Sunday, April 07, 2013

what i want in a camera i finally have

The Collection
I have over the last few years written about my wants in a camera. And then today, for whatever reason, I realized I pretty much have what I've yearned for. How did that happen, you ask? The sensors, specifically the Sony sensors, came along and gave me pretty much all I ever asked for with regards to image quality, my biggest want. In particular, the sensors in the NEX-5N and E-M5. They're pretty well matched where it matters to me. Yes, yes, the NEX-5N scores slightly higher numerically than the E-M5 according to DxOMark, but in practical use, they're essentially equal, and compared to the three Pens in my collection, they are well beyond what I'd been working with in regards to overall sensor capability. And to be honest the Pens aren't all the bad to start with.

ModelDxOMark scorecolor depth, bitsexposure range, EVlow-light, ISO Year announced
NEX-5N 77 23.6 12.7 1079 2011
E-M5 71 22.8 12.3 826 2012
E-PL2 5521.4 10.2573 2010
E-PL1 5521.5 10.1487 2010
E-P2 5621.4 10.4505 2009

As you'll note in the chart I've pulled the pertinent DxOMark scores for my cameras from the eponymous website. I tried to rank them in descending score order, but decided at the last minute to rank them both in score order and the year they were released. Yes, I know the 5N was announced six months before the E-M5 (August 2011 vs February 2012). But that's surprisingly not that far apart.

Other facts from the chart:
  • There's no difference between the E-P2 and the E-PL2. They also span a seven month release from November 2009 to June 2010. And, oh, by the way, there's no difference between the E-3's score, a camera announced in 2007, and the E-P2's, even though the E-3 is 10MP and the E-P2 is 12MP. Think about that.
  • There's essentially a two decadal jump score-wize between the Pen's score and the E-M5's score. It shows in the quality files I get from the E-M5.
  • The real boost shows in the exposure range. I really do see two extra EV of exposure range in the E-M5 and 5N, and not just in the highlights, but across the entire exposure range.
  • Cameras that score within the same decade (50s for the Pens, 70s for the E-M5 and 5N) behave equivalently. Except for extreme exposure/corner circumstances, I can't tell the difference between the E-M5 and the 5N, and when I believe I do I'm really not that sure. And that's a good thing.
  • I don't care about megapixels. Really, I don't.
At this point I could split hairs over handling between the various cameras. A lot of folks do on the web. I've read plenty about handling issues with the E-M5 and the 5N. Rest assured that in my ham-sized hands they handle equally well. I enjoy using all five or else I wouldn't have them.

But I have reached a point where I'm pretty much tapped out with regards to gear. I have all these primes and no real need for more. Well, I could use something around 200mm to 300mm, and I'd rather have it in µ4:3rds mount to take full advantage of the E-M5's IBIS, which is absolutely phenomenal.

I've learned a fundamental truth from all the shooting, observing, and staring at DxOMark numbers: all cameras that have a score of 70 or higher are essentially in the sweet spot of digital photography. If the sensor is in that range then you can be assured of excellent performance regardless of brand.

Photographically speaking I'm happy, bordering on ecstatic. Who'd of thought that would ever happen to me?

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