Several years ago I shot almost exclusively with the Canon 5D mark II and fell in love with the photos it produced, especially in low light. Over time, however, it just got too bulky to travel with. I got tired of lugging the thing around.
Last year I looked around to see if I can get something close to that DSLR quality without the extra bulk and picked up a Sony NEX5 on a recommendation from Tynan along with a Voigtlander f/1.1 lens (and a lens adapter). The Sony NEX series was the first mirrorless camera of its kind to offer interchangeable lenses in such a small form factor.
The APS-C sensor size was especially impressive (since I was spoiled with the 5D’s full frame sensor). Now a full frame sensor it was not – but still large enough to capture good low light shots.
The Voigtlander lens was incredible at f/1.1 but at 50mm was practically too tight for a lot of shots. It was good for portrait and getting some nice closeups especially in the dark but wasn’t as practical. Plus the big glass still made it pretty bulky.
After giving the NEX-5 & Voigtlander f/1.1 setup to my friend Scott Braun (it fit his style much more than mine). Last year on a trip to Vegas I went to the Sony store and got the (then newly released) Sony NEX-5N.
I finally was able to fit the camera into my small travel backpack. I also got a f/2.8 16mm Sony pancake lens for wide shots which suits the other end of the spectrum. Now I keep the f/1.4 lens on there most of the time and switch to the f/2.8 for wide shots, macros, and other photos that the 1.4 can’t quite get.To get great low light shots I went ahead and got the Voigtlander f / 1.4 lens (with a Voigthlander to Sony lens adapter) instead of the Voigtlander f / 1.1. The lens is a lot less bulky and still has quality glass to take some professional-looking shots. Plus it’s a 35mm lens so it fits in a lot more scenery than the 50mm.
While the entire setup is still not necessarily pocket-friendly it’s a much more compact setup than the Canon 5D mk II. It’s also quite convenient for not looking like a tourist and sneaking the camera into places where they probably wouldn’t allow larger DSLR’s.
The camera also takes quality 720p HD video which makes it a good camera for dual photo/video use. It produces enough quality for both near DSLR quality stills and HD quality video, especially in low light where and where some of the really sexy bokeh makes the video have that theater-quality look.