We’ve all heard different opinions about the fancy new mirrorless camera systems available today. Some photographers have made the change while others don’t think it wise. I asked a bunch of Alien Skin’s photographer friends to share their thoughts about adopting a mirrorless rig as their main camera. Their responses have really helped solidify my now undying desire to own one. Thanks for spending my money, guys! ;-P
You may notice how much controversy there is over these little beasts. It reminds me of the quarrels over film and digital capture in the beginning. Is the market headed that way? What do you think?
Mirrorless systems can be astronomical, but they don’t fit into everyone’s workflow. It depends on what and how you’re shooting. I was a believer of the new system, so I adopted them early. I did have to force myself to get used to them, though.
For shooting portraits or fine art, they’re an absolute must. You can use them for weddings, too–at least for most of the day. The DSLR’s autofocus speed is unparalleled, whereas with a mirrorless rig there is a delay. They’re not that bad, though. A wedding can certainly be done. You just have to change your way of thinking. The moments that you may miss, are they worth lugging around all that gear to get?
Yes, you’re going to have to adapt to the new system, but they can produce just as good—if not better—shots. The EVF displays exactly what you’re going to capture, which means you can inspect your images on the fly. This opens up a whole new realm of visualization. You can literally see (and shoot) in the dark.
Another one of my favorite things about mirrorless cameras are that they can adapt to any lenses you want to use. I routinely shoot with vintage glass. Some of my favs are 8mm lenses from WWII. Fine art photography can use interesting, or even broken lenses like these in stride.
These are wonderful systems, but there is still room in my bag for the DSLR’s. A lot of the time, I’m just using the mirrorless because they aren’t as cumbersome or intimidating. The photos you get are definitely a little different, but I like different.
I used the original mirrorless system for many years–the Leica M rangefinder–so I do see the appeal of the current crop of mirrorless cameras. Size and weight is always an issue for photographers and it has to be said that these cameras have a distinct advantage in that respect. For me this is really the only advantage of mirrorless and it isn’t a compelling enough reason to switch from DSLR for the foreseeable future.
The main issues are sensor size, media, weatherproofing, and viewfinder technology.
A small sensor just doesn’t give me the same spatial separation of elements within a photograph. I like a large sensor and would probably be more interested in a medium format system than mirrorless. I like to use dual cards in every professional situation and mirrorless can’t provide this as yet. Weatherproofing and robustness of the camera is another issue which I feel will be addressed but a pro DSLR will still outperform mirrorless at this moment in time.
Viewfinder technology is interesting but EVF isn’t for me when working quickly. In a small camera, a rangefinder system is far superior in my opinion. Adding an optical system inevitably increases the size and weight of the camera so it could be argued that you may as well use a DSLR anyway.
I don’t doubt that mirrorless technology will play a huge part in professional photography over the coming years but at the moment it isn’t something I am interested in.
I’d been shooting with Canon systems for four years (5D 1/2/3 and 1DX) and whilst those cameras were and still are exceptional, I found that I craved something smaller and lighter. My style of photography is reportage which means I like to get in very close to my subjects, and with large DSLRs I was finding it more difficult to be unobtrusive. A few years back, I tried out the X100. It was great, but wasn’t ready to replace my DLSRs. Fast forward a little to when Fuji announced the X-Pro1 with a range of very light, relatively cheap, exceptionally sharp lenses. I was sold. At first I shot with both the DSLR and the X-Pro1 but over time, especially as the lens choices increased, my DSLR was relegated so I sold them. I’m now at the point where I shoot weddings entirely with two Fuji X-T1s with lens lengths at 23mm and 56mm. The benefits are amazing; much lighter, much cheaper, and much more discrete. The choice of lenses that Fuji have created in such a short time is next to miraculous in my book. I also take an X100S with me to weddings which is the perfect camera for close up candid work as it’s deadly silent. I try to behave and look like a guest at a wedding and these cameras allow me to do that very easily.
Additionally, being able to use electronic viewfinders means I can be sure of my exposure with less chimping required. This means I can concentrate more on shooting, and capturing the moment.
I shoot 95% with a Fuji X-T1 and X-E2. I really thought they would be augmenting my Nikon system, however, the more I use them the more I love them. The main reasons are the size and weight, but, of course, image quality must be there. So how does the Fuji compare? It’s just fantastic, stunning in fact. And, Fuji has the most glass which just happens to be of exceptional quality. The Electronic View Finder (EVF) takes a little getting used to, but the X-T1 has a class leading EVF and it is as close to looking through glass as I’ve seen. One last point, the cost. Typically Mirrorless systems are significantly cheaper than a comparable DSLR system. On the negative side, the battery life is terrible, but batteries are cheap and small, so its not a deal-breaker for me. Now is a good time to jump in, the water is warm!
The image quality of mirrorless cameras is impressive. The shots I’ve taken with them were just in ambient light at high ISO, but the images were sharp, had low noise, and great color balance. From these results alone, I’d be willing to take one along on my big shoots as a backup or for behind the scenes shots.
My biggest concern of changing over is lens options. Photographers build a library of expensive glass which produce a look they’re accustomed to. My colleagues interested in switching systems are not willing to invest in another set of high-dollar lenses. I’ve also heard about issues when using flash, which is concerning. Flash issues may only come up during isolated circumstances, so it’s hard to judge without further testing.
The technology of these cameras is amazing! A new $1600 camera outperforms a 3 year old $4,000 camera. The potential is there, but it’s not ready for prime-time just yet. It’s similar to buying a new model vehicle: hold off and let the kinks get worked out in the first few models.
I own a mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS M. I bought it as a lightweight, inconspicuous option for the times when I don’t want to lug around a DSLR or don’t want “elbow” into another professionals turf when I’m not the photographer of an event I’m attending. I really enjoy this little option, and delight in the fact that such a small camera can produce such excellent results.
But it won’t be replacing my DSLR.
The primary reasons: full frame image quality and the broader functionality of my DSLR systems. Many mirrorless options feature (at best) a sensor with a crop factor from 1.5x to 2x. For some styles of photography this doesn’t present a problem, but options are far more limited for shooting narrow depth of field shots or providing delineation of the subject from the background. The full frame DSLR look is still superior. While a few mirrorless cameras now feature a full frame sensor, none of them yet rival the full range of functionality that a DSLR offers in the larger body.
The industry is changing, perhaps, but DSLRs are not going away any time soon.
I’m a big mirrorless fan. They deliver the same quality images as a decent DLSR in a smaller, lighter package. Side by side tests show little difference between the Fuji X sensor w/18-55mm and the D800 w/24-70mm. Of course, don’t believe me–go out and test one for yourself.
They’re perfect for the portrait and landscape shooter and their compact size draws much less attention than a clunky pro rig, making them a joy to use for street photography.
The smaller body doesn’t come without a few hiccups. For example, they could be an issue for people with big hands as the controls are pretty tightly packed on the body. Also, these rigs may not be the best fit for the wildlife photographer, yet, but big glass is coming. And lastly, they are not as weatherproof as DSLRs, unfortunately. Speaking of, I soaked one of mine in Cuba and had no problems, but I was a little nervous.
There are a few features still missing for me. Just personal taste. I’d like a wider bracket range (currently +3 to -3), and the ability to perform more than just 2 multiple exposures.
If you pick one up, make sure to buy several extra batteries. They work decently, but not great. I tote a half-dozen extra batteries around with me, so it’s not a big deal. Batteries are small, pack easy, and aren’t expensive.
Everything on my blogs from Sept. 2013, with the exception of multiple exposures, are shot with the Fuji X system cameras. If you’re interested, check them out. Also, I’ll be covering their performance in extreme conditions on my blog after my return from Iceland.
My experiences have been with a Sony NEX7. The weight is perhaps the most attractive part. This little thing is a pleasure to hold, and would make traveling much easier!
Wildlife photographers, or even sports photographers who need super telephoto reach, have very few (if any) options. This essentially rules these cameras out for those who specialize in that kind of work. I assume this will be remedied moving forward, but it does give one the feeling that the overall product line was rushed to the market before having a full array of options for working professionals.
Some features work extremely well. For instance, I was surprised by the speed of the FPS and the programmable dials and buttons was a nice touch.
Perhaps the biggest let down, next to the lack of long lenses, is the EVF. After using a DSLR, looking at an electronic viewfinder is very fuzzy, making it hard to determine what’s in focus (even with 20/20 vision). I could imagine eyeglass wearers will really struggle with this, too.
They’re cheaper, but the price is still surprisingly high–almost equal to that of a DSLR, yet the overall functionality is not nearly as polished. Because of this, I’d hold off as the mirrorless models continue to develop.
Mirrorless cameras are awesome. I’m always on the road, so I’ve been wishing for a camera that could rival my DLSR in image quality, but that wasn’t as much of a burden to carry.
Most of the smaller cameras didn’t get the job done. The first one that did was Fujifilm’s X-Pro1. It took good-quality, sharp photos and was very light. It wasn’t long before Sony introduced their A7–which is a dream camera for me. The little rig captures robust 36mp images without an antialiasing filter, so it takes incredibly sharp images. The best part: the dynamic range of Sony cameras. Now I actually give up some tonal range when I shoot with my DLSR.
At first, I hated the EVF. I preferred the standard OVF. Like all things, after a bit of time and practice, my angst became appreciation. Now I really like them! What you see is what you get, which is great when shooting difficult lighting scenarios such as backlighting, snow, and darker scenes. Also, thanks to the EVF’s peaking effect, shooting with manual focus lenses is a breeze.
Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting with a heavy DSLR or even medium format, but when I walk on the street, mirrorless is the way to go. They’re fast, light, and small so people don’t see you as a threat. Every little bit helps!
The future is bright for the mirrorless cameras. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg!
The first thing that captured my attention was the size and weight of mirrorless cameras. They’re less intrusive, and less intimidating to clients. This is especially crucial during boudoir shoots where a client is already somewhat out of their comfort zone as we start. Plus, they’re really easy to travel with.
I have a sense of nostalgia when I shoot with one. It gives me flashbacks to working with the camera I learned on way back when. The feeling brings me back to my roots, so I’m more focused on fundamentals of composition and exposure.
The other thing that I really love about the new mirrorless trend is the return of vintage and vintage-style glass (Leica, Canon FD, Voigtlander, cheap manual focus lenses, etc.) Focus peaking technology makes the EVF so easy to use, that old manual focus lenses shoot just as crisp and gorgeous as when shooting with a new one.
To me, the mirrorless push in the industry reflects a perfect balance of old becoming new again. My mirrorless camera brings me back to a place that breeds creativity and technical expertise. I can confidently say that my work has improved tenfold since the switch. DSLR’s have gotten so good technically, that it’s almost too easy to get great shots. I like a challenge!
We live in a world where smaller equals cooler, but the rule doesn’t always apply when you’re a working professional. People expect to see robust, cumbersome gear or they don’t feel they’re getting their money’s worth. Imagine the bridal party’s reaction when you pull out a cute little camera.
These dainty little rigs hold their own to a lot of the DSLRs on the market. Plus, the small form factor is perfect for this private moments at any event. They’re stealthy, light, and most importantly they take great-looking photos.
To me, the size is more important than weight. It’s not the heaviness as much as the overpowering statement that a bigger rig can emote. Lens choices are just as good, if not better with the mirrorless rigs. Almost any lens that you can find will work with one of these little guys. I’ve even heard rumors that Sigma plans to open up to new camera models, too. It’s very exciting.
The cost matters a lot to me. Mirrorless is a lot cheaper than a DSLR, not just the body, but the glass as well. You just don’t need 15 lbs of glass to make a crisp photo.
On the other hand, the EVF is a PAIN to use until you’re used to it. I hated shooting with mine at first. You quickly become accustomed to shooting with one though, so it’s not a big deal. Just don’t expect your first experience to be flawless. Battery life can go quick as well. Obviously, the battery size is kept small, so it comes with the territory. Replacements aren’t costly, and they’re pretty reliable.
I purchased a Fujifilm X-E1 last summer primarily as a lighter “walkabout” alternative to my Canon EOS 1D-X and 5D Mark III DSLRs. I’d played about with it a little at Parker J’s workshop and liked its size and weight and the image quality was really good. As the father of 5 and 3-year-old girls, I wanted something that was compact and took better pictures than a P&S or an iPhone when we were out and about on family trips. I was basically tired of lugging my gear around.
Early on, I did take the Fuji out with me on weddings and shoots where wearing it around my neck with the 35 1.4 lens attached was pretty easy. However, despite liking the image quality and really wanting the Fuji to deliver for me, I found I just naturally reverted back to the DSLRs on the majority of occasions. The primary reason for this was the dodgy AF performance in fast-moving situations. With weddings, I found I was missing too many moments as the AF hunted around and, by the time it had locked on and the shutter had closed, the moment was gone. After the second or third occasion of this happening, I didn’t want to chance it again.
I did play with the X-T1 at the Fujifilm booth at WPPI in March and a lot of those issues did seem to have been addressed. However, after just dropping around $1,000 on the X-E1 a few months before, I wasn’t really in a rush to upgrade. My thinking is that the success of the mirrorless system means that R&D in these areas is going to go through the roof over the next few years. New models are going to keep coming out on a pretty regular basis and I’m not going to sink any more money into a new body that’s going to be obsolete in 12 months.
I’ll be really interested to see how things develop and look forward to seeing a full-frame model with dual card slots come out sometime soon. Hopefully, the glass has been designed with the future and that larger sensor size in mind. For now, the X-E1 performs well for personal stuff and that was all I was really looking for anyway.