Mirrorless cameras have been around for a long time. In the 1800’s one of the 1st ever photograph was taken by Joseph Draper. Draper took a portrait of his sister with one of the first ever portable cameras made by a company called Niépce. Was this the first mirrorless camera?
Fast forward centuries later and we have the SLR. Single Lens Reflex cameras often use a mirror and prism system that allows the photographer to view through the lens and see exactly what will be captured, contrary to rangefinder cameras where the image could be very different from what will be captured. We then moved to Digital SLRs or DSLRs which incorporated a slightly sophisticated computerized system. Rather than exposing light to film the light is expose to a sensor and the image is processed to a memory card.
The Mirrorless System
The 1st alleged digital mirrorless camera was introduced by Epson in 2009 it was known as the Epson R-D1. Since then several other cameras have been released, all with different mounts and sensor sizes. Below is a list I’ve complied for easy access.
The Sony A7 R II is not a DSLR and many know this but the features it has to offer make it quite attractive. Announced on June 10th 2015 the updated version to the Sony A7 R the A7 R II has a lot to offer such as:
- 42Mega Pixels / Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
- BIONZ X Image Processor
- 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
- 399 Phase-Detect AF Points & 5 fps Burst
- Internal 4K video recording
- Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body
- Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
- 22 Fames per second (5 at 42megapixels)
if the 42 Mega pixel count wasn’t enough the A7 R II has image stabilization built into the body of the camera. Also it’s low light capability is extraordinary (though not as good as the A7 R) the Iso ranges from 100-25600 and is expandable to 102,400. These feature and more make this $3200 camera a great contender in the mirrorless camera world.
The Newly released (February 18th) Fuji X-Pro2 provides a lot bang for your buck. Some of the Fuji features include:
- 24Mega Pixels
- Acros black and white film simulation (filters)
- 273 autofocus points (169 of which are phase-detect)
- 8 Fames per Second
The Fuji size and retro look makes it great for those who like the Leica Rangefinders. The built in filters are an added bonus for those who would like to add effects in production vs. in post overall Fuji makes a great camera at $1999.
The Panasonic GH4 (released May 2014) is my personal favorite. As of today this camera it’s still used and talked about among film professionals. The main advantage for me is it’s 4k video quality and flexibility. Panasonic has always been good when it comes to color adjustments and providing options for the film maker. Of course its 16 mega pixel photo capabilities are quite useful, below are a few of the images captured with my own Gh4.
- Cost (most models)
- Interchangeable mounts
- Video auto focus
- Speed (frames per sec)
- Electronic Viewfinder low light issues
- Smaller sensors (MFT)
- Battery life (can be fixed)
Mirrorless cameras appear to be the future — I say appears because we have no clue what camera technology is next. Though I’m still getting use the the electronic view finder, the weight and size are very welcoming. The absence of a mirror creates flexibility for any lens system (Canon, Nikon, Leica, Zeiss). Many believe that mirrorless cameras aren’t ready to replace DSLRs. I’d challenge that thinking by saying they are ready. Any camera can get a project done however some will require more work than others. Take for example the Watchtower of Turkey a video montage shot over 20 days. It was shot on the Panasonic Gh3 (the model before the Gh4), and a Gopro, yet there isn’t anything quite like this video:
In the market for a new camera? Pick up a mirrorless camera, they are quite liberating.