In 2011 I was using a Nikon D700 “FF” (full frame, meaning with the sensor the size of a good old 24×36 film).
The D700 remains what I consider among the very best DSLR cameras available with gorgeous image quality, pro build body and blazing fast autofocus, all that with a highly customizable User Interface. The only negatives were its price, size, and weight.
In February of 2012, a few weeks after having to sell my faithful D700 in a need of quick cash, I decided to try something fresh and took the plunge into the mirrorless camera world, in the shape of the Panasonic Lumix GX-1.
This camera has been an absolute revelation. Freed from the bulk and weight, I took it *everywhere*. It delivered 90% of the image quality my Nikon was capable of, while fitting in my purse with lens attached ! (BTW if you think that’s a bit grainy, we’re talking unprocessed ISO 3200 in near total darness here…)
I took the GX-1 with me wherever I went. It came to Morroco, it came to Brittany, it came to work, it came to the stables, it stayed at home to shoot my daughter any time of the day. By late August I had over 16.000 shots on it (and I had bought it new, with zero actuations).
But by then, one thing bugged me. Actually it bothered me from day one. Coming from a full frame camera that natively offers very shallow Depth Of Field, m4/3 mount cameras (like the GX-1) no less than *double* the DOF, meaning for portraits you get backgrounds that are only HALF as blurred. Sure, there are workarounds that, but the more I shot the Panny, the more it nagged at me, and in the end I decided to stay with mirrorless, but try a model with a larger sensor (hence less DOF). Enters, the Sony NEX 5N (to set the record straight, it has an APS-C sensor that sits sort of *in between* m4/3 and FF in terms of DOF control. Let’s just say in practice, and in my eyes, it DOES offer significant better blur capabilities over m4/3. Case closed).
Why long ? Because the NEX offers one little feature that was bound to become crucial to my style of shooting : focus peaking. That’s a smart gimmick that renders manual focusing of old lenses much, much easier that it’s ever been, and in fact VERY accessible, to the point of making autofocus (which happens to be pretty lame in the NEX system anyway) pointless…
And so began my manual lens addiction. Which at first took me by surprise. Then scared the hell out of me. That I am now totally at peace with. Not that’s it’s entirely under control, but it’s handled reasonably enough that I can live with it.
To make a long story short, it’s one damn good camera. Or should I say, cameras, as they are many models in the family. I personally had the 5N, and now have the 6, so I can only vouch for those, but I think, give and take a few details and slightly different features, they all offer the same level of awesomeness when it comes to making beautiful images.
One thing you should know about the NEX. I think Sony screwed up with them. Wait, that needs some explaining. Sony obviously intended those cameras as an upgrade for Point&Shooters wanting DLSR quality in a small package, with no needed skill to achieve great shots.
That’s where, in my opinion, they flunked. Big time. Sure, newbies, and lazy snappers, will get better than your average compact camera shots with a NEX. But not by far. And this camera is indeed much better suited for technically skilled photogaphers who know what they are doing. So my bit of advice here would be, if you have a NEX camera or plan on getting one, make sure to get the basics of photography dialed in as much as possible. That will make your life much easier.