DSLR vs. Mirrorless life

Had you told me that I would be selling my prized DSLR in favor of a mirrorless two years ago, I would have told you that you were insane. Though my DSLR had aged it still competed with a lot of newer models with relative ease and remains a good choice, good value for money. When I announced that I was selling my professional DSLR (a Canon EOS 7D), I had no reaction, mostly because most knew I have it’s bigger brother (the Canon EOS 5D Mark III), but then came my next announcement I had bought a mid-range mirrorless to replace it, I nearly got lynched, I had become a heretic. Yet I had owned and used a mirrorless for over a year.

Why go mirrorless?
What will be given up?
Here is a table comparing a mid-range mirrorless against a popular DSLR, I would like to note that both are excellent cameras.

SONY Alpha 6000 Canon EOS 700D
Size 120 x 67 x 45 mm 133 x 100 x 79 mm
Weight (body only) 344g 580g
Megapixels 24.3MP APS-C  (x1.5) 18MP APS-C (x1.6)
Frame per second 11fps 5fps
ISO 100-25600 100-25600
Focus Contrast Detect (sensor)Phase Detect
Multi-area
Selective single-point
Single
Continuous
Face Detection
Live View
Contrast Detect (sensor)Phase Detect
Multi-area
Selective single-point
Single
Continuous
Face Detection
Live View
Min shutter speed 30 sec 30 sec
Max shutter speed 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec
Viewfinder Electronic Optical (pentamirror)
Viewfinder  coverage 100% 95%
Screen type 3” Tilt (90% up -45% down screen 3” fully articulated touch screen
Built-in Flash Yes Yes
External flash Yes, hot-shoe Yes, hot-shoe
Wi-Fi Yes No (only via Eye-Fi Card)
Video 1920 x 1080(MPG4+ AVCHD) 1920 x 1080(H.264+Motion JPEG)
Battery Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
Card type SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Price R 9 000 est R 9 000 est

Looking at the table above one could nearly believe that you are looking at another DSLR camera, the capabilities of the mirrorless are so close to those of the popular DSLR that it would make it difficult to call it on paper. But what are we giving up? Some lens choice, a fully articulated touch screen, 236g, a few millimeters here and there and an optical viewfinder – along with a mirror. What are we gaining? Wi-Fi, more pixels, a 100% viewfinder in a smaller and a much lighter package.

What is the attraction to mirrorless?

A question you should be asking by now and a fair one. I travel regularly and the 12.5Kg backpack is no longer an option, it may contain the top lenses and an incredible camera but it is still 12.5Kg. Furthermore, I injured my right wrist many years ago and the nearly 2Kg shaded from the camera are very welcomed. Furthermore, my camera bag is now 3,2Kg with 2 mirrorless, various lenses and an iPad in it, we are taking about a ¼ of the weight with the same functionality and nearly the same image quality as any cropped sensor DSLR.

Don’t mistaken me, these are two very different cameras with two very different characters but it does not prevent the photographer to achieve the same results.

In truth, the mirrorless handles more like a point-and-shoot and less like a DSLR but can do as much, and sometimes more, as any popular DSLR in the same price range. With the additional advantage of interchangeable lenses it becomes a very attractive proposition. Most mirrorless manufactures are growing their lens offerings at a rapid rate, not to mention the 3rd party availability. I could no longer ignore them and the convenience.

You may have heard of the lens trinity which includes a wide, a general and a telephoto lens, I carry one more a 50mm prime – nifty 50 as they are often referred as. In my DSLR bag I have a 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-105mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4 – with the addition of a 100mm f/2.8 Macro, a few Lensbabies, a flash, a remote trigger, a few filters, a microphone and a couple of spare batteries, in short the trinity and a bit.

What about my mirrorless bag? It holds 1 mirrorless – a 24Mp-, a 10-18mm f/4.0, a 16-70mm f/4, a 50mm f/1.8, a 30mm f/3.5 Macro and a few Lensbabies, along these are a gorilla tripod and an  iPad Mini to boot. It allows me to edit the photos for quick publishing to my favorite social media site. Note that both bags have a range from 16 to 105mm [full size sensor equivalent] and I have a 200mm for the SONY should I need it.

I also gave up some depth of field for 2 reasons, the lenses f-stops and the smaller sensor. The good news is that my mirrorless manufacturer recognized this as a problem and they are bringing us some great new choices, a 10-18mm f/4 with an effective 15-27mm wide angle, a 16-70 f/4 (24-105mm) and an 18-105mm f/4 (27-157mm) giving us new great choices for our trinity, the recent addition of a tele-zoom lens a 70-200mm f/4 was welcomed along, now we are waiting for longer zoom and primes. There is a 300 f/6.3 (450mm) mirror reflex lens from a third party manufacturer should you be desperate. I expect that with the arrival of the SONY Alpha 7 range full frame sensors the lens choice will grow exponentially in the coming year.

Worried about the “higher” quality lenses? The general quality of the mirrorless camera manufacturers lenses are not bad but think of higher quality as found on the DSLRs, those can be found as well, pro lenses that are though as nails.

There are enough lenses to suit most needs that a photographer may encounter from most original and 3rd party manufacturers, not to mention the mired of adapters available for most mirrorless.

Mirrorless cameras

Pros

  • Compact
  • Light
  • Same functionality as most DSLR
  • Easy to use Wi-Fi
  • Live view remote with all settings and tap focus on your mobile.
Cons
  • Sensor prone to dust
  • More lens needed, particularly in the telephoto range (100mm +)
  • Electronic viewfinder on some of these not to everybody’s liking
  • Focusing may be a little slower at times
  • Wi-Fi does not transfer photos automatically to mobile device

When it comes down to it, how much have I lost? Not much in comparison to what I have gained, less back pain and less visibility, walking around with a mirrorless attracts less attention than a big DSLR, people think you have a point-and-shoot and will not treat you as a threat or a terrorist.

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One Response to DSLR vs. Mirrorless life

  1. Grahame Hall says:

    I was at a Fujifilm function earlier…mirrorless is the future.

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