Newsflash: Today’s full-featured DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras are both aimed at the same profitable market niche: serious enthusiasts who demand superior performance, outstanding image quality, interchangeable lenses and expanded creative options. Herewith are an even dozen of the coolest, sophisticated models in the expanding category of interchangeable-lens cameras.
Sony Alpha a7 II. This exciting addition to the Alpha a7 line of high-performance, full-frame, mirrorless compact cameras is the first to feature sensor-shifting 5-axis SteadyShot Inside image stabilization (IS). The system provides a claimed 4.5 stops of anti-shake compensation for pitch, yaw, horizontal/vertical shift, and roll—a big plus when shooting Full HD 1080p video at 60p, 30p and 24p using the high-bit-rate XAVC S format, or shooting handheld stills in low light. The camera employs a 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Bionz X image processor. An enhanced “Fast Hybrid” AF system with 117 phase-detection and 25 contrast-detection points on the sensor provides superior focus tracking. Other key features include: a 3-inch, 1,228K-dot, tilting LCD monitor; a 0.5-inch, 2.36M-dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF); 5-frames-per-sec, full-res bursts; customizable color and gamma controls, including the same S-Log2 Gamma curve found on high-end Sony cinema cameras; built-in Wi-Fi with Near Field Communication (NFC); an ergonomic grip, shutter release and controls; and a magnesium alloy body. $1,199.99.* sony.com
Nikon D750. Sliding neatly in between the established Nikon D610 and D810 in Nikon’s enthusiast/pro full-frame DSLR lineup, the D750 has what it takes to be a contender in this competitive class. Based on a full-frame, 24.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor that works with an advanced Expeed 4 image processor, it delivers continuous, full-res bursts up to 6.5 fps, Full HD 1080p video recording at 60/30/24 fps and a top native ISO of 12,800, expandable to ISO 51,200. It also provides: a big 3.2-inch, 1,229K-dot, tilting LCD monitor; a Multi-CAM 3500FX II 51-point AF sensor for fast, precise autofocus; a 91K-pixel RGB exposure sensor for enhanced metering precision; and group area AF, enabling superior focus tracking with fast-moving subjects. The D750 has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity as well as time-lapse shooting and exposure smoothing functions for in-camera creativity. $2,299.95. nikonusa.com
Olympus OM-D E-M1. The much-admired flagship of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds mirrorless system delivers outstanding performance thanks to an upgraded 16.3MP High-Speed Live MOS sensor coupled to an advanced TruPic VII processor. The combination enhances image quality and improves performance at high sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600. Its larger, wider view, higher magnification 2,230K-dot, eye-level EVF provides a 100% view and is complemented by a 3-inch, 1,037K-dot, tilting, touch-screen OLED monitor. It also features an innovative 5-axis sensor-shift IS system to deliver shake-free images when shooting stills or 1,920×1,080 Full HD video handheld. It can shoot full-res bursts with autofocus at up to 10 fps and has built-in wireless connectivity. The E-M1 offers an enhanced, customizable multifunction control array similar to that in high-end DSLRs, and its rugged magnesium alloy body is dustproof and weatherproof. $1,299.99. olympusamerica.com
Leica T. This attractively minimalist mirrorless model from Leica is exquisitely made and finished (in traditional black or striking silver), as you’d expect. It’s controlled almost entirely via a big 3.7-inch, 1.3M-dot TFT LCD touch screen. It incorporates a 16.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and an advanced, contrast-based autofocus system. The T can record Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps and shoot continuous full-res images at up to 5 fps. It also has a powerful built-in flash, 16GB of internal memory and Wi-Fi connectivity for easy sharing and remote operation. Its robust unibody is precision machined from a solid billet of aluminum! It comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. $1,850. us.leica-camera.com
Pentax K-3 II. The top-of-the-line K-3 II DSLR takes the Pentax K to a higher level, with a 24.35MP AA filter-less APS-C CMOS sensor and a new Pixel Shift Resolution system said to deliver more truthful color reproduction and finer details, while lowering high-sensitivity noise levels. Its Real-time Scene Analysis system, supported by an 86K-pixel RGB metering sensor, makes the K-3 II the most responsive subject tracker of all Pentax DSLRs. Also new is its SAFOX II AE/AF system with 27 cross-type AF points and a gyro-sensor designed to provide more effective camera-shake compensation up to 4.5-EV steps. Other features include: 8.3-fps, full-res bursts; integrated GPS and electronic compass; a 100%-field-of-view pentaprism viewfinder; a 3.2-inch, 1,037K LCD; ISO settings to 51,200; and a fully sealed, weather- and cold-proof body. For video enthusiast, it records Full HD 1080p video, and interval movie mode captures 4K-res clips. The K-3 II works with Pentax Edition Flu cards to wirelessly synch with a smartphone for image browsing, live viewing and remote operation. $1,099.95. ricohimaging.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4. This brilliant, top-end mirrorless MFT model provides the full DSLR shooting experience and form factor, along with 4K 4,096×2,160 video capture at 24 fps, QFHD 4K 3,840×2,160 capture at 30/24p and Full HD at up to 60p. It uses a 16.05MP Live MOS sensor and a cutting-edge 4-CPU Venus engine image processor that enables a full-res burst rate up to an impressive 40 fps. Other key features include: a 2,359K-dot OLED EVF; a 3-inch, 1,036K-dot OLED touch-screen monitor; and a high-speed, 49-area contrast-detection AF system that integrates with a Depth from Defocus technology system. The GH4 additionally provides full area and pinpoint AF, auto HDR for still photos, electronic front and rear shutters, a built-in level, Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity and slow motion video modes. An ergonomic button layout improves operational speed, and all this is housed in a tough, lightweight, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. $1,499.99. panasonic.com
Canon EOS M3. After a brief hiatus from the super-competitive mirrorless category, Canon jumped back into the fray with the sleek, high-performance EOS M3. Featuring an APS-C-format 24.2MP CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Digic 6 image processor, it provides sensitivity settings from ISO 100–12,800, expandable to ISO 25,600. Photographers can focus and shoot via the 3-inch, 1,040K-dot, touch-screen LCD. The LCD tilts up 180º and down 45º for taking selfies or low-angle shots. Other notable features include: Full HD 1080p video capture at 24/25/30p in the MP4 format with manual movie control; a hybrid CMOS AF III system with 49 AF points; a 4.2-fps continuous burst rate for 1,000 JPEGs or 5 RAW images; scene modes and creative filters; a hot shoe to connect an optional EVF; and built-in Wi-Fi with NFC. The M3 can be used with Canon EF-M lenses as well as the full line of EF and EF-S lenses (with an adapter) and Speedlites. With EF-M 18–55mm IS STM lens, $799.99. usa.canon.com
Sigma SD1 Merrill. Sigma’s pro/enthusiast flagship DSLR features a high-res, full APS-C-format version of the unique three-layer Foveon X3 sensor that works like film to deliver full color information at each pixel location. It also provides a Dual True II image-processing engine, an 11-point twin-cross AF sensor and a 3-inch LCD—all built into a magnesium body with O-ring-sealed buttons and enhanced weatherproofing. Key performance features include: a maximum 5-fps burst rate; ISO 6400; and shutter speeds to 1/8,000 sec. While the SD1 doesn’t offer live view, video capture or a tethering capability, it does deliver pro features like micro AF adjustment, three custom mode settings on the exposure mode (PASM), and an easily removable IR filter for infrared shooting. Where the Sigma SD1 really sparkles is in its imaging performance, especially at low ISOs, where it delivers film-like images with exquisite detail and superb color rendition. $1,999. sigmaphoto.com
Samsung Smart NX1. This sophisticated, NX-mount mirrorless model offers a combination of understated DSLR styling plus an impressive enthusiast-aimed feature set. It provides a 28.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor paired with an advanced DRIMe V image processor. For viewing and framing, there’s both a 3-inch, 1,036K-dot Super AMOLED tilt/touch-screen monitor and an ultra-high-res 2,360K-dot XGA OLED EVF. Most important for video enthusiasts, it can capture 4K video at 24 fps, UHD video at 30 fps and Full HD 1080p video at 60/30/25 and 24 fps. It also has a maximum full-res burst rate of 15 fps with autofocus and ISO settings from 100–51,200. The NX1 employs a hybrid AF system that combines phase-detection and contrast-detection AF using 205 phase-detection AF points. Connectivity options include dual-channel Wi-Fi and NFC as well as fast USB 3.0 to connect with smartphones, etc. $1,499.99. samsung.com
Fujifilm X-T1. This rugged, minimalist-styled mirrorless model is the flagship of Fujifilm’s impressive X series. It features a proprietary 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, claimed to deliver superior image quality and lower noise than conventional sensors. The sensor is married to an advanced EXR II processor built to deliver a continuous burst rate of 8 fps and Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps. The X-T1 also provides a 0.5-inch, 2,360K-dot, 0.77x OLED EVF and a tilting, 3-inch, 1,040K-dot LCD monitor. Its intelligent hybrid AF system combines contrast- and phase-detection sensors in a 49-point matrix and has a focus-peaking display for precise focus assessment and enhanced manual focus capability. Other key features include: film-simulation modes; built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for easy sharing and remote operation via coupled devices; ISO 100–51,200; and a weather-resistant body. With 18–55mm lens, $1,099. fujifilmusa.com
Nikon 1 J5. It’s the latest Nikon 1 mirrorless camera based on the 31.2×8.8mm CX format, and it’s clearly aimed at attracting serious shooters with high-end features and contemporary styling. Its BSI CMOS sensor offers 20.8 megapixels, and perhaps even more important, it has an upgraded Expeed 5A image processor. The latter helps to deliver improved overall speed and responsiveness, better high ISO performance, ISO settings up to 12,800, movie e-VR stabilization for smooth video capture, UHD 4K video clip recording at 15 fps, Full HD 1080p recording at 60 fps (120 slo-mo fps at 720p!), and a full-res, 20-fps burst rate with full-time AF. It also provides a 3-inch, 1,037K-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD; Snapbridge Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC; and a hybrid AF system employing 105 phase-detection and 171 contrast-detection AF points for enhanced speed and accuracy. With 1 Nikkor 10–30mm f/3.5–5.6 PD zoom lens, $499.95. nikonusa.com
Canon EOS 6D. This full-frame DSLR appeals to advanced enthusiasts because it delivers “the 5D Mark III experience” for nearly $1,500 less. It features a 20.2MP, full-frame CMOS sensor, a 3-inch ClearView LCD, 11-point AF with center cross sensor, 97%-view glass pentaprism viewfinder and 4.5-fps maximum burst rate. While it doesn’t quite match the elite specs of the formidable EOS 5D Mark III, it does offer built-in GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity, 63-zone dual-layer metering, Full HD video capture at 1080p with manual control, built-in HDR, a Digic 5+ image processor, 14-bit A/D conversion, in-camera RAW processing and JPEG conversion, and ISO settings to 102,400. Its performance has delighted legions of enthusiast and pro Canon shooters that demanded a full-frame DSLR at a more attractive price. $1,699. usa.canon.com
* All SRPs are body only unless otherwise indicated.