Best Mirrorless Camera Options

 Best choices for Mirrorless Cameras

Best mirrorless cameras for underwater photography 2014

 

A brief overview of choosing a mirrorless camera

If you are looking for a small underwater setup with great image quality, come no further - a mirrorless setup is right for you. These cameras focus faster than compact cameras, have better image quality, larger sensors, and better video.

 

Micro-four thirds vs Sony

There are two recommended options for getting a mirrorless setup - either a "micro-four thirds camera", or a Sony setup. Micro-four thirds cameras includes the Olympus E-PL5, OM-D E-M1, E-M5, E-M10, Panasonic GH4 & GX7. 

The Sony e-mount cameras include the Sony NEX-5R, NEX-5T, NEX6, NEX7, A5000, and A6000. You can think of the A5000 as a replacement for the NEX-5R/5T, and the A6000 as "big brother" to the A5000 that replaces the NEX6 and NEX7. Sony changed the naming from "NEX" to "AXXXX".

The Sony cameras have the advantage of a larger sensor size and more dynamic range. People focused on wide-angle and/or video will often gravitate towards a Sony setup.

The micro-four thirds cameras support a much larger number of lenses, including the excellent Olympus 60mm macro lens, and more housing options. For people that want to shoot a significant amount of macro, the lack of a good macro option for Sony is a deal breaker.

Mirrorless Housings & Cameras

The Olympus housing is larger than our best compact setups, but the Nauticam, Recsea, and Aquatica mirrorless housings while more expensive can be almost as small as a compact setup. In choosing the E-PL5 or A5000 - we feel that you are getting the best possible features of the mirrorless class at the best price.  Although the Sony A6000 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 cost  more, but are incredible cameras for the more serious photographer.

Mirrorless versus Compacts

If you want a smaller system, less expensive setup, or the ability to change to wide-angle underwater, check out our best compact underwater cameras for 2014.

 

Mirrorless versus dSLR cameras

A dSLR camera, although much larger underwater, does have advantages in the areas of dynamic range, focus speed when shooting action, the ability to use a zoom fisheye lens, and longer focal length macro lenses for shooting small fish. Check out our best dSLR underwater cameras for 2014.

 

Still confused?

If you are still confused by all the options, call us at 310-633-5052 or email us at sales@bluewaterphotostore.com. My staff and myself have been shooting all of these models lately, and we can talk you through the subtle differences.

 

Olympus E-PL5 in an Olympus Housing - best value

 

olympus e-pm1 underwater housing

What can I say? Every Bluewater Photo customer who gets an Olympus PEN micro-four thirds camera is really, really happy with it. They are usually looking for better auto-focus and image quality than their compact camera system, and they are not disappointed. For a very good price, you can get a good housing, and great fish, reef and macro photos. For another $1,049 you get a wide-angle lens and dome that gives you stunning 180 degree wide-angle shots.

The Olympus E-PL5 is a mirrorless camera, which accept micro-four thirds mount lenses. It has a sensor 4-5 times larger than high end compact cameras, and can auto-focus while taking video. The housing is larger than a compact camera housing, but much smaller & lighter than a dSLR housing. The E-PL5 comes with a great 14-42mm kit lens. 

  • Great housing and camera for the money
  • Same amazing sensor as the Olympus OM-D
  • Better image quality and faster focusing than compact cameras
  • Smaller size and better price point than a dSLR setup
  • Excellent macro and wide-angle options
  • Get great TTL with the YS-01 or YS-D1 strobes
  • Take ultra-wide, ultra-sharp wide-angle shots with the Precision dome port and 8mm fisheye lens
  • Great selection of small micro-four thirds lenses by Olympus and Panasonic
  • Do you want a faster sync speed and 2 control dials? Check out the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 or the E-M10
  • Olympus E-PL5 housing just $747
  • Olympus E-Pl5 strobe, housing, zoom ring just $1,518

 best mirrorless underwater camera 2012
Stunning color and sharpness taken with an Olympus PEN mirrorless camera & Ys-110a strobe by Bluewater Photo's Kelli Dickinson

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 in a Nauticam or Aquatica Housing - best choice

On a budget? Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M10 costs much less

  • The new Olympus E-M1 brings the mirrorless world even closer to the high quality dSLR cameras, in a much more compact size, great for travel and underwater shooting! Improved auto-focus, higher strobe sync speed, larger viewfinder and more.
  • The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M10 are both fantastic camera - see more details here. Fast focusing 16MB camera, great video and awesome image quality; great controls and electronic viewfinder
  • Both are a Great setup for snorkeling with whales, shooting macro, cave diving and general purpose photography

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the "top of the line" micro-four thirds camera. It is a competitor to the Panasonic GX-7 and GH-4, and it accepts the same lenses. The auto-focus on this camera is extremely fast, and the Nauticam housing is exceptional. It's small and very ergonomic. 

The OM-D E-M1 offers more customization features over the E-M5 and E-M10, slightly faster focusing, higher sync speed of 1/320th. You can read our detailed OM-D E-M1 review for underwater photographers.

One of the main reasons people go for a mirrorless setup is the smaller size. This is where the Nauticam OM-D E-M1 and E-M5 setups really deliver, regardless of the lens, and is one of the reasons this is our best quality choice. Personally, I feel that if your budget will allow it, I would recommend getting the Olympus E-M1 over the E-M5 or E-M10.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the top choice for dSLR shooters who want to get a smaller mirrorless package. For compact shooters who want to move up to dSLR quality & performance without the bulk, either OM-D camera or the Sony A6000 are the top choices.

For a small high-performance mirrorless camera setup in a high-end aluminum housing, the Nauticam or Aquatica OM-D E-M1 is a clear choice.

  • One of the smallest housing on the market for a mirrorless camera or dSLR
  • Cameras focuses ultra-fast
  • Custom-machined aluminum Nauticam housing allows precise control of all camera functionality
  • E-M1 Nauticam housing includes dSLR style molded handles
  • Custom high-quality ports give you the best possible optics for all lens choices
  • Both E-M1, E-M10 and E-M5 offer a variety of customizations for camera settings
  • Setting custom white balance is quick and easy
  • Great selection of small micro-four thirds lenses by Panasonic and Olympus
  • Full flash control, auto, force flash, manual settings down to 1/64th power to save battery
  • Great choice for shooting whales, dolphins & sharks when coupled with the Panasonic 7-14mm lens or Olympus 9-18mm lens, tiny size and with very little drag in the water
  • Incredible macro with the Olympus 60mm macro lens, incredible wide-angle with the 8mm fisheye
  • Nauticam housing is rated to 300ft; has a lens release button, leak detector, great port release mechanism, and supports Inon and Sea & Sea style fiber optic cables, the new Nauticam vacuum system is available for both the E-M1 and E-M5.
  • The Aquatica E-M1 housing has great ergonomics, a very solid feel for extreme conditions and the ability to use a 8-inch dome port for over/under shots.

Garibaldi photo taken at Catalina Island with the Nauticam OM-D E-M5 housing, 8mm fisheye lens by Mel Moncrieff. Great color & dynamic range!

 

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 underwater shooting guide

For more details on OM-D E-M1 settings, lens options and housings, read our comprehensive OM-D E-M1 underwater shooting guide.

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera guide for underwater
Photo taken while diving Anilao with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, 60mm macro lens


Blue shark, taken with the Olympus E-M1, 8mm fisheye lens

 


Photo by Kelli Dickenson, taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5, 8mm fisheye lens

 

 

Sony A5000 or A6000 in Nauticam Housing - best for video, best image quality

With the A5000 and A6000, Sony had made minor upgrades to the Sony NEX-5T/5R, and NEX-6. If you can get these cameras at an attractive price, they are still good options, with housing from Nauticam and Recsea available.

The Sony NEX and A5000/A6000 cameras are amazing, fast focusing mirrorless cameras with incredible image quality. The housing + fisheye dome port fits in the palm of your hand. The sensor size is the same size as the D7100 sensor.

If the E-PL5 or OM-D sensor size isn't big enough for you, the Sony A5000 and A6000 offers you the same large sensor as a dSLR, but in a much smaller sized camera. With a 20MP - 24MP, and the ability to shoot 10 frames per second, you can get some great images with this small camera - and some incredible video. The only slight downside is that the lenses are a little bigger than the micro-four thirds lenses, and Sony is still catching up in terms of number of lenses.

  • Sony A5000, A6000 and  NEX-6 has a dSLR size sensor for great image quality & high ISO performance
  • Sony A5000 vs A6000 /  NEX-6 - the A6000 & NEX-6 costs more, but has an additional control dials, a nice OLED viewfinder. The A5000 can zoom the 16-50mm lens from the camera body.
  • After testing the NEX-7 versus the NEX-6, we feel the improvements of the NEX-6 make it a better camera. We will be testing the A6000 soon.
  • Takes great hi-def video! The Sony NEX cameras offers full manual video exposure control, and can record at 1080 60p. It shoots in several full HD high-end frame rates such as 1080 60i + 60p, 30p and the cinematic looking 24p.
  • Best overall image quality of the mirrorless cameras
  • Incredible ergonomics and build-quality in the Recsea NEX6 housing. The innovative rear control dial makes changing settings easier than ever
  • Cons - lens selection for Sony cameras are still catching up to the micro-four thirds options; lenses are larger than micro four-thirds lenses; the fisheye conversion lens is great, but the Sony 30mm macro lens focuses much too close for easy use underwater
  • The Zeiss 50mm macro lens ($1,300) is now out, which gives better macro options but is pricey and doesn't give the working distance of the Olympus 60mm macro 

School of Fish taken by Shane Spring, Sony Nex-5n with Nauticam housing, 16mm lens and fisheye conversion lens.

 

 

Mirrorless camera comparison

 

Olympus OM-D E-M10

Olympus E-PL5

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Sony A5000

Sony A6000

Weight in grams

396

325

497

269

344

Size

119x82x46

111x64x38

130x94x63

110x63x36

120x67x45

Megapixels

16.1

16.1

16.1

20

24

High ISO capability

Great

Great

Great

Great

Great

Sync speed

1/200th

1/160th

1/320th

1/160th

1/160th

Focus speed1

Fast

Fast

Very Fast

Fast

Fast

Battery Life

Good

Good

Good

Good

Great

Image Quality

Great

Great

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Macro Capability

Great5

Great5

Great5

Good6

Good6

Wide-angle capability

Great7

Great7

Great7

Great8

Great8

Lenses available

48

48

48

20

20

Control dials

2 dial

1 dial

2 dial

2 dials

3 dials

Manual flash power settings

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Video2

1080p, 60i

1080p, 60i

1080p, 60i

Excellent  -1080p, 60p + more

Excellent - 1080p, 60p + more

Electronic Viewfinder

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

3D built-in

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Built-in image stabilization

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Price with kit lens as of 6/1/2014

$799

$499

$1299 body only

$450

$750

 

1)       Focus speeds are relative to high-end compacts
2)       All these cameras can auto-focus well during video; the Sony A5000 / A6000 produces the best video quality
3)       Nex-5R Kit lens is larger than the micro-four thirds lenses; the new 16-50mm lens is smaller
4)       Can do 3D when a separate lens is purchased
5)       Great macro is possible with the Pany 45mm, or the Olympus 60mm macro
6)       It is difficult to get close enough to the subject with the Sony 30mm macro for 1:1
7)       8mm fisheye, 7-14mm and 9-18mm lenses are available, with the 8mm giving the best results
8)       The Sony fisheye conversion lens + 16mm pancake lens gives excellent results

 

Contact Bluewater Photo to discuss options in more detail

 

 
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