I make no bones about it, mirror-less cameras are getting better and better and seriously challenging DSLR cameras, usually as lighter more compact and often more involving cameras you can have with you more of the time.
Recent cameras I have reviewed for the magazines from Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji in particular are quite simply outstanding. One area however where they had not quite caught up to bigger cameras with mirrors and optical viewfinders in my experience is when you select high speed tracking autofocus where autofocus needs to stay active and seeking as you track or pan with a speeding subject, for example Birds In Flight, (BIF), or sports subjects moving laterally across the field of view or towards or away from the camera position.
In almost all the mirror less cameras with Electronic Viewfinders, (EVF), that I have tried, the continuous AF has had limits to the frame rate at which you can shoot with AF active and the EVF itself does not update the view smoothly as frames are taken, making tracking by eye with an EVF quite a hit or miss affair.
By comparison, the optical viewfinder in a traditional DSLR just makes it easier to follow a fast subject as you pan, because the mirror blackout is in milliseconds, certainly fast enough for the human eye and brain to just dial out the moments the mirror is up. In effect you have an uninterrupted view of your subject as you pan. Electronic viewfinders on the other hand present you with a series of just captured frames, which makes it very difficult to keep your lens trained over the subject for long and fast sequences.
It’s a good thing therefore that major manufacturers continue to develop traditional DSLR cameras with high frame rates for us wildlife and sports shooters. A case in point is the recently updated Canon EOS 7D MkII, (see my review in the May issue of Outdoor Photography Magazine here AndyLuckCanon7DMKII), which can reel off 8 frames every second with a very impressive buffer of 320 jpegs or 24 RAW frames, before the camera has to pause and clear the buffer.
For those who can’t quite run to the full-frame Canon EOS 1DX and can also benefit from the extra bit of reach that the APSC crop can bring to Telephoto lenses, the 7D MkII is a very cost effective alternative, or even a good, equally tough second body for those with the full frame camera.
At the time my review of the 7D MkII was written, Nikon could not come close to the buffer rate of the new 7D MkII with anything in their APSC DSLR lineup, but as is the way with these things, no sooner had my review gone to press, than Nikon brought out their new D7200, which I am currently testing for a forthcoming reviews in both Outdoor Photography and Black + White Photography Magazines.
The D7200 is another fast camera, with 6 frames per second continuous high speed shooting, (7 FPS in 1.3 crop mode), not quite as fast as the Canon, but close enough to matter little. The previous model the D7100 could also shoot at the same high speed rate, but was severely limited by its buffer of around 6 RAW or 50 jpeg, meaning that depending on your card write speed, when shooting maximum frame rate sequences, you could be stuck with an unresponsive camera in less than a second if you were shooting RAW or RAW plus jpeg – hardly an ideal situation for a wildlife or sports shoot!
Lo and behold however, for the new D7200, Nikon have addressed the shortcoming and the buffer rate has gone up to a creditable 18 RAW or 100 jpeg. Again, not quite up there with the Canon, but more than enough for most people’s needs and the Nikon has advantages in other areas such as Dynamic range and slightly higher resolution via its 24 megapixel sensor.
However the mirror less landscape is changing and I have just been testing, again for forthcoming magazine review, a fantastic, some would say game-changing camera from Samsung, the new NX1 which can track with full autofocus at a blistering 15 frames per second!
I still prefer the optical viewfinder of the slower APSC DSLR cameras… just, but the game is definitely on between mirror less and APSC now. The amazing NX1 is super specified, with equal build quality to a Nikon or Canon, but literally smokes them for high speed frame rate. Then we have totally silent modes from the Fuji XT-1 and Panasonic GH4 thanks to their electronic shutter function, while there is no getting away from the subject disturbing clatter from the Nikon D7200 and Canon EOS 7D MkII! Game on indeed…