5 Reasons to Consider a Mirrorless Camera Over a Digital SLR - news nch

Saturday, March 17, 2018

5 Reasons to Consider a Mirrorless Camera Over a Digital SLR

It was only a few years ago that “mirrorless” was a dirty word. What were once seen as “prosumer” or hobbyist cameras have finally made the leap into the professional and enthusiast space.
Most major camera manufacturers have dabbled with mirrorless technology at this stage, but only a few have pushed the boundaries of what a camera that foregoes traditional through-the-lens optics can do.
If the future is mirrorless, are you ready to make the jump?

1. Small Is Good

I still take most of my photos with an iPhone because it’s always on me and the images are satisfactory. You can even shoot RAW with the right combination of iPhone and apps, and the telephoto lens on the iPhone 7 Plus is surprisingly useful.
The Nikon D50 was my first digital SLR, purchased in 2005. By today’s standards it’s a mid-sized camera, chunky for an entry-level model. My biggest issue with the camera isn’t the aging internals, lack of autofocus points, or even low light performance. It’s the fact that it’s too big to carry around comfortably.
I’ve been known to fall into the trap of bleating “the best camera is the one you have on you,” but it’s still true. I’ve taken far less photos on my iPhone since buying a small APS-C Sony mirrorless camera, because the Sony is usually within reach. I haven’t even attached the included neck strap because the camera is usually in my hand or floating around a tote bag.
Sick of lugging a giant camera body around with you? Hate the swing of a DSLR around your neck? Often leave your camera at home because you can’t be bothered transporting it? Mirrorless cameras are here to save the day! By virtue of the lack of a mirror (which enables the use of a true optical viewfinder), these cameras are considerably smaller than their more traditional counterparts.
Even the lenses are smaller, which is the case for all but the fastest full-frame glass. Sony and Fuji’s APS-C lenses, and the wealth of Micro Four Thirds (MFT) options from manufacturers like Olympus and Panasonic, allow you to fit a fair number of lenses into a relatively small space.
I’m still looking for a camera bag that’s small enough for my Sony a6500.

2. Focus Is on Point

One area that digital SLRs once put all others to shame was autofocus. It’s no secret that things have changed dramatically, particularly where Sony is concerned.
While Canon has its excellent dual-pixel autofocus technology, Sony managed to steal the “fastest autofocus in the world” title in 2016 with the a6300. What’s more, Sony’s implementation of phase-detect autofocus (PDAF) in their latest models puts them at the front of the autofocus game.

PDAF provides competent lock-on and tracking of objects across the frame. Assuming you’re using Sony lenses, the camera can track subjects with little to no “hunting,” whether you’re shooting stills or video. For portraiture, there’s nothing quite like Sony’s Eye-AF to get tack-sharp focus on your subject’s eyes (it even works with cats).
Panasonic and Fuji can’t quite compete with Sony yet in terms of autofocus, but both are committed to improving performance of their cameras with incremental firmware upgrades. Both the Fuji XT-2 and Panasonic GH5 received major upgrades that improved their AF performance only months after each was released.
So can mirrorless technology rival the likes of Canon for autofocus? I’d say so. The fact that mirrorless technology has come anywhere near DSLR pack leaders is reason enough to consider them competent in this department.

3. Mirrorless Is the Best Choice for Video

For top-quality video on a budget, you can’t get better than the Panasonic GH5 as of this writing. No other camera can shoot cinema 4K at a bitrate of 400 Mbps for the $2,000 Panasonic is asking. Compatibility with the MFT mount further sweetens the deal by putting plenty of affordable glass at your disposal.
If you can’t spend spend GH5 money, the Sony a6500 offers incredibly crisp 4K at 100 Mbps in a tiny package. Even the cheaper a6300 offers comparable 4K performance (without the in-body stabilization) for less than $1,000 with a basic 16–50mm kit lens to get you started.

DSLR manufacturers have seriously dropped the ball when it comes to video in recent years. Canon decided to focus their video efforts on the Cinema EOS range (including the C300, C500, and 1D C) and recently left even basic 4K support out of the 60D Mark II.

Nikon has never been much of a competitor when it comes to video. Recently, their best APS-C camera ever — the D500 — shipped with a crop factor of 2.175x on 4K video recording. To quote photographer and blogger Jens Bouma:

These cameras are not cheap. They’re all more expensive than comparable Sony or Panasonic offerings, but video performance isn’t up to snuff. The message from Canon is clear: if you want great video features, you’ll need to cough up for a great video camera. Nikon seems to be trying, but their efforts don’t look great when Sony’s cheap a6300 offers Super 35mm 4K 24p footage (downsampled from 6K) with full sensor readout
Sony and Panasonic are the only manufacturers offering professional features in a pocket-friendly package. These cameras ship with pro-level features like focus peaking (for assistance when manually focusing), zebra striping (for highlighting poorly exposed areas), and flat logarithmic gamma curves like S-Log and V-Log (for more control when color grading footage).
Form factor can also make the difference for video, since you can fit a smaller camera on a lighter gimbal or mount it in unusual places where larger models won’t fit. If you want a run-and-gun or studio setup, why not rig your camera up with a cage (like the SmallRig) and add all the 4K monitors, audio inputs, and external power sources you could ever want?

4. Hybrid Shooters Are Welcome

A hybrid shooter is someone who shoots both video and stills. They might be hobbyists, looking to dip their toes into both mediums, wedding or event photographers who need flexibility in their equipment, or video enthusiasts who appreciate the need for decent still performance from time to time.
Mirrorless cameras currently offer the best of both worlds for those with “hybrid” needs. Not only are they smaller, so they’re easier to carry around, but modern sensors provide excellent image quality in both areas. Sony’s full frame offerings like the admittedly expensive A9 and more affordable A7-Rii can easily stand with the best Nikon and Canon has to offer.
Even smaller APS-C sensors are worth considering, since they only use a 1.5x crop and still offer a large enough surface area for good low-light performance and decent depth of field. MFT may suffer a bit in this department, but the huge range of lenses on offer softens the blow.

When it’s time to open your wallet, you want the most for your money. Mirrorless cameras provide the best of both worlds: great still images, with video performance that gives even the most expensive DSLRs a run for their money. Since they punch well above their weight for the cost, this leaves you with more money to spend on lenses.

5. You Don’t Need a Mirror Anymore

Electronic viewfinders (EVFs) were once laggy and frustrating to use on all but professional gear. That’s no longer the case. Huge leaps and bounds have been made to cram low-latency screens, with virtually imperceptible lag, inside small mirrorless cameras. The feeling of disconnection between the EVF and what your camera is pointed at shouldn’t put you off any more.
In fact, I’d argue that EVFs are reaching the point where they surpass traditional optical viewfinders in certain scenarios. One of my biggest gripes with the Sony a6500 (and many rival cameras) is that the LCD panel on the back of the camera is hopeless in bright light. Thankfully the inclusion of an EVF provides a nice dark space for me to peer into and compose the shot — so far, so DSLR.
Where the Sony’s EVF really comes into its own, however, is with features like focus peaking and focus assist magnification. The first highlights the areas of my shot that the camera thinks are in focus, which makes it easy to quickly adjust focus. Focus assist magnification is exactly what it sounds like: the camera will zoom in so I can better gauge whether the subject is indeed in focus.

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