The Great Mirrorless Camera Autofocus Shootout!

  By Jordan Drake

 It seems like every 13 minutes, another mirrorless camera is announced that promises the ‘World’s Fastest Autofocus’. We decided to cut through all the hype and pit the fastest mirrorless cameras against each other, and we threw in a Nikon D4S, just to make it interesting. To really put these cameras through a stress test we went to Wildrose Motocross Park with a Fuji X-T1, Sony A6000, Olympus OMD E-M1 and Panasonic GH4!

Special thanks to the Wildrose Motocross Association

Music Provided by BeatSuite.com

Shot and Edited by Jordan Drake
Filmed on the Sony FS700

 

This one has been in the works for a while. One of the things Chris and I struggle with most when shooting TCSTV is finding a good AF test when we look at new cameras. This was readily apparent in our Fuji X-T1 and Sony A6000 videos, where the AF speed was one of the main selling points, but we could not find suitable test subjects. With the GH4 displaying incredible AF capabilities, we decided to put all the top mirrorless cameras to the test. It was finding a location that proved difficult. Thankfully, the Wildrose Motocross Association had let us shoot on their track before, for our A99 test, and we decided to head back there for this video.

I had been looking forward to this shoot for some time, and I didn’t want any surprises while filming, so I used my favourite video kit. The Sony FS700 on a Manfrotto video monopod is so easy to work with and the image quality is outstanding. The area was too dusty for me to be changing lenses, so I filmed the entire episode on the Canon 24-70 F4 attached to a Metabones Speed Booster. Audio is a huge pain at the racetrack track, but the Sony UWP-130 lav encased in the new Rode Invisilav handled the noise well. It’s also a nice change not be able to see the mic in shot after shot, I think it looks substantially more professional. As always, our music came from our friends at BeatSuite.com.

There were a huge number of variables present in this shoot. Firstly, most cameras would be tested using different lenses. We grabbed the best telephoto options available for each camera, but this did leave the Fuji at a disadvantage, as its pro tele still hasn’t been released. The 55-200 is a stellar lens optically, but not the fastest or brightest. As far as aperture, we decided to shoot everything at F4 to keep things simple. While this does lead to differences in depth of field as the five cameras have different sensor sizes, we felt that the shallow depth of field caused by shooting long lenses would minimize that discrepancy. You can certainly see where the lenses focused in our photos.

The biggest surprises for me were how close the GH4 came to the D4S is single point AF performance (and not having to calibrate your lenses is a nice bonus), and the tracking performance of the Olympus E-M1. As I primarily use single point AF, I had previously found the E-M1 to have good, not great performance, but the continuous tracking was VERY impressive. Chris and I were a bit disappointed by the Fuji X-T1, but it was handicapped with the only non-pro telephoto. I’m hoping we can test out the new XF 2.8 zooms when they become available later this year.

At the end of it all, the thing to take away from this very unscientific test is that mirrorless cameras are rapidly whittling away at the list of reasons to buy a DSLR. Even with the spectacular image quality that mirrorless has been delivering for a while, I would always recommend a DSLR for doing any fast action work. That’s not the case anymore. For shooters on a budget, the Sony A6000 is the best option out there for under $1000, and the Panasonic GH4 can fulfill professional stills and video requirements in a single camera for under $2000. It’s a very cool time were living in for stills and video shooters everywhere.