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. The Olympus housing is larger than our best compact setups, but the Nauticam & Recsea OM-D E-M5, NEX-5T, NEX-6 housings while more expensive are almost as small as a compact setup. In choosing the E-PL5 or NEX-5T - we feel that you are getting the best possible features of the mirrorless class at the best price.  And the Sony NEX-6 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 cost a little more, but are incredible cameras!

Also check out our best compact underwater cameras for 2014.

 

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 1/250th sync speed and 2 control dials? Check out the new Olympus OM-D E-M5
  • Olympus E-PL5 housing just $747
  • Olympus E-Pl5 strobe, housing, zoom ring just $1,518
  • Don't mind a slightly older camera? The E-PM1 bundle is now $849 instead of $1,240, with camera and housing

 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 Housing - best choice

On a budget? Olympus OM-D E-M5's are on sale now - a great bargain!

  • 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 is still a 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 camrea. It is a competitor to the Panasonic GX-7 and GH-3, 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, 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.

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 NEX-6 are the top choices.

For a small high-performance mirrorless camera setup in a high-end aluminum housing, the Nauticam OM-D 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 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.

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.

 

 

Sony NEX-5T / NEX-6 in a Recsea or Nauticam Housing - best for video, best image quality

The Sony NEX 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 NEX-5T & Sony NEX-6 offers you the same large sensor as a dSLR, but in a much smaller sized camera. With a 16MP, 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 NEX-5T & NEX-6 has a dSLR size sensor for great image quality & high ISO performance
  • NEX-5T vs NEX-6 - the NEX-6 costs more, but has an additional control dials, a nice OLED viewfinder
  • After testing the NEX-7 versus the NEX-6, we feel the improvements of the NEX-6 make it a better camera
  • 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 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 a little too close for easy use underwater

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-M5

Olympus E-PL5

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Sony NEX-5R / 5T

Sony NEX-6

Weight in grams

425

325

497

276

345

Size

122x89x43

111x64x38

130x94x63

111x59x39

120x67x43

Megapixels

16.1

16.1

16.1

16

16

High ISO capability

Great

Great

Great

Great

Great

Sync speed

1/250th

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

28

28

28

13

13

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

3D built-in

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Built-in image stabilization

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Price with kit lens as of 11/30/2013

$899

$499

$1399 body only

$599

$750

 

1)       Focus speeds are relative to high-end compacts
2)       All these cameras can auto-focus well during video; the Sony NEX-5R or NEX-6 produces the best video quality
3)       Nex-5R Kit lens is larger than the micro-four thirds lenses
4)       GX1 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 fisheye conversion lens + 16mm pancake lens gives excellent results

 

Contact Bluewater Photo to discuss options in more detail

 

 
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