Yes, it is this time of the year again, when we take a short break from our daily editorial duties and look back at what the ending year had to offer. And while we’re on it, I promise not to include the word “virus” even once in this article (oops, just did). So, are you ready to go? Then buckle up. Here are the mirrorless cameras of the year 2020 and CineD Awards finalists!
There is always a kind of “love and hate” relationship, when composing an “end of the year” article. Especially this year. “Love”, as it is really great to see how much has actually happened this year and how our filming industry has evolved, but at the same time “hate”, as this was not an easy year for many, be it fellow creators, manufacturers and distributors alike.
Cameras, Cameras and More Cameras
It was a very fruitful year for manufacturers. Leaving the bigger brothers aside (Canon C70, C300 III, Sony FX6, Panasonic BGH1, RED KOMODO and such), when it comes to mirrorless cameras, most of the distinguished manufacturers where extremely busy delivering their offerings. FUJIFILM unveiled the X-T4 at the beginning of the year, followed by Sony’s ZV-1 vloggers camera (see our review here). A separate ranking article featuring the larger cameras will be posted later in the month.
Then came the Canon EOS 1D-X Mark III – which of course is not a mirrorless camera, yet I’ve decided to mention it here due to its high-quality video/photo capabilities (see our review here).
Hot on the heels of that wonderful DSLR appeared the Canon duo, the EOS R5 and EOS R6 and if you are like me, an editor of an online magazine, those two alone could suck up your time with different testing tasks, like measuring “for how long it can record” or “how long does it take to revive it between recordings” (see our Canon EOS R6 review here and Fixed! Canon EOS R5 Overheating Solved with DIY Internal Heatsink).
And then, when you thought you had a moment to breathe, the Sony a7S III appeared. This long awaited successor of the ageing Sony a7S II stormed the arena and immediately captured the attention of fellow filmmakers. Would you need a minute to rest? Sorry, no time, as the Panasonic G100 was announced next (see our review here), though as far as I’m concerned, this little, beautiful MFT interchangeable lens mirrorless camera was communicated wrongly to its potential audience. In the emerging world of vloggers, it had a hard time competing against the excellent autofocus the Sony ZV-1 is offering. But that’s a different story.
3-2-1 and the Panasonic LUMIX S5 was announced (read our review here). This lightweight full frame L-Mount camera is by far my favorite from the LUMIX quartet (S1H, S1R, S1, S5). What can I do. I like them small to run with, flexible to operate and responsive to deal with.
And just before closing this section, the FUJIFILM X-S10 was delivered. Classic beautiful shell and rich in features. Perfect for those who need to seamlessly blend with their surroundings (check out our review here).
Nikon? Olympus? Apologies to you guys. we should have taken a closer look at some of their cameras. Hopefully next year. The above are of course not all the releases of the present year, yet they are noticeable larger sensor products we got our hands on.
Poor Performance – Not
I can’t stop thinking about our level of demands, the slight complaints, the mostly “not good enough” approach that we all show at times. Maybe this is the sign of time, but seriously speaking, what happened to us? When, in the history of filmmaking (or capturing images) was it so easy and affordable to have such a great choice of filmmaking tools? I’ll take it a step further and comfortably say that by now, there are hardly any (if at all) “bad” mirrorless cameras that can shoot video, out there. I hope we can agree that the “tools” have reached a certain peak, and what might actually lag behind is the storytelling ability of many. Personally, I still have A LOT to learn in regards to how to master the art of storytelling, yet I know for sure that if I’d make progress, it won’t be because of a specific tool.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, brings me to the topic for which we all gathered here today – presenting our choice of the best mirrorless cameras of the year 2020. I hope you didn’t mind the epilogue.
In this category I actually wanted to include “older cameras” (older, as in 2019-old, not to say this is actually old). Here, I would like to mention cameras like the SIGMA fp and Panasonic LUMIX S1 and S1R. The reason is simple: throughout the year 2020, those cameras got a rather massive firmware update, one that really took them to the next level of performance.
Everything you need to know about the “life injection” that the SIGMA fp got can be found by clicking here. It is yet to be seen if the next offerings from SIGMA will be a revolution or rather an evolution, but one thing is for sure: if you are after an exceptional micro-sized filming tool, the SIGMA fp might be something for you to consider.
Panasonic LUMIX S1/S1R
The Panasonic LUMIX S1 was our mirrorless camera of the year 2019, and looking back, we have no regrets around having chosen it. This year, together with the Panasonic LUMIX S1R/S1H and S5, the LUMIX family of cameras advanced forward by allowing their owners even greater flexibility when recording video internally and externally, by using the free latest firmware.
Mirrorless Cameras of the Year 2020
Now is the time to honour our chosen cameras – but even more importantly, give a stage and lots of respect to those who have created them. Please remember that no manufacturer is deliberately wanting to deliver a less capable camera. Knowing many of the people, from different companies, who orchestrate the development of those amazing and advanced light-capturing monsters, I can tell you first hand that they are proud, honest, modest and loyal to their brand. And without further ado, here we go, in no particular order.
FUJIFILM X-T4 – For Best Price-Performance Ratio
First introduced during February this year, this AMAZING camera has proven to be a reliable companion in many of my shoots. I literally traveled the world with it and it never let me down. The camera is stylish. The 4K 10bit internal recording is mostly robust. The video menu (Separated from the photo menu) is easy to navigate as well to understand. Its autofocus works like a treat. IBIS works very nicely – and if all this is not enough, in my opinion, it has one of the best (if not the best) audio pre-amps ever found in a mirrorless camera.
Now, one of the questions that must be asked: with so many new full-frame cameras around, is a S35 sensor a thing of the past? I certainly don’t think so, but heard (too) many voices who do. For the money, there is currently nothing out there that can beat its price ($1699) performance value.
Sony a7S III – For Best Complete Package
Ok, let me be transparent here and share a real moment. Ueda-san (Sony representative): “Johnnie, this is the new Sony a7S III. It can shoot high-quality 10bit 4:2:2 video at up to 120fps, has a completely new menu, overheating is well controlled, IBIS is redesigned, autofocus performance is greatly enhanced (With eye-tracking AF) and its lowlight capabilities are insane. What do you think”?
Me: 30 seconds of silence of the lambs. Thoughts are running through my mind and my pulse speeds up. Once I gained my consciousness back, all I could ask was: “And do you think it is enough?”
So first, an apology. Ueda-san, the market loves your camera and so do we! If you look at the complete package, this extremely portable full-frame camera has SO much to offer, and not less importantly, it delivers exceptional image quality – be it during daylight or almost complete darkness. What a wonderful, balanced offering it is, but at a price.
Canon EOS R5 – For Technical Achievement
Ok guys, tell me the truth. Are you surprised to find this camera in our finalists list? Well, I’m not. Recording limitations aside, the Canon EOS R5 is the first to allow internal 8K RAW recording in any mirrorless camera. One day, we might look back and dismiss 20 minutes of constant internal RAW recording, but for now, I’m sure it won’t be long until this concept will be adjusted or simply improved. Imagine, all you have to do is set the dial to “8K”, enjoy the warmth of Canon legacy skin tones and go out and shoot.
Don’t forget to bring lots of CFexpress cards with you and take 10-minute coffee breaks between takes. The reward will come in the editing suite. Prepare to be blown away by the impact of 8K footage (if you have the right monitor to do so). In any case, if you are aiming for broadcast, downsampling to 1080p will look even more gorgeous.
It’s no secret that camera manufacturers are facing tough times. The competition across the line is fierce, and mobile phones do not make it any easier – as no camera manufacturer can even come close to what mobile phone companies can invest in R&D. Like it or not, these are two ways of thinking and conducting business. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, something fundamental has to be done in order to withstand “mobile image acquisition” properly (for both videos and photos).
It is not that we have all the answers here, yet maybe added camera features are not enough anymore, in the not-so-long-term, and camera manufactures could be concentrating on developing “concepts” in order to stabilise their segment.
Whatever the future will bring, our awarded cameras represent true innovation and spirit. Now, the ball is in our hands. Happy filming and congratulations to FUJIFILM, Sony and Canon!
Which camera would you crown as your favorite for this year, and more importantly, why? Please share with us your thoughts in the comment section below.