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Which Mirrorless system should I pick for shooting with Leica M and Zeiss ZM glass? And why?

My priorities:

  • Manual focusing assists (can be rangefinder system, can be focus peaking, I hate picture-in-picture though)
  • Good viewfinder (preferably build-in, either OVF or EVF, doesn't make much difference for me - I worked with both, enjoyed both)
  • Good RAW image quality at low ISOs (don't care about anything above ISO400)
  • Lightroom-integrated workflow (suppose I can pass with DXO or something else though)
  • High-quality adaptors (don't want anything plastic or some cheap chinese aluminium)

What I don't care about:

  • Autofocus
  • JPG image quality, build-in raw processing or anything that's applied to JPGs only. I'm a RAW shooter.
  • Native glass, or adaptors for other bayonets.
  • Mirrorless with sensors from Point & Shoot cameras (Pentax Q, Nikon 1, etc.)

I can't afford Leica. Thought about buying Zeiss Ikon, but going fully into a film photography might limit me in some types of the shooting I do, so it went down in priority, perhaps one day when I get enough cash I'll go for it as a secondary camera as well... it's gorgeous. Pure photography tool unlike these mirrorless toys. But for a time being it seems like I could use a mirrorless so: what's your advice?

What are the options on a market?
Are there any particular strong or weak points of any system you propose?
How they perform with M-mount glass? Are there any artefacts?
Is there any specific camera you'd recommend? What would be it's weak points?

share|improve this question
    
+1 for "What I don't care about". –  Unapiedra Feb 4 '13 at 20:09
    
What is picture-in-picture focus assist? –  Unapiedra Feb 4 '13 at 20:21
    
@Unapiedra Take a look at this: youtube.com/… –  MarcinWolny Feb 4 '13 at 21:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You'll certainly want the largest sensor you can get your hands on. Currently APS-C mirrorless systems are available from Sony, Fuji and Canon and Samsung. I wouldn't choose Canon as it's the least mature system with only one camera body, which lacks any sort of viewfinder. Samsung is out, as the flange focal distance is 25mm, only 2mm shorter than M mount, so not enough space for an adaptor.

Personally I would go with Sony and chose the NEX6. Only 16MP compared to it's 24MP but can cope with wide rangefinder lenses without colour shifts in the corners. The sensor has great dynamic range, the body has a built in high resolution electronic viewfinder and the camera features focus peaking for easier manual focus.

The Fuji X-Pro1 is a strong contender, with an innovative colour filter array and no AA filter on the sensor. However you might have problems using lightroom due to the unconventional CFA needing a non-standard demosaicing algorithm.

Looking forward

The ultimate mirrorless camera has yet to be released. All models have their quirks, and all models (other than the Leicas) are limited to APS-C size sensors. However this is set to change.

Sony are widely believed to be working on a full frame version of the NEX which will really make the M-mount lenses shine. Fuji have vaguely hinted at doing the same, however Sony have actually made one full frame E mount video camera, and one full frame mirrorless compact (albeit with fixed lens). Estimated date for the full frame NEX stills camera is early 2014.

With this in mind you may want to wait a bit, or get one of the current bodies as a stopgap.

Metabones make a full frame adaptor for NEX in the form of a focal reducer that projects a full frame image onto the APS-C sensor, however it wont work on rangefinder lenses due to the short flange focal distance for the M mount.

share|improve this answer
    
Saving other people to look it up: CFA = Colour Filter Array –  Unapiedra Feb 4 '13 at 20:10
    
@Matt Grum - What about color fringing and color shifts on NEX from Leica glass? Heard some really bad opinions about NEX7 on that mater. "Metabones make a full frame adaptor for NEX in the form of a focal reducer that projects a full frame image onto the APS-C sensor" - Yea, been through that, seen the pictures, sorry, marketing gimmicks don't work on me. –  MarcinWolny Feb 5 '13 at 18:01
    
@MarcinWolny The SB isn't a marketing gimmick, but it's more for video work. It wont take M mount lenses anyway. Color shifts are a problem with the NEX7 when using wide angle rangefinder lenses. The NEX6 (sort of successor to the 7, also has built in EVF) is reportedly much better in this regard. Short backfocus lenses have always been a problem for digital sensors due to the oblique angles of incidence. Finally, the ultimate mirrorless camera has yet to be produced (but may be soon), so you may have to get an intermediate body in the meantime. –  Matt Grum Feb 6 '13 at 9:21
    
@MattGrum it's quite weird that the issue occurs only with NEX7 though, especially in regards of color shift. As Steve Huff posted - Ricoh for example never had such issues. Even though it too uses the APS-C CMOS sensor. And to make it even more fun it looks like there's color shift not only at the edges, but also at different apertures which makes it rather pointless to buy. I wonder what other cameras have similar issues with M-glass, especially aperture-related color shifts.? –  MarcinWolny Feb 8 '13 at 22:22
    
Would you change anything about your answer a year later? Sony now has a FF for example. –  Nathan L Feb 24 at 21:37

Well to give you details canon has not produced any official leica or zeiss adaptors for eos m. Also eos m does not have viewfinder but an external hotshoe viewfinder sold separately. The image quality is one of the best among others in terms of image overall contrast and color values. To be honest using the peak quality lenses with low quality bodies(according to lens) is not what I recommend. for those lenses your best choice -though you're telling expensive- is leica-m. For last, I have experienced out of focus results in prime lenses with adaptors in different brand experiments which are canon, nikon and sony using leica and zeiss lenses. Which are inevitable because of body(+processor) - lens compatiblity. Those occur in higher percents as the min f stop of the prime lens decraeses.

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"The important part I want to point out is that canon and nikon are the pioneers in dslr and their imaging technologies are far beyond any other" - no offense man, but I used bit more brands then you did, and this sentence you just made here asks for only one replay: Pure BS. One of these BSs that you can see only from most brand-blinded people. –  MarcinWolny Feb 4 '13 at 21:07
    
And Nikon has historically used Sony-manufactured sensors! –  MikeW Feb 4 '13 at 21:39
    
to Marcin, to be honest probably you could have used more then me if you are a field tester in any of the review companies and dont know if this is your profession or not. Well here are the TIPA Awards 2012, also I'm using mkIII and mkII and have tried many other so called similar machines. Canon also has the best customer support with CPN. anyways Most of the photo artists, visual artists, fashion and portrait photographer are using canon. Those are my points and your points are BS lol. –  Yiğit Hür Ulaş Feb 4 '13 at 22:39
    
To MikeW sorry mate but Intel makes processors, Mac does computers, your argument is invalid. I have used sony too, alpha is literally useless. –  Yiğit Hür Ulaş Feb 4 '13 at 22:39
    
@YiğitHürUlaş I'd suggest to be les fanatic about the gear. And tipa awards are joke, everyone aware know that. It's like if you'd call a Ken Rockwell as an authority here. Please, take a look at FAQ and be aware that we do not discuss here which brand is the best. –  MarcinWolny Feb 5 '13 at 11:40

I would look at the Ricoh GXR system. It is fantastic to use, and the M Mount module is optimised for Leica mount lenses due to the design of the sensor, which means perfect sharpness into corners, and no colour shifts.

Today you can pick up bodies, EVF and M mounts very cheaply, and compile a system excluding glass for about £ 500.

Why?

Build quality, Optimised sensor, 100% viewfinder and no EVF blur, 2 types of Focus peaking and magnification. Accurate focusing & silent shutter, Excellent customisable ergos, Extremely good defn/ sharpness at high ISOs, No AA filter

Why not?

Slow start up, Evident noise, film-like in nature, at high ISOs. Only 12 MP? Probably end of the road for the GXR system.

share|improve this answer
    
GXR doesn't really qualify as a "mirrorless system" does it? It's just one body released in 2009 with no successor nor any known plans from Ricoh. I also don't think that the "Build quality" is any advantage of it. It's looks like Frankencamera with rather horrific ergonomics. So even if it's made fully of titanium and weather-sealed - I still would have a lot of trouble thinking about it as something having good build quality. –  MarcinWolny Feb 4 '13 at 22:12
    
Sure. It's kind of an odd system, but I think it qualifies, and it's the only non-Leica option to offer a native M-mount. –  mattdm Feb 4 '13 at 23:15
    
@mattdm Native? I thought it needs M-mount module to use Leica glass. Can you point me in the right direction for a native M-mount version? Cause I cannot find it myself. :( –  MarcinWolny Feb 5 '13 at 11:42
    
@MarcinWolny It's a unique system. The module isn't an adapter, but rather a complete unit with the mount and a sensor designed to match. –  mattdm Feb 5 '13 at 12:04
    
@mattdm oh, ok, I get what you mean now. Thought that Ricoh actually developed native M-mount camera I haven't heard about. Well, I think I'll pass on GXR. Major reason being that it's a blind investment in a system that might have no future. I seen some of the samples though and they look really nice, another thing being that Ricoh seems to managed to do something many failed - a sensor that actually works well with Leica M glass. Problem is that it's only 12 MPx on rather ancient sensor (in terms of DR, etc.) and body leaves much to wish for. Thanks for mentioning it though! –  MarcinWolny Feb 5 '13 at 17:59

Consider this an addendum to Matt's answer which is quite sound to me.

Given your circumstances, I would strongly lean towards the Fuji system. Since you do not care about native lenses, you will avoid Fuji's biggest shortcoming which is a minimal set of native lenses. Image quality is absolutely top-notch with both the X-Pro1 and X-E1.

My preference is easily for the Fuji X-E1 which I reviewed last week. It is more compact and has a sharper 2.4 megapixels electronic-only viewfinder. The OVF mode on the X-Pro1 was completely useless to me because I frame exactly and there are no 100% coverage lines, plus parallax made framing very approximate. As a bonus the X-E1 is a lot cheaper.

Most importantly in your case is that Fuji makes their own electronic Leica M-mount adapter. You can configure it for your different lenses and then easily switch between lenses using the button the adapter. The MF-assist though is PIP which you said you don't like though.

share|improve this answer
    
What about the artifacts reported when converting Fuji RAW files with Adobe products: diglloyd.com/blog/2012/20120922_1-Fuji-XPro1-Leica135.html is there a fix out there? I've been tempted by the X system but things like that put me off. –  Matt Grum Feb 1 '13 at 16:50
    
Yikes that is scary! For now, I'd stick Fuji's implementation and I would guess this is only a temporary problem. It is in the best interest of both Adobe and Fuji to make this work. As I understand it, it is now in Adobe's court since Fuji said they have sent all the necessary information to Adobe. If you do not need a new system right now, waiting would not be bad as I suspect the X-E2 will have Phase-Detection AF as well. –  Itai Feb 1 '13 at 17:12
    
The bright-lines OVF will be closer to working with a real Leica rangefinder, FWIW, so it's nice to have the option. –  mattdm Feb 2 '13 at 15:15
1  
I got an X-E1 with Fuji M adapter this weekend and feel that I should add a caveat to the advice above: Not all M mount lenses work with the Fuji adapter. It has electronic connections to the camera, which means that its smallest diameter is a bit smaller than the M mount, which means that you cannot use lenses with a very large rear element. (You can't use lenses that poke deeply into the camera house either, but that is more immediately apparent.) The rear element diameter restriction is more nasty because it means that good lenses like the VC Nokton 35/1.2 can't be mounted. –  Staale S Feb 4 '13 at 21:32
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(continued from above...) I have the Nokton 35/1.2, a 50mm DR Summicron and a 35/2.8 Jupiter-12, among others; the Nokton won't fit because of the rear element diameter and the two others because they protrude too far into the camera body. I'm getting a third-party adapter now, to get at least the Nokton to fit. Don't know if it will help the other two. For now I am using a goggled 35/2.8 Summaron as my "50 mm" lens, which looks absolutely idiotic on the camera but which works quite well indeed :) –  Staale S Feb 4 '13 at 21:36

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