Cameras for canvas – part 2

2 little cameras pink and blue holding hands

Last week we looked at  the benefits of using compact cameras for capturing images for printing onto canvas, and discussed the advances in this market from some of the big players in the photographic sector - but what if you want to expand your shooting parameters and invest in several lenses to cover a wider focal range? You can't do that with a compact, and despite the improved image quality from superzoom bridge cameras, no 28-300mm lens will ever match a shorter focal range - the physics will always limit it in absolute terms.  So this leaves us with either Micro four thirds or APS-C compact system cameras.


Let's have a look at the pros and cons of each...


Panasonic and Olympus use an M43 sensor in their CSC tech. Slightly smaller than the APS-C sensors found in Sony, Fujifilm and other manufacturers, one would think that image quality would suffer, but the latest advances mean that the differences - especially at the top end - are marginal.


Like all compact and CSC, the M43 bodies have no mirror or pentaprism and have a shorter flange focal distance - the lens is closer to the sensor - than a DSLR. This allows the manufacturers to build smaller form factor lenses for the equivalent focal range. M43's flange focal distance is even smaller than the APS-C CSC's, which is one of the biggest advantages over them - they truly can fit in your pocket because they’re very slim bodied and the lenses are, on average, 30% smaller than the APS-C equivalent. Yes, in absolute terms the APS-C sensor will perform better in low light conditions at higher ISO, but with a high quality M43 like the Panasonic GX7 or Olympus OM-D E-M5, that difference will be negligible.


The other big advantage M43 has over APS-C sized cameras lies in autofocus performance. In general terms, CSCs tend to lag behind DSLRs because all DSLRs use phase detect autofocus, which is faster (especially for continuous auto-focusing), whilst CSCs use either contrast detect AF - potentially more accurate, but slower - or a combination of both. The latest contrast detect systems however are speeding up as the tech improves and M43 just seems to nail focus every time under any condition - as long as you stick to single focus lock. APS-C bodies are catching up too and the Sony A6000 has stellar autofocus performance with probably the best tracking ability of any CSC to date. We're not sure that it matches a DSLR yet, but the gap is definitely closing.


What about viewfinders?


Most adopters who come from a DSLR system bemoan the loss of an OVF (optical viewfinder). Being able to see exactly what you’re shooting directly from the mirror of a DSLR is a huge advantage, and these small form cameras cannot offer that, right? The answer is both yes and no.


It's true that the majority of CSCs have either an EVF (electronic viewfinder) or no viewfinder at all, but there are a few that have an OVF. Fuji's older X-Pro 1 had an optical viewfinder and is still popular partly because of that. Saying this though, it is obvious to anyone who has tried one of the latest iterations of the EVFs that they’re simply wonderful to use. They show very little lag in decent conditions and only marginal lag in low light. They also have the advantage of showing much more shooting information in the viewfinder - think Star Wars!


To sum up, it’s almost impossible to buy a bad camera these days and size no longer means that you will have to make compromises. For the price of a midrange DSLR and lenses you can buy something with comparable image quality, usability and performance that you can carry around in a handbag or coat pocket. Now there’s no excuse not to get out and shoot more, capturing fantastic images that will translate beautifully to print and look impressive adorning your walls!