TrueToad Digital Imaging, News and Reviews, Nikon, Camera Lens Reviews, Nikkor

Friday, October 3, 2014

Going Mirrorless

why bother

If you’re in the market for a camera or already have a camera you probably discovered the ever increasing interest in various mirrorless cameras and how they are now closing the gap with traditional DSLRs.  If you recall (depending on your age) when film was slowly dying off during the advancements in digital imaging technology, many folks stayed the film course and continued to spout how much better film was over some electronic image.  Well, we know what happened in Rochester, NY – Kodak HQs. Here we are today surrounded not by rolls of film but by faster and larger capacity memory cards.  The same thing is happening to the analog viewfinder and mirror box found in traditional DSLRs.

First let me give you my advice up front, then decide if you wish to read the remainder of this article. 


I can recommend a mirrorless system if you fit into one of these categories;

-  You don't already have a DSLR

-  You don't have an investment in DSLR accessories / lens

-  Your not a professional photographer

-  You are tired of your current camera

If you fall into the category above, I highly recommend you research the current mirrorless camera systems available.  Keep an eye on sensor size and lens availability while you do your research.


What is a mirrorless camera?  Sounds like a simple question, and for the most part it is.   A mirrrorless camera is a camera whose focused image light path goes straight to the sensor and is not diverted or reflected by the use of a mirror. This means almost every camera except a DSLR is a mirrorless camera, so we are already surrounded by them, that iPhone has a mirrorless camera.    For the purpose of this article we will speak about those mirrorless cameras who’s features very similarly match that of a DSLR.


Lets talk about what makes a mirrorless camera an attractive alternative to the DSLR.  First, with the absence of a mirror box and pentaprisim a similarly featured mirrorless camera’s overall size and weight is less, making it an easier package to carry around.  In most cases the lens are similarly sized smaller and lighter as well.  Thus overall a mirrorless system is smaller and lighter which makes it an attractive alternative to the heavier DSLR system.


Quiet Everyone!  Without the flapping of that mirror a mirrorless camera can operate silently, making it a perfect solution for weddings or other situations that frown on noise.  Stalkers love mirrorless cameras.


Electronic viewfinder; When the manufacture implements this correctly, I believe an electronic viewfinder offers many benefits over a traditional reflected light pentaprisim.  For one, in dim light you can actually see better for easy composing.  Some hybrid mirrorless cameras employ the traditional glass viewfinder for composing, usually of the straight through variety.   Until recently, lag and resolution was holding back the EVF, but now that is less of an issue.


Less Vibrations; without the added moving parts of mirrors flapping around, you normally have less vibrations and with that, translates to sharper pictures.


Faster better; Once again, without the mirror a mirrorless camera can shoot images at blazing speeds, much faster than even the highest end DSLRs. 20, 60 fps. Wow!


Why don’t we all switch to mirrorless?  Those who shoot DSLRs normally fall into a couple of categories, budding amateur, enthusiast, or semi / pro. So, in order to move to mirrorless system we want something comparable to that DSLR we use now for its superior image quality and to keep shooting with the same great lenses we have invested soo much money into.  Neither Canon nor Nikon have a semi-pro level mirrorless system (yet). 

It makes no sense for me as a Nikon shooter to jump to a 4:3 format solution, just for the benefit of a mirrorless, smaller lighter camera body and abandon my FX lens. Even with lens adapters you’re faced with a crop factor + the loss of features due to the lens is not made for the camera body / mount.

This is a HUGH reason not to switch to one of the “Current” mirrorless systems, unless you also buy into their lens systems – and why would you do that when you already have soo much invested in your current lens.  I do have a Nikon 1 camera but I don’t pretend it replaces my current DSLR, simply because it can’t,  even though I can use most all my current Nikkor lens using the FT1 adapter.


This leads to the question – When is Nikon or Canon offering a decent DX / FX mirrorless camera body? To me this would make more sense than switching to a different body and mount simply for it being mirrorless with an EVF.  I think we all know why Nikon and Canon have not yet released a pro / semi pro level mirrorless camera body, but I suspect that day will come sooner rather than later.


Olympus, Panasonic, FujiFilm, Samsung, Sony, Pentax, Nikon, and the overly priced Leicas have all expanded their range of mirrorless offerings, and why not. Nikon and Canon are not doing anything serious in the mirrorless markets. No one offers a FX sized mirrorless sensor system, or a wide selection of professional lens to use with current mirrorless cameras.  So those who make their living with the DSLR are probably still making their living with their DSLR and don’t give the crop factor mirrorless sensors cameras much thought.

I have mentioned sensor sizes for current mirrorless camera offerings:  like CX, 4:3, or DX.  All these have various crop factors from 2.7 to 1.6 although it may sound wonderful to mount that FX 400mm lens on the CX (2.7 crop) sized sensor body to achieve a whopping 1080mm fov lens, but realistically speaking your results may be less than acceptable unless of course you’re doing stationary shots of things that don’t move much.  Show me someone who can get consistent bird in flight with that set up?


The point here is if you’re considering a mirrorless camera then also consider what lens you’re going to

 use with it , if you’re willing to sacrifice the limiting restrictions of using either lens adapter for your current lens or shell out another $800.00 for a  matched lens maybe your ripe for the mirrorless game.


** If I had a DX DSLR with one or two lens, sure. I would sell them off on ebay and pick up an Olympus OM-D E-M1 silver edition, with the 14 – 40mm 2.8 pro lens, and never look back.  But I have a pro level system with many pro level lens, and there is no way in digital hell I would do a step down.



Why would a full frame sensor shooter switch to a smaller sensor size? Sensors are like condoms, some fit you better than others.  Nikon’s mirrorless sensor size is a 1” CX format, almost eight times smaller than the FX sized sensors, and you can image how it compares in performance to the larger FX sensors.  Realistically speaking,  Just because two sensors have 18mp does not mean they are even close in performance.  I think we learned this during the megapixel race to the top when DSLRs where fighting for the top MP slot.  Noise, dynamic range and lens selection all are factors.  Until the Big two releases their FX mirrorless bodies I will stick with DSLR.


Other manufactures, have the middle ground of APSC (DX) and 4:3s, sized sensors.  Most DSLR shooters are familiar with the DX sized sensors and have a wider range of lens to choose from.   I think this class of sensors you have more reasonable images.

Author: TrueToad
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Categories: The Photography BlogNumber of views: 4390

Tags: CX DX FX Mirrorless


I live at the edge of the forest in semi-moist locations, I enjoy larva, and other delights. Although I am toothless and mostly warty, I am a sight to see.

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1 comments on article "Going Mirrorless"



4/8/2015 4:27 PM

Thanks for the info - I did pick up a few tidbits and made my choice.

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