Best SMALL Mirrorless for Serious Portraiture Etc

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by jon_kobeck|1, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. I was a film guy for many years, using 35mm and then Hasselblad MF. Then went digital. Had the 5D (first gen) never
    really liked it. Then fell in love with the notion of high quality in a small package. A couple years ago I invested in the Fuji
    X-pro. The IQ was as good as my old 5D, but the camera just didnt feel right. It wasn't really that small at all and the slow
    focus got on my nerves. Got rid of that system. It seems like most of todays digital cameras are capable of making
    technically great images. I'm really looking for something in a small body that has excellent IQ. the 35mm prime is on my
    body 99% of the time so a fixed lens camera is not an issue. I also require something that works well in black and white.
    I had one of the Ricoh GRD's a few years ago and I loved the IQ on that little baby. I wish it had a 35mm lens and not a
    I was thinking of the Sony X100, or the Fuji X100s, or even an m4/3 Pany GF6 which is cheap right now in comparison
    to the X100s. I know the large sensor in the first two cameras are all the rage these days, but I don't think the m4/3 is
    any worse in IQ on the samples I have seen. I would love to hear some opinions regarding a smaller mirrorless camera
    for portraiture and interiors. Check out my style here
  2. did you jump ship from fuji before the firmware updates? because they improved the speed of the xp1 and xe1 considerably, and the xe2 and xt1 are even faster in terms of AF. for portraits, the xe1 with the 60/2.4 has amazing IQ and a small form factor. but just about any fuji body with that lens will do the same thing.
    just to be clear, what do you mean by portraits? the x100 has a 35mm equiv lens, great camera but i consider it more of a "candid" shooter than a "portrait" shooter. it does one thing better than any other camera i've used, namely fill flash in direct sunlight, thanks to the leaf shutter and 1/2000 xsync speed. the x100s does the same thing with faster AF, better hi-ISO, and a slightly worse sensor for IQ, at a higher cost. but for price performance ratio, it's hard to beat the original x100 or xe1 right now.
    the 60mm fuji lens, which is more of a traditional portrait lens, is slower to focus than the newer 56/1.2, but it's also quite smaller and less pricey. you can do some high-quality stuff with it without packing a lot of gear. the fuji 35/1.4 can also work as a portrait lens, especially if you are into blurred backgrounds.
    the RX100 is a good pocket camera, with a well-documented list of pros and cons, but it's slowish on the long end and won't give you the same shallow DoF as the Fujis (or a Sony A7, obvi). if you plan on printing above 8x10 or shooting above ISO 800, i would go with the larger sensor cameras.
  3. Panny GX-7 or Oly E-M with 45mm if you want small. I myself would go for Sony NE6X/A6000 with 50mm OSS.
  4. I use Sony cameras. The A7 gives beautiful full frame results. The NEX 6 gives you APS-C quality in a jacket pocket shooter with a nice range of primes available. I recently picked up the RX100M2 and I'm amazed at the quality from such a tiny camera. All work well for portraiture. The NEX 6 or A6000 represent good bang for the buck for all around quality/size/price.
  5. Sigma DP3m
  6. Any Oly OMD model plus the 45mm f1.8 and/or 25mm f1.8 would deliver very good image quality with extremely fast AF and responsiveness.
  7. I dont understand why the OMD-M1 is so expensive. Its almost as much as a full frame Sony and the
    same price as the Fuji X100s with no lens. I never held one, but it looks like its a big camera for a small
  8. From your web site you look like a candidate for an X100S. The Fuji add on wide and tele converters for that are actually really good too. If you really don't like the Fujis and want something in a "normal" prime you could look at a Sony NEX (which are now sold under the Alpha label - the Alpha A6000 looks pretty compelling) with a 32mm/1.8 Zeiss.
  9. Fuji X100S...Hands down it is one of the best. Now would I lie to you?
  10. Yes the X100s is Very tempting to me, especially when I look at the OMD line which is pricey and has a
    smaller sensor. The portraiture work on my website was with a MF Hasselblad using a normal (55 mm lens
    in 35mm terms) but with those big square negatives it balanced out the image. on my Nikon Fm film
    cameras the 35m prime lives on that body. The only thing that concerns me about the Fuji is the Raw file
    issue. I hear alot about the Jpegs but I need RAW. I'm not a fan of the oversaturated look of those Jpegs. I
    also shoot black and white
  11. You can easily tone down the saturation of the jpgs. As for raw, it took a while for software companies to catch on to
    processing X-Trans files but now Adobe, Apple and Capture One are all quite good at it.
  12. Jon, I like your work and the portraits appear to be more or less straight film scans. If you'd like to keep that sort of quality or character in a smaller camera, the Fuji X100s or other X-series more recent than the X-Pro 1 might do the trick.
    The over-saturated reds bother me on some photos and occasionally I'll desaturate the reds in the JPEGs before posting them online. Easy enough to fix in raw. Photo Ninja produces very good results with Fuji RAFs, although processing speed seems a bit sluggish.
    Even the bargain priced X-A1 focuses well enough for portraits or slow moving subjects. I use the manual focus auto-lock option quite a bit, assigned to the Fn button next to the shutter release.
    But, much as I love the Fuji X-series image quality, the lack of built in stabilization in the X100s is a deal breaker for me for a handheld candid camera. My hands are too shaky and I don't want to crank up the ISO all the time to offset it. I'm leaning toward an Olympus OM-D model for my next mirrorless model with eye level finder, because the sensor based stabilization works with any lens.
    But if Fuji added sensor stabilization to a hypothetical X-E3 or X-Pro 2, I'd probably stick with Fuji. I really like the IQ and not having to tweak every photo in Lightroom. I do most processing in the camera using the built in raw converter. In-camera b&w is good, reminiscent of T-Max 100 and Fuji Neopan.
  13. Lex; yes I kind of regret ditching the X-Pro. I probably should have stuck with it. I feel silly re-buying that
    camera. I just looked at the X-A1. Very low price for a camera like that. How is the kit lens? I assume it has
    the same sensor and image IQ and the X-Pro
  14. The A1 has a Bayer type sensor - very similar but with a traditional Bayer pattern. The image quality differences are very
    difficult to notice. The kit lens is very good. Not as good as the 18-55 kit lens from the X-E1/E2/T1 but better than you
    usually get with an APSC kit lens and pretty small.

    The smallest lens of the bunch is the 27mm, which is also sharp.
  15. The X-A1 has a Bayer sensor rather than the X-Trans, but as Andy noted the IQ is almost identical to the X-Trans. Some folks make a huge issue out of the differences, but those differences are negligible in most practical applications. Photos from Fuji X-series cameras all have that Fuji look.
    The X-A1 has outstanding image quality but I find it a bit awkward for some types of photography due to the rear LCD-only design. I mostly use it for static subjects - landscapes, still lifes, etc. I've taken a few candids and posed portraits with it but it's awkward for me. I'd rather have an eye level finder for photographing people.
    The 16-50 kit zoom is very good but, again, an awkward combo for the rear LCD-only, arms extended eye level hold. I mostly use it like a TLR, via the tilt screen. Very handy for low angle stuff from a tripod, and I'm using it a lot with a 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkor via a Fotasy adapter.
    Regarding the 16-50 kit zoom, the sweet spot is 24-50mm, and it's very sharp for a plasticky kit zoom. But it has nearly fisheye-level barrel distortion at 16mm, most of which is fixed in-camera for JPEGs, or in post via the raw files. But this comes at the expense of sharpness at the corners and edges. But I do use it a lot at or near 16mm, although I'm careful to avoid placing anything at the edges and corners that should be critically sharp.
    Overall I like the X-A1 and Fuji's IQ so much I'm seriously considering one of the Fuji's with an eye level finder.
  16. I'm not a "serious portraiture photographer" and this may sound sacriligious to you guys, but how would you compare the IQ from the EOS-M and its 22mm prime to any of these cameras? Since lightning-fast AF isn't necessarily needed for portraiture, it would seem that the M's AF would be sufficient. I happen to really enjoy using the camera but haven't used any of these others and therefore cannot begin to guess how it would compare. Just curious...
  17. i'd like to suggest that maybe you're looking at this backwards -- instead of choosing a camera/system based on bodies, think about what lenses you'd want to use, and then choose the body based on that. there are inherent compromises with every mirrorless camera, so it's really just a matter of what you can live with.
    IMO the Fuji X-cameras are all pretty good and a big plus is they all can use the same lenses -- which are really the main draw here. even the Zeiss Touts aren't much better if at all than the Fuji OEM lenses. if you shot portraits at 55mm with film, then the Fuji 35/1.4 would be an excellent choice if you like shallow DoF-style portraits. and the 18-55 zoom is probably the best "kit lens" offered by any manufacturer, IQ-wise, and is good enough for probably 80% of typical shooting (although the primes are so enjoyable aesthetically, my 18-55 doesnt see nearly enough stick time). the stabilization is a big plus when shooting with a smallish camera and the metal build just gives it a solid feel. at current prices, the XE1 w/ 18-55 is a serious deal. at the long end, it's still f/4, which is pretty good.
    on the m4/3 side of things, you'd probably be looking at the Panaleica 25/1.4 or the Oly 25/1.8. the Oly is much smaller but on m4/3, you probably need every bit of aperture speed you can get to balance the smaller sensor. the built-in stabilization is a nice feature but they can be pricier than larger-sensor cameras.
    in Sony e-mount, you'd probably be looking at the 35/1.8 OSS or the 18-55 OSS or 16-50 zooms. the 35 got a good photozone review, but neither of the zooms fared well.
    meanwhile, i'm having lots of fun using the XE1, of which i recently bought a second body so i could have a 2-camera setup without needing to change lenses. the body is very compact and highly configurable; with the 27mm prime, it has about the same footprint as the x100, which is to say svelte and inobtrusive -- a go-to lens for street photography. with the 35 or 18-55, it's not exactly pocketable, but the IQ is equal or better to crop sensor DSLR output IMO, and both those lenses are fantastic. the 60/2.4 is also surprisingly versatile, being able to handle pseudo-macro at 1:2 and handheld portraits. i've also used it as a short tele for landscape; it may be the sharpest of all the Fuji X-lenses to date. the downside to the XE1 is, it sometimes just misses focus altogether, the EVF is small, and the LCD is a wash in bright sunlight. But the more i use it, the more i like it, and i'm learning to find workarounds for most of its quirks. the IQ from such a small package continues to amaze. if you go that route, i highly recommend the hotshoe-mounted thumbgrip, which really improves the handling.
  18. Does it really matter what cam you are using?]
  19. "I find it a bit awkward for some types of photography due to the rear LCD-only design. I mostly use it for static subjects - landscapes, still lifes, etc." Lex.
    I use mine for any subject, and I do not feel it is lacking...If I did I would replace it immediately. I do not enjoyment is paramount. Bless you Lex.
    I will post some photos from it with a emphasis on its supposed shortcomings.
    Methinks, because a honest price , it must be....a little thing...unworthy, even to its owners. Not a real cam...too cheap.
    In the severe, bright, rare sunshine UK, the flip screen is easy to see.
    The 27mm lense is a match for flare and super sharp. Hey, I also use the 'word' Leica.
  20. Try a better SD card.
  21. I have also had a Sony 5N, excellent camera, but the Fuji lenses are in a different place.

    Leica, Fuji (Hasselblad) the bad boys.
  22. "lightning-fast AF isn't necessarily needed for portraiture"

    Yea up until recently I was working with a Hasselblad 501C (manual focus lens, handheld light meter)
  23. The Xe1 is cheap! I had that same kit zoom on my X-Pro and I think I sold it for 450.00
    Was a good lens.
    If I did go the Xe1 route I may get the external viewfinder
  24. I use the Sony Nex 5N with an 18-200, 3.5-6.3f lens. The camera is small, then lens is not particularly small. Don't know whether the IQ is the best in the world, but I find that I use it frequently. Attached is a recent image shot at ISO 800, f5, 1/80 at 45mm. You can find additional examples of Sony Nex 5N pictures on my website at, in the Images of Peru and Images from South Africa. In the 'Images of Peru' section, if you display the picture at large size and move the cursor over the upper right corner and an info box pops up that show which camera (Sony vs D800 or GoPro) took the picture. With good light the Sony will compete quite well.
  25. I like the Fuji X100 quite a lot.
  26. Any Oly OMD model plus the 45mm f1.8 and/or 25mm f1.8 would deliver very good image quality with extremely fast AF and responsiveness.​
    That would be (and is!) my preference as well (especially given cost as a consideration), but it's really hard to fault any of the choices. There are varied responses because there are many good options.
    I doubt many people are going to experience their camera/system choice as the limiting factor in the quality of their work.
  27. My favorite portrait camera these days is the Sony NEX. Had a good time with the NEX-5n and now using the A6000. I'm pleased with the image quality, low light performance, focus peaking for working with MF lenses, and the tilt-out screen gives me a lower camera position which I often like.
    Shooting with the Sony 50mm f/1.8, looking at the 55mm Zeiss, and enjoying several MF lenses.
  28. My Mum, aged 92, taken by a Nex 6, and a Sigma 30 mm lens. I 'm not looking for anything more in a pic. Lazy or what. Me, not Mum!
  29. Here's a recent sample, Sony A6000, Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II lens (Nikon mount) with adapter, ISO 400.
  30. You don't have to spend a lot of money, especially if you go with m4/3s. There are several good, discontinued and heavily discounted m4/3s bodies form both Olympus & Panasonic. The Oly 45/1.8 is a superb lens that works well on any one of these bodies. Here's a shot taken with an old Oly EPL-1 with the 45/1.8.[​IMG]
  31. Here's one with the Fuji x100, which I like better than the x100s.
  32. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    A few points that seem common ground or close to common ground between us - I don’t mind working with a fixed lens; I use 5D’s and a 35/1.4 quite a lot; I wanted something smaller, portable, pocketable; I wanted good quality; I liked the idea of images SOOC. I also fancied a leaf shutter.
    I looked seriously at the x100 and then bought an x100s.
    I am happy I did. The lens is very sharp; the leaf shutter is useful (and I use it); then menu system seems silly in its prioritization, but that’s not impossible for me to get around; JPEG (B&W and COLOUR), SOOC are definitely a viable option, the battery when getting flat dies very quickly – you do need two.
    I think the choice ends up being in the minutia, as there are quite a few cameras that will deliver the overall image quality that you want. For me, it was the leaf shutter; the variety of JPEG SOOC control; and slightly larger size and balance and feel in my hands that made the x100s my choice.
    A couple here:
    And a few more here:
  33. Sony NEX-7 bodies with all my Canon FDn lenses from 24mm to 400mm are simply outstanding...let me re-engage my entire inventory I'd kept stored all the years from film days and the huge sensor / cropping capability is incredible.

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