In 2013, mirrorless broke out, the gap will widen

With all the interest in the Sony A7r, Nikon Df and the Fujifilm X cameras, I was surprised to see the Olympus OM-D E-M1 made the best camera of 2013 list on two blogs that I follow. Both Kirk Tuck and Michael Reichmann over at Luminous Landscape voted the E-M1 was their top pick.

I’m surprised, not because the E-M1 isn’t an excellent camera. It absolutely is. I was fortunate to get pre-production access and wrote an extensive 7,000+ word review of the Olympus E-M1. I’m surprised because there are so many big name cameras that dominated the airwaves towards the end of the year and the Olympus didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

The Sony A7 and A7r made a big splash because it was the first mirrorless full frame camera (excluding Leica of course). But the first does not mean the best. I found the A7 to be unrefined. I can’t help but wonder if the camera was rushed to market.

The Nikon Df intrigued traditional film shooters into thinking that maybe the complexity of digital can be tamed and simplified. What they got, however, was a typical DSLR body with extra analog controls grafted on. Unfortunately, it’s more complex than a regular digital camera. Nikon blew an opportunity for a clean and simplified rethink of digital.

One company that gets integrating traditional controls with digital is Fujifilm. Starting with the X100 and then continuing with the X-Pro 1 and X-E1, Fuji have delighted photography purists. Perhaps Fuji didn’t make the top of the list because their 2013 offerings were just updates of existing models. But there is a bit more than that. While Fuji’s 2013 updates fixed and improved many of their earlier shortcomings, the cameras still need more tweaking. I enjoyed my time with the X100S but the camera is still somewhat slow. The X-E2 is faster but still does not match the refinement of Olympus.

What people may not realize is that micro 4/3, Olympus and Panasonic, are the originators of the modern mirrorless movement. They kickstarted this trend and they had more years to refine their shortcomings than any other manufacturer. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the culmination of this effort. It takes time to fine tune the details. Olympus has done so with this fantastic camera.

I’m not presumptuous enough to pick a best new camera of 2013. I haven’t used them all. However, I’m bold enough to say that 2013 is the year that mirrorless has finally matched or perhaps exceeded the traditional DSLR. Moore’s law of accelerating electronic improvements is only going to widen that gap. I wonder if Canon and Nikon will finally wake up in 2014?

Update: The Online Photographer also has voted the OM-D E-M1 as the TOP camera of 2013.


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13 thoughts on “In 2013, mirrorless broke out, the gap will widen

  1. Reblogged this on SERENDIPITY and commented:
    Even the most diehard DSLR users can no longer dismiss mirrorless camersas. Here are 2013’s four top cameras, in brief. I think it’s going to be a great year for photographers with more and better choices top to bottom! Cheers!

  2. Every time I show someone my photographs they say the same thing, “What camera did you use”? I’ve had it happen so many times I just tell them or show them my Fuji X-E1 hanging on my shoulder. Their reaction is disbelief because first and foremost it’s not a Canon or Nikon. Next it’s not an DSLR. I tried to explain the the pocket point & shoot they had around their neck could take the same shots. I pointed out that the camera only goes click. All the rest is determined by the photographer. I’d be happy to prove that to unbelievers.

    There was a study done where well known professional photographers were handed a camera made of Legos. They were sent out to fill a memory card with the best images they could take. The shots were amazing to most but expected by me. The camera is a tool, the photographer is the creative juice behind that camera.

    1. Absolutely. However, I do like to use cameras that resonate with me. Either because of the interface, the feel or the aesthetics. Thanks for visiting, Bob. Have a Happy New Year.

  3. It’s funny how every blog I’ve read that lists the E-M1 as best camera of the year, has had a picture of the E-M5 ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve handled all but the Fuji (still waiting for an opportunity) and I have to agree with everything you say here. I didn’t like the handling of the E-M5 but Olympus got it spot on with the E-M1. The A7r is an amazing camera not only for what it is but what it can achieve. A photographer I met who has actually bought one claims it rivals his medium format and the massive prints he has shown me substantiated his claims. At least to my eyes. But as you say, the camera feels like it was rushed. There are a few niggly issues with it that annoy; not least of which is the loud shutter slap. As for the Df, well I don’t know what Nikon was thinking about. It feels huge and cumbersome and looks utterly confusing to me. Maybe it’s a camera that grows on you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like you, I look forward to next year. I’m not much of a gear head but I like technology and I like to see where it’s all going. I’ll be looking forward to reading your take on it all. Happy new year to you.

  4. I am for one happy that I did not rush into the mirrorless, but let it mature first. I am still a bit shocked at how slow CaNikon have been into the category. In 2014 I hope to get the chance to try the EM-1 and also the XE-2 after which I will choose which mirrorless system to go with. EM-1 might allow me to ditch DSLR for good as I believe it can focus on birds and wildlife as well. A great year for photographers 2013 was gear wise. I think next year might be even better. Still shooting with a D200 so I can say I have serious need for an uprgrade anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. cuisinedejere, good luck in your search. There are a lot of great mirrorless cameras out there, I’m sure you will find one that works for you.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you visit again. I’m pretty sure I’ll be talking about more cameras in the future ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer also chose the Olympus OMD E-M1 as camera of the year. I’m not sure if the E-M1 or the E-P5 is in my future to replace or supplement my E-P3.

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