There’s a new movement in the digital camera market. We’re seeing an emergence of entirely new category of cameras that slots nicely in between pocket digital camera and the mid-grade DSLR. Until now choosing between a pocket sized digital camera and a dedicated DSLR meant dealing with trade-offs. But that is no longer the case.
These new type of cameras are known as “Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera” (MILC), “Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens” (EVIL), “Micros”, or “Hybrid Camera” among others. They are significantly smaller in size than the DSLR because they have less moving parts. Notably, the lack of the flipping mirror (hence the name ‘mirrorless’) which eliminates the need for number of other mechanical components that are found in SLR designs.
These hybrid/mirrorless cameras are just as small as a typical pocket sized digicam making them much more portable than DSLRs. Despite their small size these cameras have significantly larger sensors (some equal to that of the entry-level DSLR) capable of higher quality images. Also, one of the most appealing feature of the hybrid/mirrorless is the interchangeable lens which make them as flexible and capable as any consumer-level DSLR.
Due to the nature of their design, however, Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras have their drawbacks:
– They do not feature Through-The-Lens (TTL) optical viewfinder
– Focus speed is known to be slower than typical DSLRs
– Limited number of direct controls (i.e. dedicated buttons)
– Limited lens choices (at the moment)
– Sacrificed pocketability when longer lens is attached
Performance of the MILC is improving with every new product released by number of respectable manufacturers. Although the possibility of hybrid cameras replacing the DSLR entirely is unlikely, they’re becoming a worthy competition to an entry-level DSRL.
One thing that would make these Hybrid Cameras truly desirable to enthusiasts is if they can accept the line of lenses made for SLR. But that would never happen because it would be a marketing suicide for big sellers of SLRs and lenses like Canon and Nikon.
Pictures: Sony NEX5, Samsung NX100, Olympus PEN, Panasonic Lumix GF2
I recently picked up an extra mint example of the vintage Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 prime lens on eBay. Judging by the serial number and the type, it’s most likely from the late 1960s or early 70s. This lens looks amazingly clean. Not only for its age, but clean. Period. It has not even a single rub mark on the barrel. It looks like it may have been stashed in the garage or in the attic for the past 40 years or so.
This Nikkor-S feels very solid and is built like a tank. The focus ring turns with a bit of dignified resistance – a feeling that’s missing from lot of modern plastic lenses. The aperture ring snaps into position with a confident click. Makes me want to just turn the ring back and forth just to feel the satisfying snap. It’s a beautifully constructed piece of equipment. I have no reason to doubt this lens will outlast my camera or any of my modern equipment.
Unfortunately, any non-AI (or pre-AI) Nikkor lenses need to have its aperture ring filed down in order to be mounted on the Nikon F-mount. It’s a shame because this lens was in such mint condition – it broke my heart when the time came to perform the surgery on this little gem.
While a full AI conversion on pre-AI (or non AI) Nikkor Lenses is a common practice, it’s useless on the D90. Because the D90 does not have AI coupling ability nor will it meter with lenses made before Auto Focus (AF). However, I still needed to modify the aperture ring on the lens for it to mount properly. On the D90 lens mount, at about 8 o’clock, there is a switch that senses the minimum aperture. In my case, I don’t need this lens to interact with this switch. All I had to do was file away part of the aperture ring on the lens so it clears this switch. Otherwise, this switch will be crushed the moment you try to force mount the lens.
To do this I had to disassemble the aperture ring. I know from experience that manufactured goods from this era are put together in rather rustic fashion compared to the modern day consumer products. Don’t get me wrong, the build quality is superb but it’s just that the pieces – once you take them apart, it’s difficult to realize how they’re put together. This is in contrast to the modern day manufactured products where each pieces are designed in a way that it’s easy to see how they are meant to be assembled. This is probably so that an unskilled worker can assemble the pieces easily and quickly. Having said that, when working with a vintage piece you must remember how each piece came out otherwise you’d be lost for a very long time.
I used this as a guide. The example in the link uses a lens made in different year so the steps for removing the ring is slightly different.
NIKON D90 with NIKKOR-S 50mm f/1.4
It was a nerve-wrecking experience but a rewarding one. Here it is, a Nikon D90 with a beautifully mounted Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4. Note, there is no metering with this set-up. You have to guess or use the Sunny 16 Rule. But this isn’t a big deal with modern DSLRs since you can preview the exposure immediately. The focus is manual, of course. I have taken a few test shots with this lens and it does seems to create the infamous ‘dreamy’ look at wider apertures. Being fully manual (including metering), it probably won’t see many action other than still-life shots or portraits. I will post the results as soon as I do some proper shooting with this lens.