I am not ashamed to admit that I am a product of the digital age. While I have shot a variety of film stocks and understand the appeal of the old ways—I, too, have experienced the magic of watching black-and-white images coalesce in the developing tray—at the end of the day, I prefer the precise control, immediate feedback, and ease of post-processing that digital affords.
Most importantly, as I like to be mobile yet prepared at all times, it’s tough to beat the ability-to-space ratio of a quality mirrorless camera. I fully understand the appeal of an optical viewfinder, and there’s nothing wrong with preferring a full-size DSLR if you do. For me, however, it’s mirrorless all the way.
In case you’re not aware, mirrorless cameras are those developed to focus the image directly onto the sensor, using a live-view display and/or an electronic viewfinder to set up the image. They were first introduced as, essentially, step-up cameras for the point-and-shoot customer, but are an increasingly popular choice for the enthusiast, prosumer, and even professional markets, whether as a primary or secondary body. Our upcoming travel photography seminar at Mike’s Camera in Sacramento got me thinking: what is it, exactly, that excites the mirrorless user?
The biggest benefit, hands down, is the incredible shrinking effect removing the mirror/prism/viewfinder has on the body. (Some, like the Micro Four Thirds sytem, have dramatically smaller lenses as well, but that’s because of the smaller sensor size. They punch above their weight, in my experience, but that’s a tangential benefit.) When you’re carrying a camera around for hours, every ounce counts—your neck will thank you!—and when making the decision to carry your camera on a given outing or not, every little fraction of an inch makes a big difference. Most mirrorless camera/lens combos will fit in a jacket or hoodie pocket, a very small bag, or cargo-pants pockets quite easily, meaning the every outing doesn’t have to be a full-on photo shoot, without sacrificing the quality of the images.
Guesswork can be completely eliminated, thanks to the catchily-dubbed quality of “wizzy-wig.” Spelled out, what you see is what you get. No more need you press a button to preview your aperture and hope that your white balance is set correctly; since the feed for your image preview is coming directly from the recording sensor, your final image should look exactly like the image you saw beforehand on the display or EVF. For a time, these display methods were a weak point of mirrorless cameras (I remember shooting essentially blindly with my old NEX-5 when the sun was out in full), but nowadays the clarity of the EVFs built into mirrorless cameras rivals that of optical viewfinders and the screens reach extra-bright levels.
High-level “tech” feature-set
Whereas more traditionally-styled DSLRs are gradually adding technological features to an optical/analog base, mirrorless cameras have developed with the opposite trajectory: a high-tech device gradually improving in optical ability. Mirrorless cameras have always more enthusiastically embraced exotic features like a variety of in-camera panorama modes, creative styles ranging from selective-color to toy-camera simulation, and incredibly creative (and effective) multi-image processing techniques (e.g. for HDR, noise reduction, and so on). We’re lucky enough to live in an age in which most DSLRs are coming around to some of these same features, but it still feels a little more effortless on cameras built from the ground up in the gadgetry style, especially with regards to…
This is under the same category of “tech features,” but the convenience and delight of being able to shoot a great picture with a quality camera and then almost immediately edit, share, or order prints from your phone can not be overstated. This feature is growing more universal, but as I stated, it still feels a little more effortless with the mirrorless set. (Your mileage may vary.)
Finally, it’s tough to beat the hybrid still/video capabilities of the mirrorless camera. Video is especially suited to using live-view technology, and mirrorless cameras are custom-built around live-view. In addition, the smaller/lighter packages are much easier to stabilize—a major concern for both quality of footage and price of gear.
There are a few of my reasons for being a full mirrorless convert. It’s an even sweeter deal considering that it’s easy to adapt just about any mirrored-system lens to any mirrorless system. If you’d like to hear more, from another mirrorless user’s perspective, please join us for an awesome seminar by pro photographer William Innes in one month’s time at Mike’s Camera in Sacramento. William is well-traveled and his travels have been well-photographed. A ticket will cost you $20 upfront, but upon registration you will receive a $20 gift card to Mike’s Camera, so it is essentially free! (I know you’ve been eyeing something in-store…) The seminar will be from 6:30 PM–8:30 PM on July 19, 2018. Click here to register.