The future is here! by Roy Prasad on Flickr.
Well, it looks like the days of view finders, mirrors and pentaprisms in popular photography might be numbered. First used in the ultra cheap pocket cameras a few years ago, LCD backs that read the image directly off the sensor may be on their way to becoming the mainstream.
A couple of years ago, Panasonic introduced the Lumix GH1 which was the first 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses that relied entirely on an LCD back, in the Micro 4/3 format. Now, there are several new cameras on the market, led by Panasonic, Sony and Olympus, that offer second generation cameras with interchangeable lenses.
The advantage of an LCD back are obviously, the greatly reduced physical size, weight and cost, plus the increased reliability and performance that comes from having fewer parts. Below is a side by side comparison of a Nikon D700 and the SONY NEX-5. It is also helpful if you wear glasses, or if more than one person (with different diopter settings) uses the same camera.
There are two disadvantage of an LCD back. The first is that it is hard and sometimes, impossible to see the image in bright sunlight. The second is that you have to hold the camera forward in your arms, and that makes the camera inherently less steady than holding a camera up to your face, with your forearms pressing against your body for additional support.
Even high end DSLRs now routinely provide a “live view” at the pixel level to assist accurate focusing by looking at the LCD back. But they will likely continue to include the viewfinder for some time. But a lot of the lower end 35mm cameras will increasingly get rid of the viewfinder and switch to only LCD view, I think. The benefits and lower costs will be too compelling for the vast majority of casual photographers.
These cameras are also opening the door to an entirely new and interesting world of possibilities: using lenses from other manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, Leica, Zeiss, etc. by means of adapters specially designed for these cameras (e.g., Micro 4/3 to Nikon, Sony E mount to Leica M, etc.) This has spawned an amazing new industry that is feverishly cranking out adapters in every combination that might make sense!
I learned about this from flickr friend Mr. Le, who uses his Lumix GH2 with his Leica M lenses very effectively! The same can be done with the Sony NEX-5 camera as well.
I had brief looks at the Panasonic GH2 and an Olympus camera, but in the end, decided the NEX-5 best met my needs. Based on what I’ve seen, its image quality is impressive and very comparable to the newer Nikon DX cameras.
Stay tuned, test shots from this camera follow, shot with both Sony and other lenses…