“Sherman, set the way-back machine to 1980…”
Back 30 years or so ago, I used to shoot a Minolta X700. I wasn’t great with it, but I wasn’t bad; unfortunately, by the time you bought film and had it developed, it cost about $1 every time you clicked the shutter. I eventually got tired of taking occasional pictures, and the Minolta found its way to the back of the closet for a long snooze.
Being a died-in-the-wool nerd, I’ve had a lengthy parade of digital cameras, including such non-jewels as the Apple Quicktake and the floppy-disk based (“Grampa, what’s a ‘floppy disk’?”) Sony Mavica. Some were better than others (a Canon G10 for instance), but if they rose above the level of a snapshot camera, my pictures rarely did. If they offered the ability to shoot anything other than full auto, you still couldn’t do anything interesting with depth of field on their small sensors. Forget about manual focusing, or the ability to reliably focus stuff behind glass, etc.
Over the last year or so, mirrorless cameras have slowly gotten my attention. I missed the whole digital SLR thing; they were big, expensive, and I had other gadgets to buy. But the idea of an interchangeable lens camera with a compact body, reasonable sensor size, and the ability to actually do something meaningful outside of “auto” was appealing. The current state of the art appears to have the mirrorless cameras slightly behind (but catching up fast) in low-light phase detection autofocus, and in terms of integrated TTL strobes, but outside of that, they’re taking pictures that are very comparable to consumer-level DSLRs.
I did a fair amount of research last fall, and coming up on the “Black Friday” sales I’d firmly settled on an Olympus EPL5 (although I really wanted an OMD EM5). At the last minute, I pulled the trigger on a Sony NEX-5R instead. Being able to reasonably use manual focus was one of my paramount concerns, and I got lured in by the promise of focus peaking on legacy manual lenses, and a larger sensor than the micro four-thirds cameras.
So, the NEX-5R showed up, and holy crap — taking pictures was fun again! I even rooted around in the closet and swiped the lenses from my old X700 kit — and they took beautiful pictures.