Mirrorless: It’s The Little Things

Some of the seemingly minor advantages of mirrorless cameras really made a difference for me…

It’s lighter.

Sometimes getting a photo means walking a long way and hanging around for quite a while, and there may come a point where I get a bit tired and discouraged. The heavier the camera bag, and the more it bonks me on the hip as I walk, the sooner that point is reached.

Mirrorless cameras are significantly lighter and manufacturers often make lighter lenses to go with them. And lightweight lenses with plastic bodies are great. I’m not shooting in a war zone with my camera gear rattling around in the back of a jeep – so I don’t need a lens that’s built like a pipe wrench.

It’s smaller.

Smaller means less noticeable, reducing my chances of being hassled by mission-deprived security guards at “public” buildings or landmarks. Carry a big bulgy black DSLR with an f1.4 lens and a hood, and they’re on you like a bad cold. But I slyly pull a mirrorless out of a pocket and get the shot before they can climb off their stool and amble over to inform me of “the policy against photography” while surrounded by people shooting the same things with phones.

It’s silent.

These Taiko performers are in the middle of a traditional Japanese piece for drums and flute. In the spaces between the notes you could hear a pin drop. But with silent electronic shutter, the people sitting right next to me aren’t even aware I’m shooting.

I see actual DOF in the viewfinder.

Remember your DSLR’s “DOF preview” button – that you never used because it made the viewfinder too dark to see anything? Forget about it.

I see a live histogram.

I’m not out there with a tripod, spending an afternoon carefully applying the Ansel Adams Zone System. With a live histogram in the viewfinder I can quickly figure out how to squeeze in the important highlights and shadows, then fine tune the curve later in postprocessing.

I can zoom w-a-a-ay in and focus.

Right in the live EVF, I can zoom in to get that one thing I really want in sharp focus – and forget about “focus peaking” which fills the view with distracting bright jaggy lines that are really based on contrast, not sharpness.

I can see the shot in B&W.

Live, in the viewfinder – here is how. Removing the distraction of color shows me the real hot spots and helps me frame the shot. And if the photo doesn’t look interesting in b&w I can skip it because it won’t be any good in color, either.

It’s easier to clean the sensor.

A lot of people say mirrorless sensors attract more dust, because they’re not normally behind a mirror, but I haven’t really noticed much of a difference. Bu if a mirrorless sensor does get dirty, it’s easy to clean – you don’t have to wade into the menus and do a “mirror lockup”. Just remove the lens, and there it is, ready for a blast of air from a squeeze bulb.

I don’t need the glasses.

I need reading glasses for anything closer than arm’s length. With a DSLR I needed the viewfinder for shooting, and the LCD for menus and reviewing what I just shot – so those glasses were on and off a thousand times. With mirrorless I can do it all through the viewfinder – no glasses and no glaring menu screens in dark auditoriums (see “silent”, above). Or I can leave the glasses on and use just the LCD, while pretending I’m doing something else (see “security guards” above).

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8 Replies to “Mirrorless: It’s The Little Things”

  1. Great points! I’m considering a Z50 to compliment a D500 as a second body for traveling (or possibly only body for traveling). I can see how in some of my shooting (performances) I would likely make it my main body for the silent shooting if I go this route. Thanks!

  2. Lo del peso es relativo. Las lentes buenas de Full Frame no son mas livianas…..Y si le pones adaptador a lentes “F” no hay mucha diferencia de peso. Todavía le falta mucho a sin espejo. Que cada uno elija, lo que le guste. Yo no entro en la “guerra” si va a morir o no DSRL.
    Nikon D780, Nikon D6, Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, Canon 90D, proximamente Canon 5D Mark V. No creo que muera nadie aqui por el momento, salvo por el coronavirus.

  3. Great article! I’ve been thinking about buying a mirrorless camera…I’m getting a little tired of all that weight hanging around my neck because I tend to bring my camera along for long walks. I heard there’s a fair learning curve to learning to shoot with a mirrorless though…any thoughts on that?

    1. I wouldn’t say there’s any significant learning curve, it’s not much different from getting a new DSLR or any other camera. There’s a lot more information available in the viewfinder, you’ll want to know about those options.

  4. “I see actual DOF in the viewfinder.

    Remember your DSLR’s “DOF preview” button – that you never used because it made the viewfinder too dark to see anything? Forget about it. ”

    Not true. In mirrorless still you have to use DOF preview. By default preview use wider open aperture (up to f/5.6, sometimes f/8) than you set using dials.

    For example in Nikon Z series you have to assign some button for DOF preview. In Ricoh GR III* preview is available when you half press shutter button, but not in live view. Real DOF preview you have only using fully manual lenses.

    1. That’s true, if you stop down beyond f/5.6 you have to manually turn on DOF preview with a button. But, the camera applies the shutter speed and ISO to create what you see in the EVF, so it isn’t hopelessly dark.

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