Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Using Mirrorless for NightScapes?

The Canon EOS-M Mirrorless Digital Camera with the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
The Mirrorless Option: I love my Canon 5D Mark III for High ISO Milky Way Photography, but I realize that not everyone has $3500 to spend on a camera body, nor do they want the bulk of a full-frame sensor camera. The new mirrorless digital cameras appear to be an interesting option. They are small, lightweight (a great backpacking camera), relatively inexpensive, have tons of prosumer features, and some have large, APS-C size (23.6 x 15.6 mm) image sensors for higher image quality, even at high ISO's.

This is a great option for someone who wants higher quality and more features than what a typical "point-n-shot" camera has to offer. They want the fexibility of interchangeable lenses, but they don't want the expense or the bulk of a DSLR.

Canon Enters Late: Two of the best mirrorless cameras, in my opinion, have been the Sony Alpha NEX-7 and the Fujifilm X-Pro1. Nikon has gone it's own way with the more family-friendly 1 J1 and 1 V1 models that use a much smaller 1" (13.2 x 8.8 mm) sensor. Canon has been the last major manufacture to introduce a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with the Canon EOS M (a DP preview with lots of feedback). PC Magazine and CNET both gave it high marks for design, workmanship and image quality, but complained about lack of a built-in flash, slow autofocus and startup times (although actual users claim that with the latest firmware update, the Canon EOS M is no slower than the Sony NEX-7, and only slightly slower in focusing speed).

Prosumer Canon EOS M (Mirrorless) Features: This camera has many high-end features that are only available in DSLR cameras costing two and three times as much:

  • 18MP APS-C 'Hybrid CMOS' sensor
  • 14-bit DIGIC5 processor (can save to 14bit RAW format)
  • ISO 100-12800 standard, 25600 expanded
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound, continuous autofocus
  • 4.3 fps continuous shooting, 3 fps with autofocus tracking
  • Multi Shot Noise Reduction provides outstanding noise reduction while preserving fine detail in photos at high ISO speeds. With MSNR activated, the camera takes four consecutive shots of the same image, then merges and aligns them, reducing noise and blur.
  • Handheld Nightscene reduces camera shake, allowing users to shoot beautiful images within dark settings, and often without the need for a tripod.
  • High Dynamic Range is an assistive function that shoots three images of the exact same image simultaneously in various exposures and combines the three into one perfectly balanced photo. This is ideal when shooting images that have both shadow and bright light and those whose subject is lit from behind.

Canon Lens Mount Adapter: What makes the Canon EOS M attractive to me, as a Canon user, is that with the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, I can also use all my Canon EF and EF-S lenses on this little camera (and link all the electronic features) —although it may look a little funny with some of my larger telephoto lens!

The Canon EOS-M Mirrorless Digital Camera with the very compact 22mm f/2 STM Lens
Price Drop: B&H has partnered with Canon for a limited time (offer ends July 31, 2013) price reduction ($250 instant savings) on the Canon EOS-M Mirrorless Digital Camera:

Canon EOS-M Mirrorless with EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Lens - $399.00 (regularly $649)
Canon EOS-M Mirrorless with EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens - $349.00 (reg. $599)

Canon EF-M Lens Adapter Kit for Canon EF / EF-S Lenses - $159.00


  1. This post is right on point. I'd add a couple of other thoughts in support of it:

    - Using adapters, mirrorless cameras can accept a big range of lenses from other camera makers. A Sony NEX camera can mount a Zeiss or Canon lens for instance and make use of whatever fine night optics you may already have access to. In addition, Metabones has recently released a focal length reducer ( that optically reduces the focal length of a lens to 70% of its focal length. This creates an additional stop of aperture with the lens. When a full-frame lens is paired with an APS-C sized sensor (like Canon EF mated to a Sony NEX using the Speedbooster) the focal length reduction is approximately canceled out by the crop factor. The net result is a lens/camera combo where the lens image is at its nominal full-frame focal length, and one stop faster than on a full-frame camera.

    - Even without an adapter, the smaller sensor cameras take great advantage of the center of the image circle some of the less expensive optics available. The Samyang/Bower lenses can only benefit from the smaller sensors and the use of just the best part of their image circles. And with the upcoming 16mm f/2 Samyang lens with native mounts for M43, Fuji, and Sony NEX, it's sure to be a hit for night shooters and convince many to opt to bring the smaller sensor camera out to take advantage of the very fast aperture.

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