Downgrading My Camera (And Why Maybe You Should Too)

2 Posted by - August 30, 2013 - Photography

Over the years, as I’ve gotten more interested in photography, I’ve been upgrading my camera body every two years. I started with a Canon fixed lens back in 2003, but eventually got the Canon 40D, then upgraded two years later to the Canon 7D, then upgraded again, two years after that to the Canon 5d III.

I love the Canon 5D III. It is the best camera I’ve ever used, and even with the same exact lens I always use (24-70 mm f/2.8) my photos just looked… better. Amazing even. I mean, better than I felt I had any right for my photos to look. Afterall, I hadn’t earned that improvement by practicing, I just bought a new camera and BAM, my photos looked more professional.

A lot of photographers say, “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer” but those same people all have top of the line cameras. The reason? They really do produce better results.


This image was taken by Trey Ratclif with his Sony NEX-7

Yet, here I am after saying all of this and I am considering downgrading — or at least switching — my camera to something smaller. The heft and size of the Canon 5d with my walking-about lens (24-70mm) is cumbersome. When you’re traveling with children, usually carrying one, it means you take less photos. Or no photos. So how great are the photos I’m taking these days? I have no idea, I haven’t taken them.

Yeah so I have a very large and expensive paper weight with it’s own special backpack, that we carry around with us everywhere, but we can hardly ever can be bothered to pull it out… I actually have to schedule time to take photos for the blog, when I can be on my own. So many lost opportunities! I just accepted this until I was inspired by professional photographer Trey Ratclif who recently switched to the Sony NEX-7 from his dSLR and loves it. Are there compromises? Yes. The images won’t be as good (technically, although they produce great results). Low light will be a problem. Bokeh, that blurry background that everyone loves, isn’t as nice or pronounced (although a non-photographer might not even notice).

But I would take more photos. I could carry it in one hand and a baby in the other. It also costs a lot less.

The truth is, the technology has come so far, that it is possible to get high quality, even professional photos, without using a dSLR. This wasn’t true five years ago, not even close, but things have changed. Trey Ratclif wrote a post about it, dSLRS Are a Dying Breed, 3rd Gen Cameras Are the Future.

So after weighing it for a while, I’ve decided to sell my Canon 5D, my lens and switch over to a mirrorless camera. In two weeks I’ll be in the US and I can sell it then, and purchase a replacement. After quizzing my photographer friends, chatting about it on Facebook and doing a ton of research, here are what I think are the two best mirrorless cameras available at the moment:

Sony NEX-7

Olympus OM-D-M5

But just because a camera is the best in it’s class, doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. The two cameras above will work really well for individual photographers, but you have to first consider the kind of photography that you do.

Trey Ratclif uses the Sony NEX-7 and loves it. However, you have to keep in mind that for his kind of photography, he’s setting up a tripod and taking landscape photos with bracketted exposures (that’s how he gets the HDR effect). My concern is that for what I do, which is travel photos (hand held street shots), portraits, food photography (particularly in low light in restaurants) and some HD video, what works for Trey might not work for me.  For lowlight, the max ISO setting is going to make a big difference and the Sony has 16000 and the Olympus is 25600. For Trey, this doesn’t matter, but for me, it’s critical (by the way, the Olympus has the same ISO as my Canon 5D so I am very pleased). The Olympus also has a great in-body stablization system so less camera shake. On the other hand, the Olympus has a smaller sensor, which is not good — it makes a big difference in getting those cool shots with lots of blur in the background. It’s also important in landscape photography, which no doubt is why Trey went with the Sony.

Ultimately, it came down to seeing Tony and Steph at with their Olympus OM-D-M5, which they rave about. The lowlight factor and camera shake are more important to me (if I have to choose) than sensor size and although my Canon 5D is far superior, the advantages of a lighter, easier to carry camera seem to make the sacrifice worth it.

Adorama says this: “With its new 16MP sensor, the Olympus OM-D-EM5 is the clear leader among cameras with Four Thirds sized sensors with an overall score of 71. That’s 10 points above the closest competitor and, surprisingly, rivals typical DSLR quality circa a couple of years ago.”

So really, all I’m doing is going back to the camera I had in 2010. For less than 1/3 the price and less than 1/2 the weight, I can live with that.

What do you think? I would love feedback from anyone who made the switch or is familar with these models. Do you think Trey is right, is the dSLR going away for all but the most heavy photography user (like sports photographers)? Am I crazy to go from a full frame dSLR to a mirrorless camera?

Other resources:

Olympus OM-D-EM5 vs Canon 5D Mark III

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs Nikon D800 vs Leica X2 for High ISO

(Technical spec) Comparison of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs Sony NEX-7

Full-size sample photos from Olympus OM-D E-M5

Myanmar with my OM-D E-M5

Full-size sample photos from Sony Alpha NEX-7

Snowy Owls and the NEX-7

A flickr pool of Olympus OM-D EM-5 shots

  • Denise Pulis

    I researched this topic for months – I have never had a DSLR camera because of the bulk, but I always wanted to have a compact camera which can produce DSLR quality (or almost) shots. For me, this was the Sony Rx 100. I love this camera and I am so satisfied with it. But I think I chose it because I specifically didn’t want a camera with an interchangeable lens, and the Rx 100 still fits in my pocket.

    • Topic_goes_here

      I have a Canon 60D and a Sony RX100. In early summer this year, we spent 3 weeks in Asia. I brought the RX100 instead of the 60D because of the bulk and risk of theft of the 60D (my wife wouldn’t allow taking the risk!). I didn’t miss the 60D at all. I realized, also, that I’m a not a pro-sumer, just a mere consumer, the type of customer that Sony knows well.

      I use the creative filters, sweep panorama, and in-camera HDR quite often. It also has the fast burst rate, short shutter lag, and low-light shooting ability that I want out of camera, formerly exclusive to DSLRs. And let’s face it: the camera gets the exposure and color that I want, without much fussing on my part. I still use aperture and shutter modes, no doubt, but the RX100 let’s me concentrate on composition, which is the heart of photography, IMO.

      It’s been said that the price of the RX100 is similar to that of entry-level DSLRs. True, but with entry DSLRs, you’ll still be wanting for low-light shooting ability until you spring for an f/2 lens or wider. In that case, you’re talking about a prime lens. Then you’ll be looking for a zoom for reach and variety of focal lengths. With the RX100, it’s one-and-done (accepting limitations, of course). It’s a great camera, and I can barely justify following the DSLR route (speaking for myself). I’d like a Canon SL1, to keep my lens collection useful, but the RX100 gets me through 90% of my shooting habits.

  • Magda

    I’ve had Canon 5d mark II for a few years and recently bought Olympus OM-D as my seconds camera which I use for day trips etc (as my Canon + 24-70mm is soooo heavy). I have Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 lens for my Olympus (equivalent of 24-70 on full frame) and it’s great. But it’s not as great as my 5d Mark II. I find my Canon set sharper and the overall quality of photos a bit better (non-photographer probably wouldn’t tell the difference but for me it’s quite obvious). In low light situations they don’t compare – Canon is the winner. Shallow depth of field is also an issue on OM-D (due to small sensor). f2.8 on OM-D will not give you the same effect as f2.8 on full frame. A solution for that would be to forget about zoom lenses and get a nice set of prime lenses with big max appertures (1.4-1.8). The digital viewfinder on Olympus took me ages to get used to (I am still not 100% comfortable with it). Don’t get me wrong – OM-D is very powerful and quite amazing considering how tiny and inexpensive it is compared to good DSLR. But I would still use my Canon if I want to ensure the best quality for my photos. Check out and his Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, India and Indonesia galleries. All of them are shot with OM-D. As you will see it is a very powerful camera. And it is so light and small. That’s what I love about it for sure.

    • almostfearless

      Thanks Chris’s photos look great. I will definitely be looking at primes, because that’s one thing that I will miss the most on the 5D.

  • Christy

    Just tried leaving a comment, but Disqus seems to have eaten it! :(
    What are you asking for your 24-70 lens? I’m in the market (ironically) and will be at Christine’s SF workshop in a couple of weeks.

    • almostfearless

      Hi Christy,

      The 24-70mm is a first generation and I’ve had it since 2008. The glass is fine, I’ve been careful with it, but there’s cosmetic scratches on the outside of the lens. I am asking $600 for it.

      • Christy

        Cosmetic scratches aren’t an issue. If the glass is perfect, I’ll take it!

        • almostfearless

          Great! I’ll hold it for you and I’ll see you at the workshop! It’s a great lens, you’ll love it.

          • Christy

            Perfect! Can’t wait! Please let me know if anything changes for you. I’m solid on wanting it and have a tight timeline (leaving the country just over a week after your workshop). :)

  • EverywhereOnce

    I’ve been lugging around a DSLR on our world travels since late 2010. I love the camera but we try to travel light (40L packs) and this thing requires an entire bag for itself. I’m not ready to trade it in, yet, but I know that this is the last DSLR I’ll own. When it is time for me to get a new camera, one of these 3rd gen jobbies will win the day.

  • Glenn Dixon

    I’ve been wanting a pocket zoom w/ high quality and good low light performance. Of course crazy zoom and good low light function don’t normally go together. So as a compromise we picked up a Nikon Coolpix P310, about $200. Everyone (including me) is amazed at it’s low-light quality. Decent zoom too. Can’t use it for most birding photos, but I’ll probably get a different pocket zoom for that.

  • TLaBarge

    At the beginning of this year, I was right where you are now. After many years of shooting with a Nikon D300, I purchased an OM-D E-M5 and the 17mm 1.8, 45mm 1.8, and 40 – 150mm lenses. The good news is that the camera and lenses were very light and easy to carry with me, the colors were beautiful, and the prime lenses were great. The bad news is that in the seven months I owned the camera, it was away for warranty repairs for over two months on two separate occasions. The paint around the lens mount began to chip, the frame around the rear LCD cracked (both before and after it was repaired), the mode dial was loose and wobbly, and the in body image stabilization system failed. To make matters worse, the Olympus America repair service is awful. The first time I sent the camera in, they could not even confirm that they had received my camera for the first six weeks. They do not respond to emails, and the people answering the phone are unhelpful. When the camera was finally returned to me after the first repair, one of the textured grips on the front fell off and I discovered that it was only held on with double-sided tape. I have since sold the camera and returned to shooting with a DSLR again. I also live in New England, where it is cold for a good part of the year. I found the OM-D almost impossible to use with gloves on because the controls are just too small and close together, and the battery life in cold weather was poor. I cannot recommend buying this camera if you live in a cold climate or intend to use this as your only camera and cannot afford to purchase a second as a backup. Based on my experience, you will need one.

  • Laura Zarrin

    My friend, who’s a photographer, just downgraded to FujiFilm EXR, 16 mega CMOS. She loves it. I’ve seen the pictures and they’re amazing. It has controls like a dslr, but it’s so small. My only complaint is that you have to use the view screen. I prefer using an eyepiece so I can see even in bright light.

  • globetrotteri

    Every time I venture out with my Canon, I think about downgrading. I want to downgrade for the same reasons you did, Christine. My camera pack is way too heavy, and I’ve often found myself wondering if I can get through the weekend without it. On long flights, I pack it into a rolling suitcase to get through airports. This might seem silly, but it actually has caused me a fair amount of problems over the past four years. I don’t have children, but I was diagnosed with AS a couple of years ago, and carrying a heavy camera around for just a few hours makes a noticeable difference in how I feel later on in the day. So to answer your question, no, I don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to downgrade. :-)

  • Laurence

    Hello :) Thought I’d confuse matters by throwing more options at you ;)

    Given your requirements for low light performance, I think instead of the NEX-7 you might want to consider the NEX-6. It has the same APS-C sized sensor as the NEX-7, but instead of cramming 24MP into it, it has 16MP. This means that low light noise performance is better than the NEX 7, and it also has 25,600 ISO capability. Plus the larger sensor means it’s *should* be better at capturing more light than the Olympus.

    There’s a handy tool for comparing noise performance at different ISO’s if you’re into that. You can see the difference between the NEX-6, 7 and the Olympus:

    For background, I recently went through this process with my other half who wanted a decent camera, and we settled on the NEX-6. It has superior focusing than the 7, a standard flash hot shoe, built-in wi-fi (ymmv on usefulness), it’s 20% lighter and a fair chunk cheaper. It does support image stabilisation, but it’s lens based rather than camera based.

    Downsides are no external mic jack if you do a lot of video.

    Another option which I’ve read nothing but good things about is the Fuji X-Pro 1, we discounted that on price, but if it’s in your budget it might be worth looking at. Also Sony just announced a new version of the NEX-5, but I’ve not read anything about it.

    Good luck!

    • Jessica Darko

      Laurence, you’re making an error. Lower resolution does not produce better low light performance. Strictly speaking higher resolution will produce a lower noise image.

      Or put another way, if you’re producing an image for a website that is a 1MP image (eg: reduced for the web, or your final output image), and you’re shooting in low light with a 14MP camera and a 36MP camera, and both cameras have sensors of the same general technology level, and the same size, you’ll get lower noise from the higher pixel camera.

      The reason for this is that noise is random. At any given point the noise may read hotter or colder than reality. The lower resolution sensor has less pixels to reduce when you go to the output format than the higher resolution camera. Much of the noise cancels out in this reduction.

      Thus for a given output resolution, you always get better results with more pixels from which to draw on in determining the correct final light level for a given pixel.

      Or put another way, if you ever see people comparing “%100 crop” samples from two sensors of different resolutions, you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t understand photography well enough to bother listening to them.

      • Laurence

        Oo, thanks for enlightening me. I just went to do some research to figure this out, and my brain quickly overheated. I must stop believing everything I read on internet forums.

        • Jessica Darko

          I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not. If you are, I wasn’t meaning to be snotty at all, I was just trying to explain the situation, as there is much confusion about this.

          If you aren’t being sarcastic then no problem, a lot of people are misinformed about this, and unfortunately seem to have trouble grasping it, so if you did from my explanation that puts you ahead of the pack!

          • Laurence

            The internet needs emotion tags. I wasn’t being sarcastic, genuinely nice to learn something new – given your posts on this page it looks like you have a firm grasp of a complicated subject!

    • almostfearless

      Well after all these comments now, I’m completely rethinking it and the APS-C sensor makes sense. I have to look into the NEX-6, thank you.

  • Ryan Gargiulo

    Hey Christine, so glad to hear you’re thinking about taking the leap. I just stepped down from a Canon DSLR to a new Sony NEX-5R and I cannot even begin to explain how much I’m in love with it. No more sore neck and back for me! I’ve had my NEX-5R for almost three weeks now and I take it everywhere with me. The photo and video quality is off the charts (IMO).

    I don’t know about you ,but I got to the point with my DSLR that I just had no interest in taking it out for the day with me.

    My question for all of you travelers/vacationers/amateur photographers out there is this:

    How many photos have you taken in high-res on your DSLR that you’ve actually blown up to 20″x30″ or larger? I mean, a lot of us don’t even have homes to hang these photos in. Sure, it’s awesome to have ultra high quality photos but most of our photos just end up living on a stack of external hard-drives. What good is that? Why not purchase a camera that is cheaper, smaller and one that produces high quality photos that are more than sufficient for your blog, facebook, and whatever else you use on the web.

    Now, I completely understand why you would carry a DSLR if you’re a professional photographer but for most of us, it’s smarter to downgrade to the latest mirrorless camers which not only pump out high quality photos but also take a hell of a lot of weight off of our luggage.

    in saying that, look at Trey, who is now carrying an NEX-7. He’s making a statement and I have a feeling he’s going to be a huge influencer (if he’s not already) to those who have been thinking about downgrading but have been afraid to take the leap.

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your decision and I look forward to seeing what you end up purchasing!

    • Jessica Darko

      I agree with you, but I don’t consider these changes downgrades. It’s an upgrade to go from a heavy system to a light system that shoots at the same quality level. (and when comparing APS-C to APS-C often the mirrorless is better.)

      • Ryan Gargiulo

        You’re totally right. I don’t mean a technological downgrade, I’m more talking about size when it comes to downgrading. Sorry for the confusion!

  • Lars Clausen

    When getting a new camera recently, I was looking at the same choice between DSLR (crop format) and mirror-less. I tried the Canon 60D vs. the Olympus OM-D EM-5, and while the shots were of comparable quality, using the Olympus felt way worse than using the Canon. The Olympus was a gadget I had to fiddle with and adjust to get it to do the right thing. The EVF was like a barrier between me and the scene, and was hopeless in low light. The Canon was a pleasure for just taking the shot without getting in the way.

    So in the end, I decided for the camera that gave me most pleasure to use. At this point, it’s a small DSLR. Maybe in 5 or 10 years, it’s something else.

    • Jessica Darko

      SLR’s have been around for 70+ years. I think that after only 5 years it’s not surprising that someone used to an SLR (and how they work) would find it frustrating to use a different formfactor that works differently. I made the same transition, and the NEX-5 is worse than the NEX-7 (Which has several additional controls to resolve these kinds of issues) but it was more a matter of giving it some time to adapt rather than an intrinsic problem. Still, SLRs feel more natural.

  • Tim & Nat ✈

    I downgraded from a Nikon dslr to a Sony NEX 5R and haven’t looked back. My only peeve is that just before deciding to switch I had bought a $1000 wide angle lens for my Nikon. I bought an adaptor for the Sony and it works ok on it but takes too much fiddling.

    With the Sony lenses it works very well, low light isn’t a problem if you have a tripod and put it on the timer.

  • Andi Perullo

    I could never imagine downgrading after having my 7D for 2 years. Upgrading, maybe? Downgrading noooo way!!!

    • Jessica Darko

      I consider an NEX-7 to be an upgrade from the 7D. The sensors are the same size, only the Sony sensor is later technology and much higher quality.

  • Roy Santana

    Your images with your DSLR look great. I know what you mean about the weight though. I carry around a Nikon D3s for work. With lens and flash that’s five pounds of dead weight hanging around my neck and it gets tiring.

    For great depth of field (Bokeh) I use a 50mm f/1.4. That’s a beautiful lens that just creates art even in the simplest shots. I’m convinced the lens make the photo not just the photographer. Think of you and your camera as a team!

    I haven’t used Canon since the early 90′s and I don’t know a thing about the other brands, sorry. i guess my point is if you sacrifice what works for you in exchange for convenience you might not be happy with the results. Only one way to find out I suppose.

  • Jeff Bartlett

    The dreaded downgrade. I have long thought of adding a mirrorless camera to the mix, as it is such a pain to carry a dSLR, 70-200, 16-35, 50mm, speedlight, softbox, and tripod on multiday hikes. Hell, Sometimes i can hardly be bothered to carry it down the street.

    I would recommend taking a look at the Panasonic GX7. It looks nice. I love the idea of a moveable viewfinder. And what about the Fuiji X-E1? Again, the Sony NEX-7 might be the overall answer. I would worry about going smaller than a cmos sensor, simply because of the depth of field question you brought up…

    The quality of these mirrorless cameras is astounding and the speed is phenomenal. A few Nikon ambassadors are shooting motorsports with the V1′s simply because they can interrupt HD video to snag a photo without losing a frame of video.

    • Jessica Darko

      I suspect you mean “smaller than an APS-C sensor”. All the sensors from the 1/5″ in cellphones to full frame, these days are CMOS. (CCD is used only on machine vision applications I believe)

      The V1′s have some nice features, including really quick autofocus (an advantage over Sony and Olympus) .. and it’s a shame more makers don’t make their video support stills during the video, though I suspect the way Nikon is doing it results in a lower quality image. (EG: I assume it’s pulling a 1080 frame out of a 1080 video stream, rather than taking a full resolution image, as switching the sensors mode from reading out 1080 to full resolution during live video would usually be problematic.)

  • Jessica Darko

    I think you really made a mistake because you didn’t understand the comperables and you got sold by friends who had a good camera and loved it.

    Yes, the Olympus is, by all accounts, a good camera.

    But the criteria you laid out as important to you were:
    Pocket ability
    Sensor size
    Sensitivity (ISO)
    Image Stabilization

    On all of these criteria, the NEX-7 meets or exceeds the Olympus OM-D

    Image Stabilization– the OMD has IBIS which limits its range for what amount of shake it can mitigate. This also makes the camera bigger. The sony system uses OIS, optical image stabilization, which is more effective, at the cost of having it be in the lens. You seem to be operating under the assumption that Sony had no image stabilization, this is not the case, as OIS is there and is superior. However, if you were using a lot of manual focus lenses and shooting through old glass was important, then IBIS would be a better choice.

    Sensitivity– You can’t compare ISO to ISO like this. Specifically, the Sony shooting at 16,000 ISO will produce images better than the 33k ISO of the others, in the same light. Sony’s sensor technology is ahead of Olympus/Panasonic and Canon by quite a bit. They don’t need to boost the gain to 33k to get the results… so it’s an error on your part here. (most people don’t understand how ISO works so not a surprising error.) Remember also that the Sony sensor is much, much larger than the MFT, so turning the gain up to 33k on the MFT sensor will be necessary in situations where the APS-C sensor in the Sony is fine shooting at 16,000 or even 8,000 ISO.

    Or put simply, in the same light, you’re going to get more noise and lower image quality because you’ve got a smaller sensor with older technology pixels. Sony is at the cutting edge of the advancement in this area, and makes their own sensors (unlike Olympus which relies on Panasonic, which is one of the smaller players in Sensors with less R&D)… and it has more surface area (eg: more light) to work with. It’s a double whammy.

    Sensor Size- Sony managed to get a DSLR Sensor in a tiny body- APS-C is a large sensor, and still the NEX Camera bodies are smaller than the Micro-four-thirds system. This is a huge improvement, giving sony the edge here.

    Pocketability- despite the larger size sensor the sony cameras are smaller, so if you use a small lens you get a much more pocktable camera.

    Panasonic and Olympus are to be commended for finally shipping mirrorless systems. It’s embarrassing that Nikon and Canon are shipping mechanical mirrors a decade after tehy became pointless.

    The MFT system is commended for showing how good a mirrorless system can be, and if anyone thinks it’s easy, look at the compromised and pointless mirrorless systems from Canon and Nikon for an example of how big companies can fumble the opportunity.

    But, Sony did move the ball forward and produced a superior system with the E-Mount. Until someone comes out with an even better solution, this gives the sony system an inherent advantage.

    I’d love it if Sony did IBIS, as the best stabilization would be IBIS combined with OIS, and I like to use old lenses.

    But it appears you assumed there was no image stabilization on sony, and that the ISO was compromised, when in fact, Sony wins on both of those features.

    • almostfearless

      I didn’t buy anything yet, I am still in Mexico, so I have time to change my mind. I am definitely open to being persuaded. So given what I’m looking for, what model do this would be best for me?

      • Jessica Darko

        Ah, I misunderstood. Well, I do think the NEX-7 (of the two) is best, given what you’ve mentioned. But the great news is you have time to go try both cameras out and see what you like. If you have a lot of older Canon glass, that you want to use in manual focus mode, the IBIS of the Olympus might make it a better choice. If video shooting is important to you, then the OIS of the Sony might be the better choice. I would ignore ISO, and give weight to how they feel. The NEX-7 has two dials on the top to make it more convenient for people who don’t like auto-everything, the NEX-6 might be better if you don’t need those dials.

        There’s also the IS-3000 (or A-3000) a new camera in the NEX line that is shaped much like a DSLR (only it’s mirrorless and uses the E-mount lenses). It’s quite inexpensive (supposed to be around $400 I think) but it’s just been announced. This or the Panasonic GH3 might be good choices if you find the SLR formfactor to be something you really desire.

        Also, be advised that Sony is working on a full frame model in this series. It will be E-mount and mirror less. You can get details here: which is a rumor site. They have already shipped one full frame high end video camera with E-Mount. (the Full frame models will require lenses with a wider coverage area, but will use current APS-C designed lenses in an APS-C mode.)

        In fact, I’d say that lenses are the big expense. Camera bodies and models change over time and will get better. While the micro-four-thirds system has some great lenses and is ahead of Sony in this regard, the fact that the E-mount is an open standard and others can use it (for both lenses and cameras) bodes well for it. There are already high quality (expensive, but as a Canon shooter maybe right up your alley) Ziess lenses out there.

        I don’t deny, I am a fan of the sony system. I think it’s a big step forward from MFT, and was a fan of MFT until Sony came out with theirs.

        • almostfearless

          Interesting! So with the e-mount system if I invest in those lenses, I should be able to continue to use them with future models? I’m not really worried about expense, selling off my current camera will cover the new body and the 2-3 lenses that I will need.

          • Jessica Darko

            Yes, much the way Nikon has the DX and FX lenses, and if you use a DX lens on a full frame camera it just shoots in APS-C mode, the (rumored, I must admit, though the existence of that camcorder gives it a lot of legitimacy) future full frame NEX will support the older lenses in “Crop mode”.

            The more I think about it, the more I think that this is really about what lens system you want to invest in. This is a big decision (or at least to me it is).

            Cameras and sensors will improve over time. They aren’t disposable but are replaced regularly. Lenses, I think, have a 10 year lifespan.

            Ultimately, I chose the E-mount system because they support larger sensors while being mirrorless, and because it was open enough that third parties can make lenses for it. (I didn’t know fullframe was coming at the time.)

      • Tony Kuehn

        Not to fan the fanboy flames, but I do have a few thoughts on this stuff. The Nex cameras are indeed very nice, and small, except for the lenses. They are the same size as any other APS-C lens, and the lens selection right now is pretty poor. The nice Zeiss lenses will run you close to 1000USD. The equivalent Olympus lens is under 500USD and is optically just as good. In any case, the M43 system is just as open as the E-mount system, and there are quite a few manufacturers apart from Panasonic and Olympus making lenses now. With regards to the IBIS vs. OIS question, I have no doubt in my mind that Olympus’s IBIS is superior to the OIS that Sony uses. In fact, Olympus’s IBIS may start making its way into Sony cameras in one form or another after the recent Sony/Olympus partnership (Oly gets sensors, Sonys gets IBIS). In any case, the Olympus IBIS is the best I have ever used by a huge margin. I could get sharp shots hand held at an 8th of a second. That shouldn’t even be possible. In terms of image quality, the Nex cameras are not appreciably better (if at all) than the OM-D, that’s easily seen over at in their comparison tool on their reviews. In any case, the APS-C sensor isn’t even all that much bigger than the M43 sensor, not so much that you would be able to tell the difference in the shots, especially not on the web.

        ALSO! Oly just announced the EM-1 today. It’s the OM-D on steroids, it looks amazing. Should be out in October, and if you have the budget it will probably be worth waiting for.

        Anyway, thanks for the shout-out, always glad my advice was helpful, and so very glad you like my work!

    • almostfearless

      Just re-read your comment and noticed you did recommend the NEX-7. Sorry I missed that. The interesting thing though, and I have to pull up some links for you, is that I read the opposite on some tech sites. Let me look and see if I can find those. Or maybe I misread them. Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments!

      • almostfearless

        Here is one that talks about the ISO: “The E-M5 was able to keep noise under this level through ISO 3200. This is one stop better than the NEX-7, which only made it to ISO 1600.”,2817,2403444,00.asp

        • Jessica Darko

          Looks like my comment in response to the PCmag article is showing up above your comment where you link to the article. not sure why.

          • almostfearless

            disqus is weird sometimes.

      • Jessica Darko

        Ok, looked at that comment in context. Strictly speaking he’s too vague to evaluate exactly what he means by “under this level” (eg: what resolution images he’s looking at.) The fact that he’s talking about JPEGS rather than RAW is kinda telling that he….I’m trying to be polite here… doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

        Ideally, you could find a camera store with a dim area and both cameras and shoot a scene with both, but shoot it in a low resolution mode comparable to what you’d use in final output (say 1930×1080)… and then email yourself those results and compare them yourself.

        I go into detail a bit in one of the responses below, but the amateur “reviewers” at many of these sites do “ISO” comparisons that are scientifically invalid– they don’t look at the total quality of the image, and do Apples to Oranges comparisons.

        Strictly speaking, all he actually said is that both cameras kept the noise below his arbitrary definition of acceptable at their highest ISO. Ok, great, but how did the NEX-7 image look vs the OM-D of the same scene at the final output resolution?

        Personally, unless Olympus has dropped the ball, I bet the results from both cameras in a moderate situation, will be quite good at output resolution. Probably ISO is not going to be a deciding factor for you in the final result.

        I say this as someone who, since the age of about 13 has spent most of their photography time shooting at night, starting with very long film exposures, and proceeding from there. I am always shooting without “enough” light.

        ISO seems like something that can be objectively compared- “Which has the highest number?” But it isn’t. If you looked at an objective comparison, across the ISO range from 100-16,000 (or 33,000) and across levels of illumination from bright to candle light, you could make a matrix with one axis being illumination and the other being ISO and each point pick which camera did best in that situation…. and I bet no camera is going to win all the boxes.

        I think the Sony would probably win %60-%80 of those boxes…. but that still wouldn’t stop me from buying the Olympus based on other factors. (in this case, though the other factors for me support Sony, unless you’ve got a lot of older lenses you want to support and thus want in-body-image-stabilization.)

        The sony has more sensor area to work with, so it is going to ultimately get a stop or two more total light, is a very advanced sensor so each pixel may be more effective than the olympus (or maybe olympus is caught up, not sure). At any rate, the Sony has a fundamental advantage in such a comparison due to its larger sensor.

        • almostfearless

          “The sony has more sensor area to work with, so it is going to ultimately get a stop or two more total light, is a very advanced sensor so each pixel may be more effective than the olympus (or maybe olympus is caught up, not sure).” This makes perfect sense. Thank you for explaining all this to me, I think this will be helpful to other people reading this too.

  • Mark

    I had a similar situation about a year ago, and decided to buy the Pentax K1 mirror less camera, because allowed me to use lenses I have from 30 years ago from my classic Pentax K-1000, which I still use. With manual focus lenses, and no automatic light metering integration I haven’t used it as much as I’d expected, but the video is very nice. I still use my Canon G-12 more than anything else, because it shoots good photos, can fit in my pocket, has a lot of manual functions, and it is pretty rugged. I’m all for more gear though, and look forward to seeing your experience.

  • Heather Reisig

    Even an iphone camera is better if you actually take pictures with it.

    • almostfearless

      After I wrote this I was thinking, you know this is actually an UPGRADE because most of our personal photos are now with the iphone. :)

    • Kirsten Alana

      Great point, Heather! ;)

  • Kirsten Alana

    I had to sell my 5D mII just to be able to eat in darker days of freelancing. (Not that today is any less dark.) And while iPhone only has worked all right for me, I just can’t get over how much I miss having a camera in my hand. It’s definitely different.

    Yet, I like you, don’t miss the bulk and weight of that beloved dSLR of mine. So, I’ve been shopping for smaller too and I came to the exact same conclusions as you. Like you, I narrowed it down to the Sony and Olympus. I will go with Olympus because even though the Sony has a larger sensor — I can do more with interchangeable glass on the Olympus and I prefer the stabilization plus low light capability.

    Now, I just have to save my precious pennies to buy the Olympus :)

  • Jessica Darko

    One more suggestion… given it’s almost September, and you’re not buying right now, I’d suggest making your decision later in the year, or possibly early January. The OM-D and the NEX-7 are both last years models at this point. The camera makers have this habit of making new releases every year, usually with incremental upgrades so they aren’t worth upgrading every year, but if you’re not needing to buy right now, this fall should see a lot of introductions. I think Sonys major introductions will happen thru the month of September. I can’t speak for Olympus, as I don’t follow them as closely (though I did look at the OM-D again a few weeks ago in a bout of shopping around.)

    For keeping up on this kind of stuff (eg: announcement dates) I like to follow:
    or the sister site:

    Interestingly today on those two sites:
    - News of Sony publishing details on a full-frame E-Mount lens on their germany site (effectively confirming Full Frame NEX cameras are coming)
    - News of a leak of the Olympus E-M1, which appears to be the OM-D successor / this years OM-D model.

  • Roameroo

    So true. I was on the same track as you for awhile, I started with a Rebel T3i and a slew of lenses, my favorite being the cumbersome Canon E-FS 17-55mm. I brought all of my lenses everywhere. I hiked Petra with it, I would tote my big bag around to concerts. I even brought it out at night to clubs and bars banging into everyone as I swung it around while I danced.

    I loved that camera but I was ready to upgrade. I didn’t want the camera. I didn’t think the 60D was enough of a jump so I was looking into the 7D when I started to really think about what was important to me, and even though I am sure the 7D would blow away a mirrorless camera, portability is huge with the amount I travel.

    I sold all of my rebel gear to justify the upgrade and all in all I was able to acquire a pretty comparable setup with minimal further investment. I ended up going with the E-M5 as well and there has not been a day that I regretted it. That Oly 45mm is probably my favorite lens ever. The Panasnonic 20mm isn’t too shabby either.

    Congrats and welcome to the new world.


  • Sandy Clinton

    I’d be interested in your Canon 5D Mark III unless already spoken for. Let me know. Thanks, Sandy

  • Robert Jones

    I agree with the mirrorless 4/3 concept and have gone down that path with a Panasonic
    DMC-GF3. Very happy with the results. About to upgrade the the upcoming Panasonic DMC-G7 as it has some extra features and I will be able to use the lenses I have already.

  • Jennifer Donahue

    Christine, have you considered a Fuji? I have the Fuii XE-1 and love it. My husband shoots with a mk II. I just can’t carry that weight, especially on a long hike. Definitely consider the X- Pro1 as well.

  • Francesca Muir

    Fascinating post and equally interesting comments – very keen to see what you end up downsizing to. It can be such a minefield! F

  • Sofia von Porat

    This is interesting since I’m in the opposite situation.

    After my camera was stolen a year ago I decided to buy a compact camera instead (Panasonic DMC TZ20). In the beginning I loved it because it was so easy and lightweight, but a few months later I longed for a DSLR again.

    I hated how you basically had to edit every single photo to make it look nice, so last month I decided to buy the same DSLR I used to have.

    Having had a DSLR and then lose it only to have it again, made me really appreciate how great it is, and now I take more photos than ever before.

    I definitely think you should try out having a compact camera, but don’t get rid of the other one just yet, you might regret it. :)

  • Julia

    I carry a small and old Casio Exilim with me – the photos are good, at least good enough that I don’t feel compelled to improve them (I’m also not a photography hobbyist), but also I don’t worry about losing or breaking my camera. It is a huge stress off of me, and I am still usually quite happy with the images I take.

    I think it’s actually pretty incredible how “into” photography a lot of travel folks get – I don’t see the same sort of fervor for painting, or writing poems, or a lot of other ways of creating art from a trip. And I sort of wish I did (tangent alert) – because digital photos are so cheap and quick and easy, and we can create thousands of them with little thought or effort, it seems as though photography is the “cheapest” way to recall a trip, and one that actually gives us some sort of permission to be less present and look less with our eyes. Just my two cents.

  • Nicole Ramirez

    hello, I wanted to subscribe / email you but when I do, a window pops up to tell me I need a new profile. ??????????? TY Nicole Ramirez
    Photography by Nicole

  • Interested Observer

    Just to confuse you more, have you looked at Sony Alpha 7/7R, full frame?

    • almostfearless

      I sold my camera, but waited a bit to buy, so yes, the Alpha 7 came out after I wrote this post, so that’s what I’m getting. Actually I’m getting it next week!

      • Interested Observer

        I was a bit late reading this post, just had a quick look on DP Review & the Alpha 7 looks good, might go that way myself… Will be interested to see your photos & what you think of new camera.

        • almostfearless

          There aren’t a lot of lenses for it yet, although you can get an adapter, so I just got the 55 mm Carl Zeiss. I am excited to see what it does! It’s half the weight of my Canon 5D III, so that alone should be interesting.

  • EK Bradley

    I completely agree: that meme about how we need to improve our skills over upgrading our camera is bull. Yes, you need to work it properly but damn, the 6D and 5D mark III with my lens look sooo good. Yet pricey. And as you say, heavy.