There may be a lot of geek moments in this section of the blog because, well deep down I am a geek! This time around I will be discussing my thoughts on what some call ‘the mirrorless revolution.’
All DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera’s are based on the previous system of camera’s – meaning they all use an optical viewfinder where the light from the lens is reflected by a mirror up to the viewfinders where it finds your eye! This is the same system which was used for decades with traditional film based cameras, we pretty replaced the film with a sensor (and yes, quite a bit of computer to process that digital signal).
With digital came integrated video. With a hefty screen on the back and the mirror locked in the up position, you see the image right on the screen. This has great uses for still photography too, because you can use large screen for focusing in less than ideal situations. With this capability it was only a matter of time before we started to see fully mirrorless camera’s which totally did away with the mirror.
My thoughts on this are, ok, when the tech behind it matures it may lead a great things, but, where it stands now is on precarious ground.
It basically comes down to an argument of smaller and lighter vs use the current size. Most mirrorless sensors are based on the APS-C design, which is appx 1.6x smaller than a FF sensor. As of yet, we don’t have any mirrorless options in the same format as current DSLR lenses. Lots of very smart people have spent decades perfecting the formulas for lenses which follow the current 35mm format. I don’t doubt that given time they could make smaller lenses which = the optical quality of the current selection, but, that’s waiting a good decade just to get to the point of sitting as an equal. No one wants to go replacing several thousands of dollars’ worth of gear.
The camera industry is changing! With the advances in cell phone camera’s, all the major manufacturers are seeing lower sales in the Point and shoot market, and in entry level DSLR’s. In comes mirrorless cameras to try to right the ship. The only problem with that ideology is that the cell phone crowd has gotten used to having one device. Even though mirrorless bodies are smaller, they aren’t that small and they can’t upload to FB or instegram, nor can you txt, play games, make calls, navigate, etc, etc. If you ask me, that leads to mirrorless only being useful for travel photography.
In comes sony with an interesting option though – the A7 series which allows for adaptors to Canon and Nikon lenses. It is an interesting concept. Now that’s a good start! I have not laid my hands on yet but from what I have read here are some pro’s and con’s. Pro – it is a Full Frame sensor. Con – Battery life. Pro – lighter weight. Con – Lighter weight presents issues with longer heavier lenses. Pro – digital viewfinder gives you more of a what you see is what you get feel. Con – digital viewfinder has lag, and, tends to look pretty murky in lower light. Pro – no mirror = less moving parts. Con – electronic shutter is not capable of handling higher frames per second. I can’t think of any more pro’s, other than the sensor – but it’s the same sensor as the Nikon D800 so the sensor is not unique to the A7. I can think of more con’s like, for action, optically better because you it’s a direct reflection of the subject. The AF system is not as precise as you’d have in a DSLR. The AF really falls off when used with adaptors (though I guess there are some product updates with that on the horizon, so maybe that will fix the issue).
So the A7 series is a good start to getting mirrorless into the hands of pro’s. The tech behind it needs to improve a lot more before it will be truly pro. Issues of lag and battery life, and FPS may be what’s preventing the release of pro level mirorless – work out the kinks with the lower end first! My prediction is that we may see a few hybrid DSLR bodies within the next few years though to test the waters. Then we shall see, will they fix the issues to the extent that we’ll see a transition from optical to mirrorless? My vote is still for the mirror. It’s tested and true. I like that it makes you think about what you want to accomplish, I think it makes me a better photographer. With that said, if the decision is made simple, like all my lenses are native to the body, then yeah, I would consider that. We will see what wins though, only time will tell.