Most weeks I do a little window shopping at our local camera shop. I seem drawn to opportunities to grow envious of gear that I don’t need and can’t afford. I suppose it’s the chipping away of residual satisfaction with my current camera, so that eventually I persuade myself that a new camera will improve my lacklustre images.
On a recent browse, I was surprised by a couple of new Nikon bodies in the window. Both were entry level cameras and both were much smaller than I had imagined. In fact they they seemed almost the same size as the Panasonic G7 beside them. To confirm this I did a little research and found a really helpful site called camerasize.com. For example, if you follow the link you’ll see that there is very little difference in size between the Nikon D5500 and the Panasonic G7.
Which got me thinking about the increasing size of successive models of mirrorless camera and in particular the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds (MFT) range (e.g. compare the GH1-GH4, the GX1-GX8 or the G3-G7*). To me the increase in size seems to be counter productive, particularly in terms of Street Photography.
The greatest advantage of mirrorless cameras is their size. Of course you need to include lenses when considering overall system sizes. But since APS mirrorless bodies and DSLR bodies use similarly sized lenses, having bodies the same size clearly diminishes the mirrorless advantage. Even in the case of MFT bodies where lenses can be significantly smaller, a small DSLR body with a small prime may be almost the same size. And in terms of image quality an APS DSLR with a small fast lens might be preferable to a similarly sized MFT body. Clearly this is also an issue which MFT cameras face in relation to APS mirrorless bodies.
There remain clear advantages to using MFT systems in some genres of photography. For example if you are going to carry multiple lenses then MFT bodies will have a size and weight advantage. This might sway a travel or documentary photographer. Similarly film makers may prefer the overall system size when using a Lumix GH4 over a Canon 5D.
But in the case of street photographers who usually want small light cameras, when MFT bodies grow closer in size to APS DSLR and Mirrorless bodies their benefit is reduced. This issue is mainly notable at entry and enthusiast level. Once you move up to the pro cameras, mirrorless systems seem much smaller than their Full Frame DSLR equivalents. However at this end of the scale additional considerations of image quality and relative expense may be of equal importance to body size.
*the LUMIX G series has seen only a small increase in size and G3 was actually smaller than both the G1 and G2.
March 2018 – I notice the new Lumix GX9 appears smaller than the GX8, perhaps Panasonic have been reading this blog;-)