‘A DSLR is the best way to great images.’ – 10 years ago, you likely wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at that statement. Today, if you wrote that on a photography forum, you’d have a barrage of debate and controversy headed in your direction.
Mirrorless cameras hit the market at around the turn of the naughties and it was rumbled to decimate the DSLR market. The world has seen a decline in DSLR sales – there is no denying that and many people attribute that to the rise in mirrorless camera sales, but that statement is definitely arguable. Despite the remarkable improvement in their technology, the mirrorless market has sat at around the 3 million mark for the past few years – and it seems that even though there’s no ground-breaking upward trajectory in sales likely, many pros are going on record to say they’re making the switch and don’t want to go back to their DSLRs.
But why would a pro switch?
For starts – the well-known reason, DSLRs are big and bulky. Mirrorless cameras are far lighter and smaller, and their lenses tend to follow suit too. Take a 5D Mk IV, for example, at 890g and compare it to the Sony A7R II at 625g. It’s a really tough comparison between these two models in terms of performance, but you carry 265g less with the body alone with the Sony. This means that the 5D Mk IV body weighs the same as the Sony plus a cup of sugar. This may not seem that much, but when you have to carry your camera as much as a pro, it can become quite significant.
Another notable difference between the two is the viewfinder. DSLRs allow for an optical TTL viewfinder. Due to having a mirror, you can see almost exactly what the lens is seeing. But in a mirrorless, there is no mirror to reflect the light from the lens to the viewfinder so they use an electronic viewfinder.
To change between the two can be a very odd transition and if you’re used to the optical view, switching to an electronic can be a very strange experience. There are, of course, pros and cons of both. Many people find the slight lag that can come with the EVF annoying and it can cause you to really sacrifice on battery power. This may be flag up issues with sports photographers or wedding photographers who need fast shooting and shooting over a long period of time, but manufacturers are listening to these grumbles and constantly working on these flaws.
However, there are advantages to the EVF. By really utilising this feature, it opens opportunities to pack some really useful tech in there too, such as focus peaking and a live display of how your final image will look. These can really speed up time and increase precision when shooting, which can become an extremely valuable tool.
In the past, the hit-and-miss nature of EVFs were a large drawback for pros when it came to purchasing a mirrorless. Another drawback was that there were few mirrorless models that offered the sensor side and therefore low-light capabilities of a DSLR. But the tide is now turning and the technology is ever-improving and manufacturers are spotting the interest in these smaller and lighter siblings of the DSLR and really pushing their development. There are more and more options of larger sensors, and even medium-format cameras on offer as well as an increasing range of lenses available.
When using a camera as a real, working tool, there are many things that a mirrorless offers that can really become an asset. Although the number of mirrorless sales are only creeping up, it seems that they’re turning more and more heads of people who take their art very seriously.