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PB PM
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2011-02-27, 16:09

The D3100 isn't that much better than the D300, maybe half a stop better noise performance. I'm thinking of selling off my D3100 to buy better FX lenses, but there is no way I'd give it up for $400-500, since I also have the 18-55mm VR kit.
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Matsu
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2011-02-27, 18:50

Yeah, it's more a question of getting a small secondary body and trying to recoup a few $$$ towards lenses.

In order of necessity:

Needed zooms: 24-70, 70-200, and 14-24.
Needed primes: 35, 85, 50, 24.

I've started in the middle for both of these progressions, just based on opportunity. The 85 and 70-200 were available at a decent price. With full frame, a 24-70 must come next, and then either a 35 or completion of the zoom kit.

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Kyros
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2011-02-28, 01:42

I'm not sure that's such a good idea. You'll get $900 if you are lucky for your D300, probably closer to $800 by now, so even if you find a D3100 for $400, which is also unlikely, you only gain $400-$500 dollars towards a new lens. That's only about 25-30% of the cost of each of the lenses you have listed there (well, except, I suppose it covers the 50mm or an 85 f/1.8).

Have you ever used an entry level nikon? You will lose a lot of functionality, and will be diving into the menus a lot for the things that you are used to flipping a switch for. You get one function button for focus mode, metering mode, white balance or ISO (actually I don't even know if you can set all of those with the function button since mine is always set to ISO on my D60). You will have a much weaker autofocus system, and a smaller and darker viewfinder. You also have one button for either AF-L or AF-ON. Finally you drop from 6 to 3 fps and have a weaker battery, plus all sorts of interesting features that you might not use anyway like mirror lock up and an intervalometer. I think it's likely that the IQ improvement you expect would be significantly offset by simply not getting some shots at all. Of course, this does depend a lot on the type of photography you do. Can you tell I really would like to upgrade from my D60?

If you are looking for a small, light secondary body, I would not ditch your primary to get it.
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PB PM
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2011-02-28, 03:10

I agree completely with Kyros. You'd be better off getting a high end point and shoot like the Nikon P7000 or Canon G12 than an entry level Nikon body IMO. The entry level models are fine for daylight landscape and family photography, but beyond that they become a bit of a pain. I only use my D3100 for product shots, which is why it is on the chopping block in favor of money for lenses.

As for the AF system in the D3100, it is the same one that was in the D200/D80/D90, so it isn't really that bad. The D3100 is a lot better than earlier entry level models thanks to the drive mode switch on the top plate.
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Matsu
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2011-02-28, 08:30

This would be so much easier if Nikon would just hurry up and release some new full frame models. A D7000 or greater is a little bit rich for a secondary body, but it may come down in price once newer models are intro'ed. I can work a simple body: shoot RAW, AWB, and keep the ISO in the ball park, park it on one lens, and tweak it in post. Shitty viewfinders are a pet-peeve though. I've been trying to get used to contact lenses to improve the view even on the D300.

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PB PM
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2011-02-28, 13:33

If you find the D300 viewfinder small the D3100 would drive you nuts, I cannot even look through it now that I've used the D700.
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Matsu
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2011-02-28, 15:16

It may be a tad paranoid, but I'm beginning to have doubts about the f mount. The lenses cost $$$. I believe that samples and testing bare out Nikon has 2 of the 3 best zooms in their respective ranges. The 24-70 and 14-24, and Canon has the best 70-200. Nikon's 17-35 is probably the other good fast wide angle zoom. And of course, Canon's 24-70 and Nikon's 70-200 are both pretty good too.

But the primes? They're soo pricey, and big*, and it makes me wonder sometimes whether a full frame DSLR is the right option for sneaking up on people, some slightly smaller f/1.8-2 versions are needed, I feel, and an even smaller FX camera.

*I should qualify that. Of course they're not as big as any of the zooms, but the modern AFS lense are pretty huge compared to the old manual focus versions. WTF?

What I do know from using the crop body is this. To cover all situations, I need about 3 more stops sensitivity than the D300 gives. That sort of limits me to some vastly improved DX sensor that doesn't exist yet (though the D700 goes part way there) and f/2 or faster lenses, which do exist, but only in primes and some of those are eye-wateringly expensive. Or, an FX body, which ironically may be the most cost effective way of getting there.

Come on Nikon, give us an FE sized FX camera.

Just to illustrate the size difference between the f/1.4 and f/1.8, and why a line of slightly slower primes makes sense, especially if they cost 40% of what the 1.4 primes cost
http://www.nikonjin.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=272

Last edited by Matsu : 2011-02-28 at 16:24.
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PB PM
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2011-02-28, 16:42

If you are on a tight budget buying into the FX system may not be the best route. If you are using a DSLR of any kind you aren't going to be sneaking up on anyone. If you want to sneak up on people get the Fuji X100 and forget about SLR lenses altogether or Lecia M9, and you think Nikon FX is expensive! Also, there is no need to rush out and get all your lenses at once, pace yourself!

As for why the AF-S primes are big compared to manual focus lenses, are you really thinking this through? The focus motor and weather sealing is what is taking up the space, not to mention far superior optics (other than CA which is just the price you pay for having fast primes). Also consider ergonomics, on the FX cameras, which they are designed to be used with. They might seem huge, but mount them on an FX body and they are very comfortable and a pleasure to use.
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Matsu
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2011-02-28, 17:24

Ah, I just want whinge. I do worry a bit how the mount will evolve: motorized zooms, silent (video friendly) AF motors, live view AF, hybrid contrast/phase detection schemes etc etc.

Actually, I'm pretty good at sneaking up on people, though the key is not to do any sneaking, and don't wave the camera around or try to conceal it either, just to give off a really casual vibe. "Yeah, it's a cool camera. I might see something interesting, I might not, no need to pose for me."

I still think the lense could be smaller, cheaper, and a tad slower. The 85 1.4 vs 1.8 is a good example. The 35 f/2 vs f/1.4 could be another one. Though the optical formula for the AF-D seems to need some improvement.

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GSpotter
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2011-02-28, 17:43

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matsu View Post
... 14-24, and Canon has the best 70-200. Nikon's 17-35 is probably the other good fast wide angle zoom.
Depending on the kind of pictures you want to take, I would think twice on getting the 14-24. It might be an excellent lens, but it has some disadvantages in usability and flexibility. E.g. not being able to use filters (at least without paying big time for the special Lee filter holder). If you do not absolutely need the f/2.8, I'd seriously consider the 16-35 (see review/opinion by Michael Weber) and save the rest of the money for one of the new 1.4 lenses...

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GSpotter
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2011-02-28, 17:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matsu View Post
Just to illustrate the size difference between the f/1.4 and f/1.8, and why a line of slightly slower primes makes sense, especially if they cost 40% of what the 1.4 primes cost
I'd love to see something like the Pentax Limited FA lenses (31mm/1.8 and 45mm/1.9) from Nikon ...
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PB PM
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2011-02-28, 18:36

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matsu View Post
I still think the lense could be smaller, cheaper, and a tad slower. The 85 1.4 vs 1.8 is a good example. The 35 f/2 vs f/1.4 could be another one. Though the optical formula for the AF-D seems to need some improvement.
I doubt an AF-S 85mm F1.8G would be much smaller than the 85mm F1.4G. I think F1.8 or F2 primes with AF-S wouldn't be much cheaper, maybe $800-1000, based on the way Nikon is pricing non-DX lenses these days.

I'm still musing over what lenses to go for myself, although I'm starting to think that the 16-35mm F4 will have to wait till next year. What I get will come down to how much I get from selling my remaining DX gear, but I think the 24-120mm F4 is going to come out on top, simply for flexibility.
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Dorian Gray
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2011-02-28, 18:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matsu View Post
I still think the lense could be smaller, cheaper, and a tad slower. The 85 1.4 vs 1.8 is a good example. The 35 f/2 vs f/1.4 could be another one. Though the optical formula for the AF-D seems to need some improvement.
[Emphasis mine.]

As you know, size constraints militate against high optical performance, and there's naught we can do about it. Well, except buy this, or more affordably this (PDF files). Then you can buy simultaneously small and fast lenses, though they're far from cheap.

Maybe someone other than Leica will eventually make a premium-grade mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, and premium lenses to match; but currently that looks like a long bet.

Here are some 35 mm f/1.4 lenses compared, plus a modern manual-focus 35 mm f/2 lens:



From left to right:

1. original Nikon 35mm f/1.4 from March, 1971 (all-spherical design with stacks of spherical aberration at large apertures)
2. Zeiss 35 mm f/2 ZE, a large lens for its aperture class (clearly bigger than the old Nikon f/1.4!)
3. the new Zeiss 35 mm f/1.4 ZE, thus far the largest of all 35 mm prime lenses (it weighs 900 grams!)
4. the Leica Summilux-M ASPH, which incidentally dwarfs the astonishingly petite pre-ASPH version from 1960 (not shown)
5. the Canon 35 mm f/1.4 L-series lens for EF mount, similar in size and performance to Nikon's latest.

I've attempted to align the flanges in this to-scale diagram. I think it's a pretty compelling argument in favour of a rangefinder camera!

Last edited by Dorian Gray : 2011-03-01 at 15:38. Reason: fixed Zeiss ZF/ZF.2 lies.
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Dorian Gray
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2011-02-28, 19:06

By the way, I own the very lens shown in this thread. It's certainly the smallest F-mount lens I've ever used! The Tessar formula does very pretty things to light too — though the mechanical construction isn't as good as an older Nikkor or a modern Zeiss, much less a Leica (of any vintage).
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PB PM
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2011-02-28, 19:06

Yup, good point there. Once mirrorless cameras are good enough for more than consumer photography I think we'll see some lower cost rangefinders hitting the market again. I think the Fuji X100 is just the start, because once people use a camera like that, especially street shoots, I doubt they'd go back to a SLR type of camera. SLRs will still rule the sports and wildlife fields of photography, but their time as primary cameras for some forms of photography is waning.
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Matsu
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2011-02-28, 23:00

Damn, that Leica is positively jewel-like by comparison... I hope someone makes a large sensor AF mirror-less soon, with small primes. Zooms, it seems, quickly cancel out the size advantages as ratios muliply. Sony's and Micro4/3's mirror-less zoom lenses are either slow or largish relative to their sensors, scaled to 35mm frames they might not offer too much size advantage over SLR designs? I can only think of Contax's 35-70, and that was a slow variable aperture design. However, rangefinders clearly retain a size advantage with wide and normal primes.

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PB PM
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2011-03-01, 00:34

The zoom lenses are big for the NEX cameras and M4/3s because they have to be. The glass still has to be big enough to cover the image circle.
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GSpotter
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2011-03-01, 01:18

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorian Gray View Post
By the way, I own the very lens shown in this thread. It's certainly the smallest F-mount lens I've ever used!
According to reviews, an interesting alternative might be the Voigtländer 40mm f/2.0 Ultron SL II. It's also an "almost-pancake" like manual lens with chip (i.e. similar to a Nikon AI-P lens).

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The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. -- Benjamin Franklin
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Matsu
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2011-03-01, 07:20

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
The zoom lenses are big for the NEX cameras and M4/3s because they have to be. The glass still has to be big enough to cover the image circle.
Crazy stuff when you consider that the image circle they project is only 1/2 to 1/4 the size of FX, or only 2/3rds to 1/2 the diameter. Part of this rests with design decisions about corner performance, angles of incedence, etc... But some must specifically have to do with how you design a lens to focus light at variable lengths, and what sorts of shapes you're forced into as the variables (focal length multiplier) increases.

Look at the NEX and Alpha versions of the 18-200: basically the same size.

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GSpotter
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2011-03-01, 15:02

Compare the Olympus 4/3 300mm to the Nikkor 300mm:

129 mm Ø, length 281 mm, weight 3290 g
124 mm Ø, length 267.5 mm, weight 2900g
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PB PM
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2011-03-01, 15:43

Practically speaking there is no difference between those two. Nobody is going to notice a minuscule 390g difference if they are out shooting all day long.

As for why the Alpha mount 18-200 and E mount 18-200 are very similar, is likely due to the fact that the optics are the same or very similar. The only practical way to make things smaller and lighter is with short pancake primes (Olympus 25mm f2.8, Samsung 17mm F2 etc).
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Dorian Gray
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2011-03-01, 19:41

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matsu View Post
However, rangefinders clearly retain a size advantage with wide and normal primes.
Yeah. Though Leica has also shown an unusual willingness to make small size a high priority in lens design. Most Leica lenses — including the moderate primes — use aspherical elements, and reading between the lines it seems that the primary reason for that is to reduce volume.

In fairness, Nikon does occasionally try to tackle bloat. Obviously in the past Nikon made enormous efforts to standardise on the 52 mm filter size (even the 35 mm f/1.4 I showed above had a 52 mm filter thread!).

Nikon was also a pioneer in the use of thick lens elements to reduce size, employing them since at least the six-element 35 mm f/2.8 of 1975, which looked like this:



The designers of that lens were sent back to the drawing board after submitting an earlier proposal (in the late sixties) which improved optical performance but increased the size of the lens compared to its predecessor. They were told they must improve optical performance while strictly not increasing the length of the lens, or Nikon would abandon the redesign and continue producing the old lens. The designers eventually solved that little conundrum by introducing the two thick elements you see above.

Interestingly, the new 35 mm f/1.4 AF-S uses a thick lens element too:



This thick element reduces overall lens size, though obviously the high optical quality targeted by this lens means that "small" is a relative concept here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSpotter View Post
According to reviews, an interesting alternative might be the Voigtländer 40mm f/2.0 Ultron SL II. It's also an "almost-pancake" like manual lens with chip (i.e. similar to a Nikon AI-P lens).
I did consider that lens, but I really wanted to see what a classic Tessar could do if made with modern, high-index glass. The optical quality and lens speed possible with the basic Tessar design are closely linked to the refractive index (RI) of the glass used: a higher RI leads to better performance and the possibility of a faster speed (f/2.8 is very fast for a Tessar design). Lanthanum and other rare earth elements can be used to increase the refractive index, leading to better Tessars. Much of the twentieth century was spent developing new glass types with higher refractive indices (among other improved properties), and modern Tessars like my Nikkor 45 mm f/2.8P benefit from that progress.

I offer this handheld photo as proof of the lens's performance when stopped down a bit (though it's decent even at f/2.8):



(With embedded GPS coordinates, if you're interested in seeing the same restaurant in worse light on Google Street View. I now use a Dawntech M3L-S3 GPS to geotag my D300S photos. Open the JPEG in Apple Preview, hit Command-I, click on More Info > GPS > Locate.)

And two full-size (12-megapixel) JPEGs of the same image for self-respecting pixel peepers, from Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3:
Aperture rendition.
Lightroom rendition.

I'm sure you'll agree that's pretty impressive for a tiny four-element lens!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GSpotter View Post
Compare the Olympus 4/3 300mm to the Nikkor 300mm:

129 mm Ø, length 281 mm, weight 3290 g
124 mm Ø, length 267.5 mm, weight 2900g
Or the new lightweight Canon: 128 mm Ø, length 248 mm, weight 2400 g.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
Practically speaking there is no difference between those two. Nobody is going to notice a minuscule 390g difference if they are out shooting all day long.
I'd notice a difference of 390 grams (nearly a pound), but I think GSpotter is basically saying what you're saying: even though the Olympus 300 mm lens covers a much smaller sensor than the Nikon, it's actually bigger and heavier than the Nikkor (or roughly the same, depending on your viewpoint). Of course it's used for covering a smaller angle, so the Nikon shooter might need a yet-longer lens.

As you note, short primes can be made much smaller on mirrorless cameras; super-teles, less so.
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PB PM
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2011-03-02, 05:28

To me 390g isn't much, but then I often walk for 2-4 hours with the D700 + grip (around 1.2KG) , AF-S 300mm F4 IF-ED (1.4KG) + TC14E (around 200g), and a 2KG tripod + head combo, which is a total of total 4.8KG.
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Matsu
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2011-03-02, 10:53

I don't know enough about lenses to know whether it's just the longer focal lengths which negate a rangefinder len's size advantage. It seem that the extended zoom ratio plays a role as well. Mirrorless lenses that start off wide and go long are no smaller than comparable SLR lenses. 18-55's and 18-200's on NEX vs Alpha or 4/3rds vs m4/3. But they do reach into long(er) focal lenths. I wonder if a wide-zoom could be a lot smaller in mirrorless guise. Those things like your 16-35's, 14-24's and the like?
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PB PM
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2011-03-02, 13:57

On an NEX camera those lenses couldn't be much smaller. Wide angle lenses already get as close as possible to the mirror on SLR cameras. Look at the size of the Olympus 7-14mm F4 4/3s lens (same coverage as the 14-24mm, although f4), it weighs 789g, 11cm long, 8.6cm deep. I'll compare it to the 16-35mm F4, simply because they have similar specs in terms of aperture. It weighs 680g, 12.5cm long x 8.2cm deep, again not much difference in size and weight, despite the image circle size difference, and that is 4/3s vs FX!
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Matsu
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2011-03-02, 15:02

You could say that FX strikes the size-performance sweet-spot both for sensors and lenses? Price-performance is another issue, of course. We're just not seeing evidence that modern, mirrorless, sub 35mm, cameras lead to substantially smaller lenses.

I don't get it. Pentax Auto 110 had super tiny lenses, and 110 is basically the same size as 4/3rds. These new lenses might perform a whole lot better, but they don't really better equivalent 35mm FX, and they're not really smaller either.

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PB PM
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2011-03-02, 15:16

In terms of optics, the DX crop size and FX give you the best bang for your buck, because not only to you get better image quality than the smaller sensors, but there is no real advantage in terms of weight, size and the cost of the lenses themselves. The Olympus 7-14mm f4 is $200 less than the 16-35mm, but it should be considering that it covers a smaller image circle, with a slightly inferior build quality, and it is an older optical design with no vibration reduction.
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Dorian Gray
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2011-03-02, 15:50

All of us here know the technical hurdles to making small lenses for large digital sensors — angles of incidence, peripheral illumination, off-set micro-lenses, and so on. Leica proves that these issues can be satisfactorily overcome, though perhaps not at a sensible cost. I suspect the cost could be reasonable, though (for high-volume products). What I doubt is market demand. You have to question whether people really want small lenses when they overwhelmingly choose zooms over primes, large cameras over small cameras, etc. Certainly the American market isn't excited by compact size: mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera uptake has been slow there compared to Japan or the UK, for example.
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Matsu
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2011-03-02, 20:42

Indeed, I can think of a few recent lenses that appear to be unnecessarily porky for no better reason than to look "mo-pro". I can't figure out why there's so much extra plastic on some lens barrels...

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PB PM
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2011-03-03, 00:34

Interesting thoughts on mirrorless cameras by Thom Hogan today. http://bythom.com/
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