Regression to the Mirrorless Mean

2018 Pro Mirrorless Camera Size Comparison

2018 Pro Mirrorless Camera Size Comparison

The graphic above is a size comparison of the four newest professional mirrorless cameras, courtesy of What occurred to me is how similar these cameras are, both in size and in headline features. Part of this is due to the maturing of the market, I suppose. Also, there’s fierce competition to add the most desired features to their flagship offerings. Over time, their distinctiveness gets diluted due to competitive pressures.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the oldest, introduced back in September of 2016. The Sony Alpha A9 is next, announced on April 2017. The Panasonic G9 was announced 3 months ago and finally, the Fujifilm X-H1 was introduced yesterday.

Of course, all of these camera have 4K video recording. All now sport 5-stop 5-axis in body image stabilization. All feature high frame rate shooting with superior autofocusing. When you scratch below the surface, however, there are certainly differences. Some cameras will focus quicker than others. Despite the similar 5 stop IS designation, I’m willing to bet that some camera’s stabilization is better than others. There is also going to be image quality differences and each manufacturer’s image processing engine is going to produce its own distinctive look.

The big physical difference, however, is the sensor size. The Olympus and Panasonic use micro 4/3 sensors. The Fuji, APS-C. And the Sony, full frame 35mm. Sensor size has two big implications. The bigger the sensor, the better the light gathering capability and there’s better low light, high ISO performance. (assuming the same generation of sensor technology) A bigger sensor also means bigger lenses and more shallow depth of field. Given the difference in sensor size, it’s interesting that you don’t see a corresponding difference in body size.

The Sony A9, for example, has the largest sensor but its body is smaller than the Panasonic G9, which uses the smallest sensor. Looking at body size, ultimately does not matter, unless you factor in the lenses that you want to use. Sony’s done an excellent job creating a very compact body, especially give the full frame sensor, however, you still have comparably large lenses — the largest in this group. Unless you plan to only use Sony’s sparse collection of small prime lenses, having a small body can actually be a big downside. The larger zoom lenses won’t balance and handle as effectively without a proportionately large camera.

You have the opposite issue with Panasonic. Unless your objective is to shoot sports or wildlife and use 400mm to 600mm equivalent lenses, that big body may be overkill. Sure, you may have a large beefy grip, but you may not need that for your smaller micro 4/3 lenses.

What does this mean? The camera buyer should be careful. It’s getting harder than ever to pick the best camera, because the cameras are starting to look alike. Compare their high-level features and you might conclude, incorrectly, that they’re all about the same. Just don’t look at the camera body. Attach the lenses you will typically use. That nice compact body might not work very well if you need a 70-200mm f2.8.

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4 thoughts on “Regression to the Mirrorless Mean

  1. ” A bigger sensor also means bigger lenses and more depth of field.”

    Nope. Given the same parameters (like distance, aperture, angle of view), a bigger sensor means more blur, which is *less* depth of field (= sharpness over the distance).

    The only reason these days to go and buy “full frame”, if you need this effect to make your backgrounds a blurry mess…


    1. Yes, you are correct. What I meant to write, which I corrected was, “A bigger sensor also means bigger lenses and more shallow depth of field”. Thanks.

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