Six things to know about Mirrorless Cameras

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Shopping for a camera? The hype seems to revolve around mirrorless cameras.

Should you buy it? This article goes through 6 facts that one must know about mirrorless cameras, which might help you make the decision. 

What is a mirrorless camera?

As the name suggests, it is a camera that has no mirror. It is different from Digital Single Reflex cameras or DSLRs.

The mirror has been used since the 1950’s, then why change it?

There are three reasons to remove the mirror:

  1. No more fragile and complicated mechanism
  2. Reduces shaking
  3. Reduced weight and more compact

The mirror is replaced by an electronic viewfinder. It is a small, high-resolution LCD screen.

6. The Size Myth: Mirrorless Cameras Are Smaller and Lighter Than DSLRs

The mirrorless camera lacks the mirror and all other related parts. This allows the camera to be lighter and smaller compared to that of DSLRs.

The Myth 

A mirrorless camera is easier to carry since they are small and light. If portability is what you value, the mirrorless camera is a better option compared to the DSLR.

The Truth 

Historically accurate. The first mirrorless cameras were by Panasonic and Olympus. They lacked electronic viewfinders or it was optional. The mirrorless cameras today are slightly different.

Olympus still works with the MFT format.

Brands like Fujitsu, Sony, Pentax, Nikon, Canon use APS-C and full frame sensors instead.Although the size of the sensor should not change the size of the camera body significantly right?

Right, but these are ILC cameras. ILC stands for Interchangeable Lens Camera. The amount of the sensor that is exposed to the incoming light is determined by the size of the lens. Which means that the size of the image projected on the sensor is affected by the lens.

Compact and lightweight interchangeable lenses can illuminate MFT sensors.With respect to Full Frame Sensors? They require lenses that are as big as the ones used in full frame DSLRs.

Another drawback is that the camera-lens system is unbalanced. Since the camera body is small, the camera is heavier on the side of the lens. It gets tiring when clicking pictures by hand using big lenses. 

An adapter makes things worse as it pushes the lens further ahead, increasing the problem with the balance. This reduces the portability of the camera as well, the only real gain is the size and weight of the camera body. Sometimes the bodies are not as small as they could be. Dedicated accessories exist exist in order to make the camera bigger and easier to hold. Removable battery grips are an effective solution, they allow the camera to be small while using smaller lenses and help with the balance while using bigger lenses. 

Verdict

The size and weight argument is not a particularly good one keeping portability in mind. A high end bridge camera may suit you better for instance from the Sony RX10 family, better with a fast superzoom lens.

5. Mirrorless Cameras are WYSIWYG Cameras

Mirrorless cameras have an advantage over DSLRs. They are What You See Is What You Get kind of cameras. This helps in improving your skills as a photographer much faster. Mirrorless cameras use electronic viewfinders to show you what the camera sees. You can witness the effects of changing the camera settings in real time(Shutter speed, aperture, ISO)

This makes understanding the phenomenon of the Exposure Triangle, aperture and shutter speed much easier. It makes working in manual mode much easier, especially for novice photographers. It also allows you to manually focus on objects, this proves to be helpful in astrophotography, nighttime or interior photography. Overexpose the image to brighten the scene, it will make it easier to focus then return to proper settings before clicking the picture. 

4. Protection From Light Leakage During Long Exposures In Daylight

Optical viewfinders often allow light to enter the camera from it. Leakage of light from the viewfinder is not usually a problem, unless you are doing long exposures in which case it should be covered. The eye does not block it and the light can creep into the body and ruin your image. 

Cameras are equipped with solutions for such problems. A small piece of soft rubber is usually given on the strap, which is intended to be used to block the viewfinder during long exposures. Since mirrorless cameras have no optical viewfinder, this is not something that you have to be worried about. 

3. The False Battery Problem

Mirrorless cameras use power faster than DSLRs. Even if the rear LCD is off, it uses energy to power the electronic viewfinder. The battery life for entry level mirrorless cameras is about 300 shots. High end mirrorless cameras like the Sony a7 iii can go upto 700 shots. 

Entry level DSLRs allow you to take around 400 shots and 1000 shots in the case of pro models like the Canon 80D. People often blow this out of proportion out of this false problem.  We hardly shoot upto 300 images without the possibility to replace the battery with a spare one. Do we really need to shoot 900 images with a single battery?

As mentioned above, power grips are available for many high end mirrorless cameras that allow you to use two batteries at the same time. 

2. Availability Of Accessories

It may be true for MFT mirrorless cameras. It is difficult to find third party lenses compared to that for DSLRs. Sigma, Tamron and Samyang/Rokinon are some sources of lenses. 

Lens adaptors are usually available to adapt lenses with a different mount. This allows you to pair mirrorless cameras from Canon and Nikon with existing DSLR lenses.There may be fewer models of remote shutters and flashes compared to that for DSLRs.

This again is a false problem, since makers of camera accessories follow the market and the demand for mirrorless cameras is increasing by the minute. Which will lead to a surplus of accessories for mirrorless cameras in the market soon enough. 

1. Pros Don’t Use Mirrorless Cameras

The most common argument against mirrorless cameras is that DSLRs are still used by professionals. Which is quite untrue. Numerous world-renowned photographers have made the switch to mirrorless cameras. One of the first to do so was travel photographer Trey Ratcliff. Other notable photographers to follow suit include Andy Mumford and Phil Norton.

Image quality today depends completely on the combination of the lens and sensor. The mirror plays no role in this dynamic. The mirror on the other hand is responsible for blurring long exposures. Many pro graded lenses are available for mirrorless cameras, hence image quality is not an issue. 

Two practical reasons as to why professionals still use DSLRs are as follows:

  1. They have spent a fortune on their current equipment and switching is rather expensive.
  2. The size of the camera is often associated with your skill level. Small cameras are associated with amateurs and bulky ones with professionals. Using a small camera as a wedding photographer for instance will get you weird looks from people and drive customers away. 

Conclusion

Here is what you should know if you are interested in buying a mirrorless camera:

  1. People say mirrorless cameras are not always small and light. MFT mirrorless cameras are the most compact cameras available. Their sensors can be illuminated with small and compact lenses.
  2. It can make you a better photographer. You can observe the effects of your settings in real time. 
  3. Mirrorless cameras have a shorter battery life compared to DSLRs. But do you really need to click 300 shots without replacing the battery.
  4. There is a higher availability of accessories for DSLRs compared to mirrorless cameras. But the situation is changing as we speak. 
  5. Image quality of mirrorless cameras is at par with DSLRs if not better. Many professional photographers have already made the switch.
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