperor’s new clothes are a bunch of BS and false promises, then congratulations to them for having some common sense.

          • My apologies I did not realize you were only writing for professionals. I’ll leave this thread now and stop reading your blog, I suggest all other non professionals do the same. I have to be honest with you I am very glad I am not a professional if the result is ending up this jaded and with this much sense of entitlement.

            Half baked products, fair enough if they are too half baked for you best off giving up then, Perhaps you could take up weaving I believe they perfected the machines for that back in the 18th century.

            • I write for open minded people who want to learn and discuss without rudeness. I don’t write to massage egos of people who have nothing more than to hang their identity on their equipment.

              YOU are the one with the sense of entitlement. YOU expect the internet to provide content for free, agree with your views, make you feel good – for free – then when you don’t get what you want, YOU become rude, sarcastic and abusive to somebody you’ve never met. I wonder if you’re as pleasant and charming in real life, or just when you’re hiding behind a keyboard.

    • If you want to go down that road the site lensrental does a lot of lens benchmarking and graphs, including copy variation. Might be worth a visit

    • It gets to be an unnecessarily expensive road to go down, the ILC thing. One lens leads to another and to another and before you know it the old bank balance is looking shaky. It also ends up being a gear chase and leads to deepening dissatisfaction and annoyance to the detriment of developing your photographic skills and pleasure in the art form. You end up dreading hauling all this stuff about. You never become disciplined to take the one lens with because you think you’ll need them all. You end up taking none and shooting nothing.

      If you haven’t got anything at the moment I’d recommend a good high end point and shoot camera with a FIXED LENS (one you can’t take off the camera). Perhaps the Sony RX100 Mark IV or Lumix LX100 or Fuji X100T, something like that. I started with a Lumix LX-5 and to this day miss the thing (lent it, never got it back). Something that shoots in RAW format so you can start to learn post-processing as well as having as much manual control as possible over the basics of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, metering mode and possibly manual focusing too.

      Others may be able to recommend something suitable, I not really up on the latest high end point and shoot gear. That said older model good ones can be had used for much less money still.

  3. RX10 Shooter says:
    • Great, another $3500+ gadget where they get something else wrong. ‘Revolution’ is another word for them for ‘experimental’ and ‘lots of features but ignoring the fundamentals’. Excuse me if I’m skeptical, they don’t exactly have a good track record and it’s a lot of money to pay to be a guinea pig.

      • Michael Gomez says:

        OK so that’s worse case scenario, but then again that’s a rumor and not an official Sony press release about an upcoming camera. (I don’t pay much attention to those)

        • RX10 Shooter says:

          > that’s a rumor and not an official Sony press release
          =====
          Rumor with some veracity.
          You’d have to know site’s track record
          to know its not to be ignored…
          Its enough to make some hold off on
          new A7RII until further notice!

          • My rules of buying are:

            1. Be sceptical of any initial marketing claims, avoid all hype, contain your inner Steve H (he’s a smashing chap mind!);
            2. Never ever pre-order. Never ever. Just say no kids!;
            3. Wait for the reviews (real ones, difficult to find these days as the internet marketing octopus has tentacles everywhere (I trust Mr. Ming Thein and few others);
            4. Wait for recalls/firmware updates;
            5. Wait for the launch price to drop to something reasonable and box shifter prices to kick in;
            6. Try one first! Or get one from a place you can return it too if not satisfied.

            So that’s typically a year or more after launch. D810 can be had for £1500 now in the UK, that’s stunning compared to its launch price.

            This hobby of ours, even for those who shoot professionally (there can barely be a living in that now I’d have thought) the costs of this are truly astronomic when you consider total systems. £10,000 isn’t unreasonable once lens and peripherals are thrown in, hell, even I’ve got an £850 tripod and head! And I’m Mr. Tight Wallet!

      • The word revolution gets thrown around a lot these days. Uber is apparently a revolution in transport, because to them the idea of someone driving you somewhere in a car for a fee is revolutionary. A revolution for cameras would be a digital camera you can customise on order. Like an alpa or something but with evf choices, mount options, lcd swivel types, grips, sensor sizes etc but I doubt we’ll see that anytime soon.

        • RX10 Shooter says:

          > Uber is apparently a revolution in transport, because to them the idea
          > of someone driving you somewhere in a car for a fee is revolutionary
          =====
          As stock travel shooter, anything that lowers my overhead, e.g.,
          private ride home–>airport $43 taxi vs. $18 Uber is revolutionary.
          58% reduction! Revolutionary!!!

          • A reduction in what you pay isn’t a revolution. It might be great or cheap or better or wonderful. A revolution in pricing if you must. Of course use what word you will to describe uber. My point is we live in a society addicted to novelty where another new thing that largely keeps the status quo but introduces one or two advancements (or a drop in price) is considered revolutionary. That’s quite sad. Camera manufacturers do it all the time. I wonder what words we’ll use when actual revolutions happen.

        • Might not see it but it’s an absolutely crackin’ idea!

  4. Dear Ming,

    Seems you have avoided giving the Nikon V1/V2 any consideration?!

    The V1 has a great, big, EN-EL15 battery, a simple menu system, and a great sensor, that produces excellent results, if you keep the ISO low. The mode thumb wheel, and the optional file formats, are a mess, but I never use them.

    There are even pros that use the V1 as it is silent (having exactly the kind of shutter you argue for!), unobtrusive, and does quite good movies (not its prime use). And goes on for ever with one battery!

    Even 4K is possible, till the buffers are filled!

    It lacks a proper grip, so I use the Franiec add-on version. Superb!

    The next version, the V2, has more or less normal controls (including a PASM wheel), slightly upped resolution, bigger buffers, and slightly wider ISO range.

    Its grip is perfect, even for my fairly big hands.

    Not as rugged as the V1, but can take a lot of abuse!

    Worst thing with it is its small battery (each new Nikon 1 model seem to use its own battery, just to annoy the customers, I’m sure, and they get smaller and smaller, so I guess the next generation will have a wind generator that you have to blow on to get the electronics working!).

    Using flash with these cameras is an experience, as none of Nikon’s normal flashes work, great design, eh?!

    Take care,
    Tord

  5. “that have already been solved” is the key phrase in the whole piece. It drives me crazy when people say, “well, this A7 was Sony’s very first mirrorless camera, you can’t expect them to get everything right.” Well, nevermind all the dozens of iterations of the NEX that came before, yes, I do expect them to get right on the “first” try anything Nikon and Canon already solved 15 years ago.

    Also, you left out LCD resolution. You mention liking LCD loupes/magnifiers in some situations, but I’ve found those aren’t really helpful if all you’re magnifying is pixelation. We used to get improved LCDs every generation, but we’ve been stuck on the 3″ 640×480 pixel (267dpi) ones for quite a while now. Phones are up to 400-500dpi. I could believe Nikon or Leica don’t have the volume to get those latest panels at an affordable price, but Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic(?) already have access to them.

    • Wouldn’t a higher-res rear LCD screen, even if it is 1:1 sensor to screen pixels at 100% magnification actually make a loupe or magnifier more useful, not less? The smaller the screen pixel the less you are able to see if the focus is sharp. Many photographers don’t like to evaluate the sharpness of raw images on Apple Retina displays because they make the 100% image look more than twice as high resolution compared to the same image a 96-100dpi display, and this can hide subtle mis-focus or minor camera shake. The main flaw with rear LCDs in many camera designs is that they don’t show a true enough image of what the sensor is capturing, being based on JPEGs not raw images. I find that usually the 100% review image on the LCD screens on my D800E, Leica M9-P, and Leica M-P are all softer than the raw image on the computer displayed in Lightroom. Some of it probably is hardware related, but from what I’ve read, a lot of the problem is that the JPEG preview embedded in the raw files isn’t 100% resolution. Image processing for the LCD in these cameras is probably inadequate to display a raw image at 100% quickly, but perhaps in the future faster processor speeds will get us there.

      If shooting raw Histograms should also be based on raw, and perhaps a 16 bit ProPhoto RGB color space, not JPEG settings, and no manufacturer is doing that yet either. There should also be a way to color calibrate the LCD, or at least adjust its color temperature and tint for different ambient light conditions while shooting, not just change the brightness.

  6. How about so-called pro and semi-pro cameras that lock up whilst they’re writing buffer to card? Sony, I’m looking at you…

  7. Excellent summary, but I miss a section on flash use:
    – The pro(sumer) Nikons have FV-lock. Is this available on any mirrorless? (I couldn’t find it last time I checked)
    – How about dark viewfinders when using strobes?
    – Flash remote control (like Nikon CLS)

  8. > * Customizable menus and shortcuts – with no arbitrary limitation on assignable functions. Olympus gets this right, Sony is close.

    Yes, Olympus’ menu is customizable. But the customization *process* (at leas on the E M5 II) is horrendous.
    Would be nice to have
    * Easily customizable menus and shortcuts including multiple profiles. The whole camera can be linked to a smartphone/WiFi anyway. It would be great to be able to customize these and load/save profiles from either the smartphone or a website.

  9. desert traveler says:

    I started using film camera’s in 1980 and have a good appreciation for all of the dials and buttons on them and their carry over to my Fuji X-Pro 1. The camera is by far not perfect but I do enjoy tinkering with it to obtain a wide range of effects in my photos. That being said, my daughter is showing an interest in photography now and I do not see her loving the throw back to yester-years way of using a camera. Digital cameras of today allow you to jump many steps to achieve the photos you want. The mirror less cameras need to reflect this and become more user friendly.

    • Technology changes. We did’t switch ISO or WB or AF modes between shots back then; we can and do now, and the controls and UI need to reflect this.

  10. I totally agree with you, there is lots of room for improvement, that the fanboys are attacking, just ignore them.
    I’ve been vocal about the changes Sony made to the A7 series compared to my NEX-7, which was a wonderfully designed camera with a horrible menu, after I set it up, I found it to be very intuitive to use with my manual focus lens collection, its biggest faults are:
    -ISO noise making it hard to manual focus, detail is obscured.
    -Minimum shutter speed in auto ISO, maximum ISO limit in auto ISO.
    -More options to map functions to buttons and dials.
    Other than that, I found it very intuitive to use, much more so than my A7r is.
    Sony made a mistake changing the manual focus assist zoom from one button press to get 50% zoom, second button press to get to 100%, to how my A7r is, first button press to bring up a box I never use, a second button press for 50%, and a third press to get to 100%, I’d like an option to turn off the box(or better yet, an option to magnify the area in the box), and an option to reverse the order(1-100%, 2-50%).
    Another area that Sony messed up is the playback zoom, I much preferred pressing the center button to zoom in, then using the rear dial to zoom in or out, and pressing the center button again returned the view to normal, I know many asked that they wanted to switch to switch frames while keeping the zoom level and location, all Sony had to do was add that to one of the redundant tri-navi dials, I really really hate the magnify button, it’s hard to reach, and having to press the AF/MF button to zoom out also sucks, I’d much prefer the rear dial for that, and move the forward/reverse function to the upper dial.

    Anyways, keep pestering the manufactures to improve their cameras, and to fix our issues with FW updates, I’m far more inclined to buy a company’s product again if I know they care enough to get it as close to perfect as they can, and not ignore me and my half finished camera while they fix the FW in the next generation.

  11. I have been shooting a pana GH2 for the last couple of years. My experiences relative to your points:

    Please do not move the power switch as recommended above, it is perfect on the GH2. I can flip the camera on with my thumb faster than I could with a switch needing my trigger finger.

    I agree re the reports of shutter-shock. Both m4/3 brands have been suffering, and panasonic does not seem to be completely over it in the latest models unless electronic shutter is used (not available on my GH2).

    I agree a better implementation of auto-iso would be great – but do not know if the very latest are better.

    Most other points seems to be implemented in the GH2, at least those I care about.

    Niels

  12. Zlatko Batistich says:

    “Power switch around the shutter button for quick access” — this is not necessarily an advantage. The Sony A7II has this, but the switch is just millimeters away from the front control dial, so I have switched off the camera a number of times when I intended to adjust the aperture. With the camera up to the eye, it is easy to confuse one with the other. An accidental shut-down of the camera is not a happy result when one is ready to make a photo.

    • Agreed, so the switch should be stiff and somewhat recessed like the Nikons. The Sony (and Leica) switches are in the right position but don’t have enough resistance.

      • Leicas are quite variable on this. My M-P is fine, but my M9-P is very, very loose and easily knocked out of the desired position. I like the old Nikon F4’s interlock button next to the power switch collar. That keeps the camera from getting accidentally turned on, and prevents wasting battery power, but it does slow down power-up ever so slightly, and is hard to manage one-handed.

        • That’s true. My M8s were also very loose, but the Q is okay. There’s even variation within individual models. Surprising QC isn’t tighter; I think all of the Nikons I’ve had have been pretty consistent (though they do get loose or gritty after prolonged use).

    • I agree in full!

  13. FunkMonkey says:

    First thought, FUJI X-T1 address a lot of your complaints, but is shocking at video.

    Second thought is that I just don’t think you can neccessarily have the perfect camera. Sometimes you can’t have one feature without compromizing another or ending up with a camera that will be prohibitively expensive to most of the mirroless demoraphic.

    Its like saying I want a car with the 0-60 capability of a Ferrari F40 but I also want it to have 4 wheel drive and be able to pull other cars out of a muddy field. You pick the camera that best fits your needs and then work round its foibles.

    The differences are what gives it character. To draw a parrellel, Fender Stratocaster vs Gibson Les Paul, both have their strrengths and weaknesses, and yet a Paul Reed Smith which is a guitar ostensibly designed to have a blend of the best features of both, in my opinion while being a nice guitar and fabulous workmanship (and very expensive), its a bit meh to play

    YMMV

    • It does, but it still doesn’t get enough right.

      FYI, such a car does exist – quite a few of them, actually. There’s the G63 AMG, the Cayenne Turbo S, the X5M and X6M, and now the Tesla X. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

      • Funkmonkey says:

        I would really love to see a Tesla Try and pull a car out of a muddy field. Nitpicking aside the point stands. I remember my guitar teacher saying to me when i was learning guitar and jonesing for a better instrument. I could give your guitar to Eric Clapton and he would still sound like Eric Clapton, I could give you his guitar and you would still sound awful now practice. A true artist transcends there tools and will not allow themselves to be limited by them. I think this whole idea of the perfect camera is a nonsense and gives the impression that the cameras we have today are not capable. Cobblers, yes improvements would be nice but they will come incrementally. Not everyone has a bottomless pit of money for the uber camera, and I think its dangerous to someone new to photography to read this post as it suggest they may as well not bother. Its the same with pro audio you hear guys saying whats the point of recording unless your going into a $40000 mixing desk. Ironically some of the biggest hits of the last 10 years were done on ‘inferior’ equipment. Regardless learning to work around the limitations of budget equipment is a valuable part of the learning curve.

        • this reply is not so specific to you,but I can’t understand how so many are reading this article as a search for a perfect camera.
          Most itens listed would not make the development more expensive, these are software and usability problems that have been solved before.Not trying to tackle them again would maybe make it cheaper.

          My panasonic gx7 is a great camera and by all accounts more than my pictures and my ability need, but that doesn’t mean some quirks are not enerving. Not being able to configure auto iso behaviour, dealing with shutter shock, not having a detailed info on battery life, when the evf preview stops updating over 1/1000 on M mode but works perfectly on others, etc All these things are solved in various other cameras, which have quirks themselves.

          the problem is deeper when the companies aren’t even able to keep standards between their own models

          • Simple: many buy cameras but do not use them, so instead of aiming for a result and an objective and seeing the tool as what it is – the means to an end – buying the ultimate camera becomes the end in itself, instead of making the ultimate image.

        • By the same token, give Eric a piece of crap and he’ll play like Eric. But give him a good tool and it’ll be even better.

          • FunkMonkey says:

            Ming

            Ironically probably not law of diminishing returns. There is a point where a guitar get more expensive its not because its better its because its either older and therefore collectible or they have stuck more rhinestones on.

            Palombasso

            I think that your comment and Ming post and Tony Northrup post all show a commercial naivete. This camera would not be possible just because the tech exists, the tech does it exist but its owned by different companies who have patented it. So that would mean that any company trying to invent this perfect camera would have to replicate the outcomes and results of their competitors technology in a fresh and provably original way that did not infringe copyright. That take significant R&D, R&D that the camera market will not sustain. The other option is a collaboration between manufacturers, or tech shares, we have seen a little of that between Oly and Sony, but that will still potentially have a cost passed onto consumer.

            I agree that lack of consistency between models in a company’s own line up is less excusable, although understandable as they are often developed by different teams in parallel. That is also no bad thing as often this leads to greater innovation.
            G

            • hey FunkMonkey,

              I´m meeting you halfway and of course agree that a lot of tech is involved in patents and agreements. I do think it´s naive to think all tech would be shared between all players, because this is a technological market and it´s what differentiate the products.

              But I´m speaking (won´t talk for Ming or anyone else) about smaller things, software tweaks that are less than a design decision but more of an oversight. Not even talking about major, complex functions as pixel shifting or whatnot, which are probably also patented.

              Camera manufacturers not improving these on such expensive products, always starting over and not having a regular/simple update procedure (firmware releases are still rare, even though some are much better at it than others) is inexcusable I think.

              I think phones learnt a lot from cameras (and stole a lot of market) and think cameras could learn a lot from smartphones. You don´t have to get everything right at the start, but you must try and have fast response time in fixing what is possible.
              Be more open to developers, create an ecosystem that makes it easy for the manufacture to push updates in an user friendly way (from what I´ve read the Panasonic S-log update takes a lot of steps, and Olympus loses all settings on update), maybe allow third-parties selling apps/functions/tweaks, improve the software life support for recent models, and everybody wins.

              thanks for the post

  14. Finally, DPREVIEW.COM had the courage of expressing the opinion of an expert criticizing the current mirrorless cameras. It was told what everyone already knew and bothered in the mirrorless. The mirrorless are still far from meeting the minimum requirements needed to photographers. Sony who is investing millions of dollars cannot make a photographic camera for photographers, but a weird electronic device filled with unnecessary features and with heavy, expensive and poor quality lenses. All media try to convince us that Sony has the mirrorless solution. We still have to wait for Canon and Nikon. Only these companies will bring a better mirrorless solution for photographers. Let’s wait for them!

    • Well, Sony is also investing into marketing and convincing people they have to convince others they do have the solution…emperor’s new clothes 🙂

    • The mirrorless are still far from meeting the minimum requirements needed to photographers.

      You’re extremely funny here as the author doesn’t even bother to take in account other manufacturers like Panasonic and Samsung, both known for excellent ergonomics on their cameras. Just pick a camera like GH4, NX1, GX8, etc.
      Not speaking about oldtimer SRLs, Leicas and Russian cameras, these all are ergonomical nightmares compared to modern digital intechangeable lens cameras. Nobody made photos before modern Canicon DSRLs, yeah?

      #snobbery

      • How ironic. You make your living working for a company that produces specialised professional equipment and you call me a snob for demanding better tools? Do you view and treat your customers that way too? Do you demand they try all of your competition first? #hypocrite #unprofessional #mymotherdidntteachmemanners

    • Frans Richard says:

      I’m not holding my breath…
      While you wait for Canikon, I’ll be out shooting with an OM-D EM-10, one of those mirrorles camera’s that is “still far from meeting the minimum requirements needed to photographers”. While you wait I’ll be learning to make better use of my camera and doing what a photographer should be doing, creating ever better images.

    • Codswallop. The minimum requirement needed for a camera is to capture an image. Mirrorless cameras *all* meet that minimum requirement.

  15. Brilliantly done Ming!!! (and Tony)

    The current camera manufacturers are one disruptive technology (DT) away from being toast. The DT of smart phones simply decimated the P&S segment as well as a portion of the low end DSLR market… The first company that arrives with a true DT for the DSLR (and mirrorless) segment will decimate the entrenched competitors.

    • Didn’t Apple already do that?

      • That is what I said without mentioning Apple, but Apple did completely disrupt the P&S and low end DSLR segment.

        The high end DSLR segment has not yet had a true disruptive technology event (of course film experienced the DT of digital)…

      • Frans Richard says:

        If Apple really entered the camera market with an ILC type camera, Nikon will probably be the next Nokia

        • I honestly don’t see Apple entering the market, but they might partner with one of the suppliers to provide a camera iOS. However, it is much more likely for the camera suppliers to use android. The first company to really disrupt the high end DLSR (mirrorless) segment wins…

          • I do seriously doubt that Apple would enter the (semi)pro camera market: they’ve spent the last few years ditching most of their professional applications, either by dropping them altogether or changing the way they function so radically that professional workflows go out of the window. They’ve thrown away the trust of so many pro users that I think they’d have a hugely uphill task to establish themselves in this market. they will continue to upgrade the photographic elements of the iPhone, which is fine, but I don’t seen an entry to the high-end camera market.

          • Frans Richard says:

            I don’t see Apple partnering with anyone actually. They might buy a camera (related) company, or hire personnel from one, but they will want to design the product the Apple way. Apple won’t go for the pro segment I think, the (enthousiast) consumer segment is much larger and where their strength lies. I’m not seeing Apple entering the camera market short term, but it is a market that is potentially interesting for them. There are many usability issues with camera’s, as Ming has pointed out, and solving those kind of things is something Apple could do (and is known to do). An Apple camera would also fit nicely in Apple’s eco system. So basically what I’m saying is, the camera companies should sort things out before Apple, or someone else, does it for them.
            Paying attention to what photographers like Ming Thein and Thom Hogan, to name a few, are saying could be a start.

  16. Amen.

  17. danieljcox says:

    I’m amazed at how many things this guy is asking for, the Panasonic Lumix cameras already have, yet Lumix is barely even mentioned, in any way, positive or negative. Take the larger battery for example. I shoot the GH4 with two batteries where Sony A7 series shooters have five batteries on hand for the same shoot. The need to turn off LCD’s? Lumix LCD’s are extreemely easy to completely turn off for night shooting and to save battery life. The Lumix touch screen is by far the fastest way to move AF sensor of ANY camera being made with the added ability to have the camera to your eye and move the AF sensor with your thumb, anywhere on the screen, instantaneously, as you shoot. Touchscreen is mentioned in this regard but he suggests we need to be able to use the touch screen while using the finder. It’s already possible! Has he not figured this out? Nobody allows for changing the AF sensor better than Lumix and certainly no joy sick option comes close to being as fast. These are just a few of the glaring omissions that Panasonic already does. Not being aware of these important tools makes me wonder what else he doesn’t know and how that would effect all of us if he’s the only one designing the so called perfect mirrorless. He only mentions Olympus when it comes to AF speed. Has he not tried the Lumix GH4 or Lumix GX8? With professional lenses like the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8, the Lumix Vario 12-35mm F/2.8 and the Lumix Vario 35-100mm F/2.8, I’m getting results similar to my most professional Nikon bodies. Nowhere does he mention the superb wireless flash system on the Lumix cameras that offers more options than my Nikon wireless strobe system. Panasonic could up the bar on this by giving us radio wireless strobe capabilities but for not having been in the pro camera game until recently, their first attempt is far superior to anything by Olympus or Sony. Once again, none of this is mentioned. Oh, one last thing. “ability to decouple focus and shutter release”. Really? This option has been on all Lumix bodies, that I’m aware of, since the GH3 and possibly the GF1. Lumix already does this wth ease.

    I’m all for advancing mirrorless technology and this post is great for getting the conversation going but I personally hope more than one person is consulted for improving the mirrorless cameras. For all those who haven’t given the Panasonic Lumix system a solid look you might want to do so. Many of the options requested, in this original post, are already part of the Lumix system. One last request I would like to see is a MFT sensor that does as well in low light as the Sony FF sensors.

    • Thank you for your points. I think we’d all be more inclined to take you seriously if you weren’t so sarcastically rude. Are you like that to your photo tour clients too, or just online to people you’ve never met?

      For a start, it is physically impossible to use everything, and certainly financially impossible if you have to do it on your own budget. And if you bothered checking my archives, I have used and reviewed the GH3, GM5 and LX100 – amongst others – and guess what, there’s even a photo of one of them in the header image. Like every other mirrorless, there were good and bad things. Some major deal breakers, like very compressed raw with electronic shutter, for instance. Again, the UI/UX felt too much like a gadget and not enough like a camera. The wireless flash system might offer more options, but produced inconsistent exposures with reflective objects. There were just not enough advantages to warrant buying another one.

      It is physically impossible for a MFT sensor to do as well as a FF one. Whatever technology applies to one, applies to the other – whether scaled up for the same pixel count or more pixels.

      • danieljcox says:

        I appreciate you mentioning that it’s impossible to use everything which is totally understandable. However, you really should take a better look at what Panasonic is doing. They get no credit for some major advancements that no other mirrorless or traditional DSLR’s can do. I’ve shot Nikon gear for almost 40 years and have tried all the mirrorless cameras except the Sony’s and Panasonic is getting very close to equalling the very best pro DSLR’s being made in everything but the sensor. My Lumix cameras are actually outperforming my Nikon’s in dozens of features and technology like 4K video to name just one. The sad thing about most photographers not looking beyond what we all know, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, they are missing great technology that produces truly professional results at far cheaper prices in smaller and much more mobile systems. Panasonic is a HUGE company with a long history in the imaging business. They are new to world of stills but their video technology is superb and they’ve proven they can match even the best in the realm of still photography. Take a closer look. You may be surprised.

        • I’ve been totally impressed by my GH4.

          Extremely well laid out camera, albeit ugly (eye of the beholder I suppose).

          What I don’t understand is why the can’t implement Auto Iso correctly? IE no minimum SS, arbitrary cap on max ISO, locking out exposure comp in Manual Mode. It is a mystery to me, when other companies like Nikon have had this figured out for 10 years.

      • Vit Adamek says:

        Agree with the inappropriate snobbish tone of the commenter. On the technical note, I don’t think Panasonic RAW is compressed in electronic shutter mode but the read out bit depth is 10 instead of 12 bits while electronic shutter is on. It appears that this issue has been recently addressed with electronic shutter on O-MD E-M5 Mark II. As a former owner of Panasonic G6 I don’t think that the Touch Pad AF point selection is all that convenient as well because you have to have the screen unfolded hanging outside the camera while looking through viewfinder and I still preferred direct focus mode selection by directional buttons as the LCD can be shut against the body and protected and you don’t have to adjust hands grip position. If I count it right I have owned 7 MFT cameras within last year and half and one Sony mirrorless (NEX 3N). I settled down on OM-D M10 Mark I. Olympus really has the best control and other customization options of all mirrorless cameras as far as I am aware. I have Fuji X-M1 body coming tomorrow at a bargain price and looking forward to use it with my Canon FD lenses so I will be able to evaluate yet another mirrorless system, if entry level without dedicated shutter speed dial and similar, but a very compact body just like NEX 3N or A5000 / A5100 are. Nevertheless A5000 / A5100 are unfortunately downgrade when in comes to direct control options compared to NEX 3N lacking the customizable quick access control option, which is a huge deal breaker for so many potential buyers and something easily fixable by firmware update, what a shame.

      • danieljcox says:

        Sarcastically rude? I apologize if you took it that way. That was not my intention. Thats for a great blog.

    • Sean Quigley says:

      The last thing I would want in the heat of battle i.e. a wedding, would be an all singing, all dancing touch screen, that is a recipe for a major disaster.

      • Then turn it off if you don’t need or want it, just don’t expect others to not find it useful.

        • Sean Quigley says:

          Your assuming that controls operated on a touch screen are or can be duplicated elsewhere.
          Conversely you could learn to use the existing controls.

  18. Vit Adamek says:

    ‘Direct focus point selection with quick reset-to-centre or preselected point’ – Olympus gets this right – Directional buttons can control position of focus point instantly while FN button can be configured to reset / center the focusing point and on the second consequent activation returns the focus point to preselected position made earlier by directional buttons. Panasonic gets this partially right as focus point position can by controlled by directional buttons if enabled options.

    ‘The ability to turn off the rear LCD completely for night use, or to set playback in LCD and live view in EVF (with LCD off)’ – Olympus gets this right as well. I have it configured like that on my M10. I have the eye sensor turned off and switch between LCD and EVF liveview manualy. When live view is in EVF then LCD is powered off, pressing the playback button powers on LCD displaying recorded photos / videos.

  19. HI !
    For focus point selection, instead of using a touchscreen or a joystick, why not use a revival of Canon’s Eye Controlled Focusing ? Current technology is advanced enough to make it both cheap and reliable. And the hands would stay free for other settings.

    • That’s a very good question – and why don’t Canon use it themselves?

      • Another hypothesis : ergonomics is not a priority for camera manufacturers. They work hard to provide sharper lenses, higher resolution sensors, faster autofocus, smoother bokeh, larger dynamic range. Meanwhile, at least half of the mirrorless cameras look like soap bars… Do photographers have square hands ? 🙂

    • I’ve heard from a old pro togger friend (covered the Vietnam war with Philip Jones Griffiths) that the Canon eye focus system worked brilliantly and I’m surprised it hasn’t become the norm in all cameras, or at least Canon’s since. If I recall he did mention it got pulled because of military applications . . . but my grey matter isn’t what it used to be so don’t quote me on that.

  20. Peter Sia says:

    I believe mirrorless will never replace full frame. The problem is the ergonomics will never be solved. Mount a larger lens and the small form of the mirrorless will become uncomfortable. Expand the pixel count and your will need a larger diameter lens, whose weight will make it less than desirable. There is no way currently around the design issues and limitation.

    • The way I see it, small form factor mirrorless is an alternative to the rangerfinder rather than the DSLR.

      An EVF in an existing proven DSLR design would be the way to go, replacing the mirrorbox yet retaining all the other good stuff like fast focusing and handling and wotnot.

      Either that, or a method of beaming focus peaking from the sensor into the OVF, much like a head up display in a fancy motor car, creating a modern day split prism focusing screen (perhaps make a digitized focusing screen?).

    • Make the body a bit bigger. Mirrorless does not *have* to be small.

    • What’s wrong with making a mirrorless camera bigger – mirrorless D810 or EOS 5DS R?

  21. Hey Ming, really interesting read. You mentioned a lot of cameras I’ve been really interested in, I have the em1 and grd which I love but have considered most of the others so in an odd sense it’s kind of good to know no matter what I’d have chosen there’d be draw backs. On the Em1 and grd my own observations parellel yours it seems. Sometimes It feels like I’m bumping the ceiling between mirrorless and DSLR and if i want it all (excluding the lack of size and weight) a DSLR would be the next best step. As it is I really would not benifit from the larger sensor which as you mentioned seems to be the em1’s major draw back. Still I’d love to try some of the other cameras I’m bringing to think GAS is something one learns to live with rather than cures 😉

  22. Patric Gordon says:

    Ming, After this article and the DP comments on this article, I have to wonder why you even want the unfair criticism heaped on you.
    You provide your opinion about the state of photography and the equipment to readers whether they like it or not and that is fair enough. But, this “take no prisoners” mentality that people exhibit has to be exasperating, at best. I enjoy your reviews, but is it worth it?

    • I definitely didn’t invite the DP article or those trolls, but no, the answer it isn’t worth it. Not considering this site is a labor of love, is free to access, and has no advertising. This wasn’t even a review, but you’d think I was accusing people of worshipping the devil. Then again – these people probably do not matter. They will never be my clients, they do not affect my clients, and probably do not even own the cameras let alone photograph. I know *I* can make do, and have been, but I don’t want to settle because it’s money, it’s getting increasingly difficult to earn, and there are alternatives. So…water under the bridge, I guess.

      • Seth Chandler says:

        Hey, I probably don’t matter because I will never be your client, but you should regret what you wrote because you of undercut your own credibility through exaggeration and unwarranted contempt for those who make different design choices than you would. What you wrote insulted a lot of people who agree more with the design choices of Sony, Fuji and Olympus in their mirrorless lines than they do of Canon and Nikon in their DSLRs. Of course, the mirrorless cameras could be improved. And you actually make some good points about how that might be done. But when you mix those comments with assertions that mirrorless (Sony) are flawed because of their shorter battery life, you ignore that many people would prefer changing batteries more frequently on a camera that fits in their carryon than fewer changes on a camera that, with lenses, can’t be brought with them at all. You are entitled to your opinion and I appreciate that you are engaged in a labor of love on your blog. And, yes, dpreview probably brought you more attention than you expected. I’d respect you more if you wrote a piece using equal critical facilities bout the flaws with DSLRs.

        • You would prefer changing batteries? What about the extra batteries and chargers you have to carry? That makes no sense at all. I think I see why Sony doesn’t want to improve. There’s no need when people already find justifications for mediocrity.

        • Seth, you are seeing insult where none is present. Ming’s article is aimed at camera designers taking them to task for their oversights, not criticizing camera users. What thin skin you have.

        • I’m finding that lithium batteries and aeroplanes don’t mix. In a rare break from work I took an internal European flight between the UK and Holland this year. Packed the A7r/grip, 35/1.4, 55/1.8 and 70-200/4 . . . and 10 batteries (the A7r eats them regardless of airplane mode and I like to keep the camera on due to the near 7-8 seconds or so it usually takes to switch on).

          Eight of the batteries were confiscated at check-in due to fire hazard. I was not permitted more than two in carry-on baggage and they had to be in the camera or original packaging. They are also banned from checked baggage.

          I can’t see how anyone could possibly be insulted by Ming’s article. I use both DSLR and mirrorless and cannot fault what has been written. Surely all this is positive for change.

          • Wow – that’s bad. Has anybody else had he same experience? Two batteries is completely unworkable for that camera. You’d be really quite shafted if traveling for a job. Additionally – what if you had more than one device?

            • It wasn’t great to be honest, but it was really the “event” that I discovered mirrorless just wasn’t for me. It was also the event that I discovered that a 70-200 zoom is essential and regardless of system one shall always be had. Anyway, having no juice meant I spent most of the time drinking and schmoking. Because there are no hills, I walked until my right foot actually fell off too. Love Amsterdam!

              Bike II

            • Yes. I had the misfortune of having 4 batteries and a phone charger confiscated when I accidentally checked them in with the luggages flying out of Beijing – I normally have them in the carry-ons. There is probably justified paranoia once you youtube seemingly inert li-on batteries catching on tremendous fire. Do follow the carrier instructions carefully to avoid this. Cathay has limit of 20 carry on if they are either in camera, original packaging, or contacts taped over etc etc. Keep up the good work.

              • Thanks for the warning. One more reason not to go Sony for things that matter…no way I can even get on a plane with enough batteries for two bodies!

      • Ming, I was once a moderator on the biggest expat forum in Asia and later had my own forum. I’m not cut out to deal with the general public, no, it’s not worth the hassle. But be assured your efforts are truly appreciated by many of us.

        • Thanks Mike.

        • Sean Quigley says:

          +1
          I cannot for the life of me understand why so many, feel so threatened by some constructive criticism on the state of general camera design, camera’s sold to professionals to make a living with, whom after purchase have paid for the right to voice their feelings.
          I have had full systems from Nikon, then Canon and I have now switched to Sony, I am not investing in native glass until I am satified with the quality and of the longevity of the Emount mirrorless system.
          Having said that if you buy a car in general you have lost more money on driving it away than I have lost switching full camera system’s 3 times.

      • Patric Gordon says:

        Keep up the good work, then.

    • RX10 Shooter says:

      > this “take no prisoners” mentality that people exhibit has to be exasperating

      Goal is a perfect camera.
      Better camera is OK, too.
      Not to change behavior of trolls…
      But be real.
      Google “Ferrari complaints”
      Or anything by any undeniable top end brand.
      Everything man makes is as fallable as man.
      Is this blog & comment thread the start of change?
      Or wide unfocussed whining moaning groaning?
      What about narrowing down on one most desirable improvement at a time?
      (determined by owner polls????)
      Followed by many many many owners objectively petitioning manufacturer…

  23. And dual slot for SD cards, of course… The Leica SL is the first to do that (but not with the same speed). A lot of pro photographer, particularly event photographer will not jump into the mirrorless world without a dual slot.

    • Odd, but many DSLRs have this already…

      • Odd? Why? It’s a very useful feature for back-up, and the lack of this in a “no-go” reason for many… I’ve never seen one of my cards fail during an event but I don’t want to take that risk, it happens. It’s a basic feature for certain kinds of work.

  24. douglasgottlieb says:

    * Manual focus assist with magnification and peaking that’s tied to nearest eye facial recognition.

  25. Live view point 7, my EM1 behaves exactly as this. LCD off, but comes on for playback. Not sure you can even playback in EVF. My main critisism of the EM1 is battery life. I have 4 spares.

    • You can playback in EVF. I don’t remember being able to turn the LCD off entirely though; it showed black (with a glow, so powered on) not completely off.

      Battery life is wildly affected by some settings and cycling power only when you’re shooting. I found that if I left everything on, it would drain in 200-250 shots. Cycling power with some of the continuous/wireless features off, 800+ was normal.

  26. Skip Rogers says:

    Very long-winded article that largely are complaints seem to be the work of an incompetent photographer or just from a spoiled kid who expect designers to provide him with a perfect camera just to suit his own will. Very hard to read an article with such mentality and mindset that no useful information can be extracted in the future improvement of camera design but just a summary of some minor frustrations encountered by most photographers

    Every manufacturer has to consider functions and cost and production process among others when designing a product, these factors are crucial to how the manufacturer will survive in the market place and with that responsibility to ensure its employees’ continuing employment, with their delicate works in producing a product.

    If a camera does not live up to your expectation, adapt to its design and get use to it…. or do you have the ability to modify one yourself to your needs and share with everyone?

    • Ad hominem attacks already in the first sentence just because somebody you don’t know says something you disagree with. If you had anything worthwhile to say after the first line, I wouldn’t know, as I stopped reading. That’s how good you are at debating issues online, bravo.

      • Sean Quigley says:

        +1

      • Indeed. Very insulting to Ming Thein, Mr. Rogers. Very bad manners. Ming’s an insightful professional photographer, and he presents a list of well thought-out attributes for professional mirrorless cameras, and how existing cameras could be improved. There’s nothing wrong with advocating to improve the state of camera hardware.

      • +1. What is is with people who take criticism of a tool that they use as a personal insult? Sorry, I don’t get it: I use the tool that is the best compromise for getting the job done, the key word there being ‘compromise’: I know that it isn’t going to be perfect, so I look for the one that gets closest for my needs, and I look for the manufacturer who supports their product properly – these days, that’s often with regular firmware updates. I’ve used both Sony and Olympus over the last few years and have ended up settling on Olympus, which meets my needs well. YMMV…

    • Michiel953 says:

      Another comment to skip.

  27. Whilst I agree with all the general points in this post, I worry that we’re ignoring a basic truth – that with the advances in modern electronics over the last 40 years or so, it should be possible to produce – and we should be asking for – a full-frame sensor in a sensibly-sized body.

    The latest crop of DSLRs are all far too big and bloated to be pleasurable to use, but at the same time the sensor size of an M43 camera is always going to be compromised compared with FF.

    My very first camera was a Minolta Dynax 7000; a full 35mm camera but the same physical size as my Olympus OM-D EM-1. If we could have something this size with a full 35mm sensor in it, then we’d be on to a winner – something that is smallish, light, unobtrusive, portable and able to take exemplary images…

    • Well, the A7 series fits the size requirement – just not the UI/operational ones…

      You may want to look at a D750. That’s pretty small/light, actually.

      • Had a look at one today in Big Camera. Yes, the D750 is seriously impressive. The size and ergonomics are excellent.

  28. “DoF scale in the finder”

    You’d think this functionality would be omnipresent in the mirrorless world.

    • We have it on some cameras like the Fujis and Ricohs – but that’s about it, as far as I know. The Batis lenses and Leica SL have it on separate displays as numbers, but that’s honestly not so useful unless you’re on a tripod.

      • It’s a shame, but thank you for including it in the article, which I sincerely hope has the desired effect!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        You can have it in many Canon cameras (e.g. EOS-M ) with Magic Lantern installed.
        ( Plus: Focus Peaking, Overexposure zebras and Auto ETTR exposure. Etc..)

    • Well said. I am quite a beginner and the DoF scale on the Fujix100 changed my thinking and understanding in many ways. This ‘must be a day’s worth of tinkering for them to implement.

  29. Charles Webster says:

    Well to replace the D810, you just want the best of the SL combined with the best of the A7r2, downsized by 15%, with a nice wide and very short flange to handle adapted lenses also and AF the DSLR lenses a la LAEA4.

    But few pros have just one camera, because there are many niche areas, and one niche has ben filled very well for years: the digital M6 AKA Leica M9. All the best LTM, M and adapter Contax and Nikon RF lenses love the camera: a very few older UWA lenses excepted. Sure you may need to have the sensor done, but there’s a humidity resistant one now ready to go:)

    M9s are down to 2200 and represent really the only “digital film” camera there is: the closest you can get to film handling in any camera. Sure there are some missing features, LOL, but you have a Kolari A7 for that 🙂 Maybe a D810 or 6D too 🙂 Only Canikon could make a EVIL “do it all”, because they have the lens infrastructure and manufacturing experience to make newer smaller lenses with tight tolerances. As Lensrentals recently showed, many E-mount Sony/Zeiss are plagued with copy variation.

    The money Sony is making, and the slick build of the Leica SL may finally wake the twin monsters. 🙂

    Yes Ming, they should listen to you. There is a whole new genre and a whole new “reason to buy” for the DSLR contingent, if the camera is done well and affordable. The central engine should be a BSI sensor, thin cover in two versions: 36mp hi rez and 18mp hi ISO, a la A7S.

    The wild card is video, which as we know, drove practically every engineering decision in the A7r2.

    • “Lensrentals recently showed, many E-mount Sony/Zeiss are plagued with copy variation.”

      I can attest to that. I have a Sony Zeiss FE 35/1.4 Distagon, ghastly softness on the right side even stopped well down. Exacerbated by the A7r’s shutter shake. All of this stuff cost me a fortune (I’m not a high earner) and frankly it doesn’t get used at all now for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because it all adds up to a pile of X. Very, very disappointed in brand [S] coming from brand [P]. Some firms can make sensors. Some firms can make cameras.

      • I can confirm that final QC for those is not done by Zeiss in the same way that Zeiss branded lenses are; this is probably why. The higher performance the design, the harder it is to get the tolerances right. I had to try six copies of the 55/1.8 FE before finding one that was even symmetric…

    • The Sony Zeiss lenses are plagued with QC issues – agreed. But the Zeiss made ones aren’t. Price is also reflective, of course – QC costs a lot of money.

      I think you’re on to something with the observation on video: the A7s make great video cameras…

  30. Can you name a single DSLR that checks all the boxes for you? There is no perfect camera, whether DSLR or mirrorless. Life is full of choices. You pays your money and you takes your choice. And my choice is mirrorless.

    • Actually, I can. I use a pair of them for client work where a) I have to deliver with no second chances and b) when I have picky clients. That’s the D810, but it could also be the 5DSR if I had Canon lenses instead.

      • Josh Spice says:

        Ok Ming, so the only camera that nails all of this is the D810, Nikon’s premier flagship camera? Come on. You expect all this in a mirrorless body? At what price? and size?
        I wrote this in response to a friend’s inquiry in my thoughts on this article:
        “I do not believe he has actually ever used a Fuji camera, based on his list, which effectively & inadvertently points to Fuji as the only company who actually DOES do nearly everything he states is missing (in mirrorless cameras). He is wrong about Fuji & corrected once and only references them one other time, saying they indeed do the missing desired feature. WTF? He lost some respect with me for that post, which is really just a Sony bashing post.”
        You do great work, Ming, but this post makes it seem like you have only looked at specs of Fujis a time or two, not used them. I have an X-E2 & X-T1 and I think nearly all of the things you point out are in the X-T1. You seem to only address Sony, some Leica, and a bit of Olympus. You took on a hard task of generalizing all manufacturers of mirrorless cameras, which I applaud you, and shouldered the message that may not be taken well by all. Just make sure you are correct in your statements before making them. I think you could edit this post and basically make it marketing for Fuji.
        No harsh feelings, just sharing some input. Keep up what you do.

        • No, they’re not. I’ve owned an X-T1. Marketing for Fuji – seriously? That’s odd, because they don’t want to have anything to do with me because I will not say all of their products are perfect.

          I’m expecting the Sony A7RII – which costs MORE than the D810 (which is not their flagship either, that’s the D4S at nearly twice the price) – to have most of these issues solved. Given that a large cost of these things are the optics in the finder and the mirror mechanisms, which by definition mirrorless lacks – I don’t think this is unreasonable.

        • I completely agree with you, Josh.

      • So, it’s easy, we have to wait that Canon and Nikon releases a full-frame mirrorless. Hehehe.
        It wasn’t their business (it’s clear with the pathetic mirrorless cameras of both of them), but I think that now that Sony has put a full-frame mirrorless on the table… Things have changed a lot.

    • Apart from the present lack of full frame (being addressed), yes I do. Most people scoff and laugh but from an enthusiasts point of view Pentax have never let me down.

      Minor tweaks (far from deal breakers) are perhaps tracking AF speed (precision is good), wider spread of AF points across the frame to suit the rule of thirds better, handling of reds (finer detail tends to get lost much sooner than Nikon) especially above base ISO, P-TTL flash system and flash sync speed might need a bit of work and the video codec (awful, needs a proper one), but not much else, if anything. I guess most of this is firmware related.

      Regarding their full frame compatible lenses, some of the older but superb and truly unique designs of the film days (31/43/77mm FA Limited’s) could do with updating for digital, perhaps using HD coatings and ELD elements as purple fringing and longitudinal chromatic aberration can be an issue.

      Their 100/2.8 macro also needs sorting out regards purple fringing, which can be bad, and it needs a focus limiter (hunts wildly), but it’s still a lovely small and light, beautifully made, very sharp full frame macro lens.

      A new 50/1.4 or even a 50/1.2 is needed as the present FA50/1.4 is nothing to write home about. It’s not bad, it’s just not that great.

      All Pentax lenses need to be weather resistant, which being a major selling point for the Pentax bodies needs to be translated to all their lenses. They also need to stay on top of lens manufacturing quality control.

      I own all of the lenses mentioned above, including the Pentax-K 50/1.2 from circa 1975 which to this day is a rather good lens.

      Their new full frame zooms, don’t know yet, but it’s a shame the 24-70/2.8 (Tamron with Pentax coatings?) doesn’t zoom internally and the 70-200/2.8 isn’t internally stabilised, relying on in-camera shake reduction which isn’t ideal for longer focal lengths. The launch price of the 70-200/2.8 is a bit optimistic too, at over £1800 in the UK, a price which will have to fall to something reasonable before I could justify it.

      As a complete system ready for full frame, yes Pentax is a decade behind Canon and Nikon. Hopefully Pentax will add a 14-24/2.8, a 35/1.4, a 50/1.2, an 85/1.4 and a 135/2 in the near future as I believe these along with the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 actually makes a system complete for the most part, save for focal lengths beyond 200mm and macro both of which which Pentax already has and specialist lenses like tilt-shift (Schneider produce their PC-TS range in K-mount – if you can handle the cost!).

      Very importantly I hope Sigma start making all their lenses available in K-mount again which will relieve the pressure of not having 1st party options available.

      To this day the K-5IIs and K-3 remain the near perfect cameras . . . for me. They’re just pleasant to use above all else and this is down to Pentax handling and UI. When considering system weight, performance and cost, the Pentax crop frame DSLR system is actually superb, it’s just a shame it never really caught on as having had mirrorless (Sony full and crop format) I’d recommend the Pentax every time for the enthusiast shooter.

  31. I have the original Olympus OMDEM5.
    With the battery pack, grip and some good lenses I can acheive what I wish.
    Some days I build up the system, some days I go light.
    The image quality is good( there is always better) but at the end of the dy it is a camera I always take with me unlike it’s Nikon predecessor.

  32. Much of what you said can not even be done on DSLRs and what has been done correctly has taken many interactions to do. Many of your recommends are firmware updates, try telling that to the DSLR guys. Not gonna happen. There is no shortcut to mature products, it just takes time and with each generation they all get better. Mirrorless and DSLRs alike. You just seem to forget how bad DSLRs were in their early days.

    • You’re missing the point. No, I haven’t forgotten: I’m asking for things in mirrorless that have been fixed in DSLRs for years. Button placements, software behaviour and battery life are not things that are considered problematic for almost any DSLR today – even the cheapest smallest models, which aren’t much larger than FF mirrorless. Yet mirrorless keeps trying to reinvent the wheel. Why?

  33. Great post, thank you! I have been really frustrated by some of these points as well.

    One more thing I am sorely missing in the AF department is a focus trap. Everybody tells us how great it is to adapt all sorts of lenses but being able to use a focus trap (= camera releases shutter when the image is in focus) with adapted lenses would render them much more useful.

    • I’m not sure how that would be possible, since the only way you could execute it would be to have the camera trip at peak contrast in a given area – it would however have to know contrast has fallen off, which means the subject may be past the focusing point.

      • I’ve got this setting called ‘Catch-in-Focus’ on my Pentax bodies. To be honest I’ve never really got it to work successfully.

      • Nikon F4S (film) does this, though it only has a centre AF point. I’ve only used it a few times, and it did work quite well. I think follow focus (tracking) works better on modern DSLRs, though it’s a different method for similar results.

  34. A worthwhile exercise compiling your rather extensive list; however, a lot of photographers are willing to accept “good enough”. I, for one, switched from years of Canon usage to Sony’s A7 line back in Nov. 2013 when I found the A7R to be “good enough”. I now have the A7S, A7 II and A7R II… All of them better than my previous Canon DSLR offerings and far better than the “good enough” cameras I’ve had since back in the late ’60’s.

    Technology will keep advancing cameras/lenses and photographers will continue to buy when they see equipment that is “good enough” and manufacturers will continue to rely on this…

    As for the battery life in Sony’s A7 line, it is “good enough” until a higher powered, same format, battery is available. I wouldn’t want Sony to increase the size of the camera body for the simple purpose of allowing a larger battery to be used!

    • I’m willing to accept ‘good enough’ also – the point is we’ve been almost there with DSLRs for so long, I feel as though we are starting again for no good reason.

      A7 battery life is NOT good enough. And the body would benefit from another 1cm of height or so for balance with their larger lenses. You could put quite a lot of battery into that volume…

      • Sean Quigley says:

        Have to agree with both it;s is nearly there we need some updates to A7r2, but I personally don’t want or need a size increase, using the Otus 85 for a couple of hours today with no problems, I just used the lens as the main handling element just as I would with a long telephoto on a DSLR. Most important fix is for Sony to find a lossless algo to work with the current camera.
        In my opinion a larger body would be better served in a new mirrorless line with emount so we have choice.
        If Sony fixes these current issues and does not introduce a new model in 1 year I think used values will be good, the ball is firmly in Sony’s court.

        • Not much larger; just another 5mm on the bottom would make a huge difference to the grip. It wouldn’t affect packing, and a larger battery would fit too.

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