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Mirrorless - and why they?re (arguably) better


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Mirrorless - and why they’re (arguably) better

14 Oct 2020 8:24AM   Views : 525 Unique : 352


In late 2013, I bought my first mirrorless camera: because it was new, I admit. It seemed to be something Sony were keen on, and I admit to being taken by the hype. In retrospect, I’m not sure that Sony really understood what they were doing with the Alpha 7 and 7R, but what one Jessops salesman said to me sticks. ‘Sony are making so many sensors for other manufacturers that they can afford to launch cameras to test the sensors.’

It took a year or two shooting with the 7 alongside my Alpha 900, because it took me time to get familiar with the new control layout, and to start to trust the camera. It was the same with my first digital cameras – I was on my fourth digital camera before I really started to mainline with it, and film started to take second place.

Now, there’s hype. There are technical reasons why mirrorless cameras are better. And there are practical reasons that will (probably) convince you pretty quickly once you understand them.

And there are three big reasons to stick with what you’ve got: if you have a massive investment in a DSLR and specialist lenses; or if the DSLR offers you advantages that no mirrorless camera shares. If you have the ultimately-weatherproof, case-hardened pro body that cost you over £5k new, and 20mp is fine, stick with it. You’re in the company of most of the newspaper and sports specialists, for whom ultimate sharpness matters less than getting a good image in moonlight, come rain or shine.

And if the technology is secondary, and you don’t make big demands of your camera, there’s no need to change. Or if cost is an overriding factor (as it is for more people while the virus is wrecking the economy), you’ll also want to stick with what you’ve got.

There are two major reasons why you might – if you have the disposable income – want to buy mirrorless.

One is that (Lumix apart) they are smaller and lighter than a DSLR: ageing shoulders will appreciate this, and mountain climbers will be glad of replacing camera with Kendal Mint Cake. And those with smaller hands will appreciate a body that fits even the daintiest mitt easily and comfortably.


The other is, very simply, what the viewfinder does. They vary, and in some conditions most of them are not as good as in optimum circumstances. But overall, think of having live view all the time, but with the added benefits of having a continuous visual guide to exposure, white balance, and focus anywhere in the frame. If I’m shooting sepia images, my viewfinder shows sepia. If I’ve left negative exposure compensation dialled in, my viewfinder image is dark. And if I engage the manual focus magnifier, I can compose, home in on the eyelash or petal I want to for perfect focus, and click – all with the camera at my eye.

Legacy lenses? If your own brand has now got mirrorless models, there’s a cheap adaptor, and reports suggest that they don’t impair functionality (for which read speed and accuracy of focus and exposure). And if you buy Sony, there are excellent adaptors that allow you to use your old lenses on your new Alpha 7 (or 9). The only downside is in the studio, where you lose the exposure and white balance advantages, though you still have a very different experience with manual focus.

I’ve found that a big plus for me is that I can use literally any lens made for a 35mm camera – without a mirror box, the lens flange to sensor distance is less than any camera I’ve met. I can use a pre-war Leica screw lens on my Alphas, or Contax glass, if I want to. It doesn’t matter if the lens is stopped down – if the exposure’s going to be correct, the viewfinder compensates for the lack of light on the sensor. This means that manual aperture lenses are easy to use, and for a Lensbaby fan like me, this is perfect.

Continuous, informative live view. Try it – I suspect the results will delight you.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
14 Oct 2020 8:27AM
Comparison of an apple and an orange: an old, crop-frame DSLR with a Sony mirrorless body. Remember that what you see on the back of the Sony in the two lower views is replicated in the viewfinder - put the camera to your eye, and it switches over. The last picture shows how the viewfinder goes lighter with two stops of positive exposure compensation dialled in.

All three images taken with an Olympus mirrorless MFT body - truly tiny!
ZenTony Avatar
ZenTony Plus
7 31 7 United Kingdom
14 Oct 2020 8:43AM
HI John,
I have now just invested in a Fujiflim X-T4 and totally love it. I have unloaded my big Nikon DSLRs and this now is the camera for me.
In addition I use a Sony RX100v5 for some street stuff.
All the best
PS By the way when I upload a photo and try to input the X-T4 into "camera use" it does not recognise the model; only the X-T3
cats_123 Avatar
cats_123 Plus
19 5.2k 31 Northern Ireland
14 Oct 2020 8:47AM
An interesting review... for me it was always about the weight and grip..after suffering a bout if Dupuytren's contracture a few years back I couldn't hold my Nikon comfortably...now it just seems natural. My Olympus EM10 MK11 body just sits in my hand and even with my new 12-200 lens I can walk around without any arm or shoulder stress. In learning how to maximize the use of the Super control panel, which for me is a big leap forward.

Keep up the good work 😁
Stay safe
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
14 Oct 2020 8:56AM
It's odd how tastes differ: one of the original Olympus MFT promoters was Damien McGillycuddy (I think companies prefer 'ambassador' - I like Sir Henry Wootton's definition: "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.") Known as the Big Dog, he could handle a Mamiya RB67 without trouble...

I am bemused, though, by the people who feel they have to defend a DSLR with vertical grip and 70-200 f/2.8 as feeling just right. A bit like a 50lb kettle bell...
SlowSong Avatar
SlowSong Plus
15 11.3k 30 England
14 Oct 2020 11:24AM

Quote:One is that (Lumix apart) they are smaller and lighter than a DSLR

Why Lumix apart, John? I've got three Panasonics and all are smaller than a DSLR (depending on the model). There are so many Lumix models, I'm interested to know why you've said that.
lifesnapper Avatar
14 Oct 2020 11:40AM
Thank you for your explanation, John which convinces me to stick with what I've got for now. However, my next camera will no doubt be mirrorless as there will probably be little else on the market. I only have Canon lenses so if Canon requires an adaptor to connect to their mirrorless range, the weight advantage will be pretty much lost. (Along with the weight of my lenses.)
All in all, for what I use my camera for, I might as well stick with it until it no longer works properly, or develops a fault which can't be fixed cheaply. And, to be honest, I doubt if I could tell the difference between a picture taken with an DSLR camera and a mirrorless. And that's the bottom line I guess, it's all about the final image rather than weight comparison or what we see through the view finder or with live mode.
Thanks, John a mirrorless camera will certainly not be on my Christmas list this year. Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
14 Oct 2020 11:48AM
Apologies there, Chris.

I had my mind stuck in a full frame rut: have you seen (and more importantly held) a Lumix S1? The MFT models are, mostly, delightful and compact, but the S1 is a monster, comparable in heft with a Canon EOS 5D, at the least.

Sincere apologies: I've owned an GX-7 (now making my daughter a happy snapper) and have a G3 converted to infrared, which is tiny and lovely.

But like a number of Nikon and Canon bodies I've held, the S1 or S1R are on my list of 'unergonomic in my hands' cameras.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
14 Oct 2020 12:18PM
John, I'm glad it's useful!

The basic Canon adaptor to allow you to use EOS lenses on R-series bodies is around £100 (packaged with many of the bodies, I think) and light. So there's a very natural upgrade path for all Canon users, now they're taking mirrorless seriously. Similarly for Nikon owners - and the Z50 is a gem. I reckon, though, that it's vital to have a viewfinder as part of the package, and not all Canon models have one.
SlowSong Avatar
SlowSong Plus
15 11.3k 30 England
14 Oct 2020 12:25PM

Quote:Apologies there, Chris. I had my mind stuck in a full frame rut: have you seen (and more importantly held) a Lumix S1? The MFT models are, mostly, delightful and compact, but the S1 is a monster, comparable in heft with a Canon EOS 5D, at the least.

I've not delved into the FF world. My criteria for using M43 was size, weight and ease of use. I've found the Lumix range to be the most user-friendly, and more than adequate for my level of photography. My GH4 is the largest I have, but it's still compact compared to some DSLRs, my 2 small G5s are my go-to cameras and I like the GX9 for the tilt screen and eyepiece.

Tks for response, John. Smile I sometimes feel that the Panasonics are looked down on, and that Olympus, Fuji and Sonys are considered the creme de la creme. Therefore I always stand up for Panasonic when I think they're being dumped on. Grin

GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
14 Oct 2020 2:14PM
I fall into the "I spent a small fortune over the past few years on DSLR's and Lens to change now" category.
That having been said, I do have a LUMIX FZ1000 and EOS M-50 that I bought to see what the bridge and mirrorless worlds were like.
For me, they do have a place however they will not replace my DSLR's and "L" lenses. They just aren't able to technically. I believe I would have to spend another small fortune buying top flight mirrorless camera's and lenses and it just isn't worth it to me.

When I travel and want a small portable camera I will take the Lumix, I use the M-50 along with a Beta Canon utility to stream video for family Zoom meetings.
Either the Lumix or M-50 could be used when walking around and taking "street pictures", however I just don't do that a lot.
I took the Lumix to a Hockey Game before the lockdown to test it out. I was sitting pretty close to the ice and took some good action pictures. The arena would not allow interchangeable lens cameras, so the Lumix worked out well. So long as I didn't track moving players, it was easy to use and took good pictures. The refresh rate of the live view could not keep up while panning along with moving players.

I can see the allure of light weight cameras and lenses. For studio or landscape having full time live view is an advantage however I believe, and I could be wrong, it would require the best of the best mirrorless camera to pan along with fast moving subjects and the added cost just isn't worth it for me.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
14 Oct 2020 2:22PM
Regarding using Canon EF Lens with and adaptor and Mirrorless cameras, the lenses are too big and heavy.
One of the reasons why many people go to mirrorless is the weight savings and balance. Adding the Canon adaptor to either the crop sensor or full frame Canon cameras kill that advantage.
While the overall weight is reduced, the system now becomes lens heavy and kills the overall advantage of going to mirrorless in the first place.
IMHO, A heavier system that is balanced correctly is easier to handle then a lighter system that is not balanced correctly.
chataignier Avatar
chataignier Plus
10 258 15 France
14 Oct 2020 4:37PM
Well summed up I'd say John. I chose the Fuji x-t3 and I'm delighted with it. Yes, I know it's APS, but not like the APS of a few years ago.
Half the weight of my Canon DSLR set up and, as you say, the inherent advantages of the electronic viewfinder.
As for legacy lenses, I kept my Canon 100mm f2.8 (heavy, but weight is not an issue for macro lenses - you dont normally lug them around much) and also my Canon 50mm f1.8 for portraits (not heavy at all) and use both with a brilliant adaptor from Viltrox that preserves IS and auto focus. For everyday I've bought the Fuji 18-55 f2.8-4 (satisfactory if not amazing), plus the 55-200 f3.5-4.8 (superb sharpness, focus speed and amazing stabilisation - I'm getting good shots hand held at 200mm (300 in effect) at 1/30s and finally the 100-400mm which i have not yet used all that much, so reserve judgment. Initial impressions are good.
Regarding panning with fast moving subjects, I've not found it a problem, but I'm not a sports photographer.
Alan_Baseley Avatar
14 Oct 2020 9:21PM
Sorry John I can only see one advantage with mirrorless and that is the weight. I can see most of the info needed to take a photo in the viewfinder. I don't want to see what some software engineer/code writer has decided what I see in the view finder will look like. I do realise that there are many factors I cannot control but IMHO the joy of photography is to control as much of the process as possible and then for good or ill the result is yours (plus Pentax plus Serif et al). Personally I wish someone (in my case Pentax) would release a manual dSLR with no screen, no video, even, possibly, no autofocus although focus confirmation is handy, with a few metering options and a degree of autobracketing. I really don't see the point of cameras that take 25, 50, 75 or whatever frames per sec. You might as well shoot a video and capture a frame or 2 or3 from it.
Now that Nikon and Canon have found another way (mirrorless cameras) to get money from their devotess it will, no doubt, not be very long brfore they cease producing dSLRs and lenses, leaving the field open to Pentax. That suits this dinosaur.
I appreciate this is only my opinion and many maybe most, will disagree. So be it.
PS It's not a virus that's wrecking the economy, it's an incompetant bureaucracy, leaderless politicians lacking common sense and so called experts who are trying to impose a 19th century solution on a 21 st century society. Did the early lockdown do any good? Did it save any lives? Interesting isn't it that all the figures being shown are per 100000 or million of the population rather than the usual percentage. Could it be that ~19000 postive tests out of ~250000 tests looks worse than 7.5%? It's Project Fear, Episode 2. The Black Death (or even Spanish Flu) it ain't.

PPS Sorry for the rant
whatriveristhis Avatar
15 Oct 2020 3:49PM
I learned the craft using film cameras, 35mm and then 120 MF... fully manual operation, manual focusing, hand-held meter, tripod, bag full of prime lenses – the whole shebang. The move to digital was a revelation – everything was so much easier, and I could think less about the process and more about the result. Mirrorless took that a big step further, firstly with a GH3, and then a move to Fuji's system, which I absolutely love.
As far as I'm concerned mirrorless is the best thing since sliced bread, it's another thing that helps to strreamline the process, which suits me fine because I'm less interested in photography and more interested in photographs.

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