Amateurs and professionals all around the world are considering this question as they are faced with this new technology. Whilst mirrorless cameras have been around since 2004 it’s only these past few years that they have started to encroach on the professional camera market. You don’t have to look much further than the infamous HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff, who switched from a Nikon D800 DSLR to a mirrorless Sony NEX 7 system 6 months ago, to see that the image quality from mirrorless cameras has now caught up to DSLRs. It’s not just him either, there are numerous pro’s turning to these cameras as they offer the latest tech in a lightweight package. 

…Sony announced 2011 sales statistics in September 2012, which showed that Mirrorless had 50% of the interchangeable lens market in Japan, 18% in Europe, and 23% world wide. Since that time Nikon has entered the Mirrorless market, amongst other new entries… (wikipedia)

There are lots of mirrorless cameras coming out on the market from Olympus, Sony, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Ricoh, Samsung and Panasonic.


above: Sony NEX 7 system

But do these mirrorless cameras offer anything new ? is what a lot of people are asking. The short answer is NO they don’t. The only facet where they are better is in their physical size, sometimes being up to 6X smaller than a DSLR. If this is an important component of a camera to you, because you are always hiking and climbing, then perhaps you should really consider these cameras. There are obviously a bunch of other differences in the two systems but they aren’t significant enough for users to switch, the mirror system is the most major of these differences. The mirror system is part of what makes a DSLR camera so big and what it does is intercept the light before it reaches the sensor and reflects it up and into the viewfinder so that you can see the image through it. Mirrorless camera systems choose to not have this system and therefore don’t have a viewfinder, but instead will display the image on an LCD screen on the rear. With the retina like displays on these cameras you will find it a joy to use them.

I think most photographers who are happy with their current camera line up will only upgrade if they can purchase something ‘better’. Why would you fork out over $1000+ for a camera that does exactly the same thing that your current DSLR camera does. So in this regard I think the better choice for someone who is happy with their current camera lineup is to stick with your DSLR for the time being.

I think the one issue with switching to these smaller cameras if you’re a professional is the stigmatism that “you aren’t a professional without a BIG DSLR and BIG GLASS to go with it”. Even though these little cameras perform outstandingly well and could easily be used to shoot a wedding, will you be laughed at by the bride and grooms family for turning up with such a small camera. Whilst a photographer should be judged on their portfolio unfortunately there are still many uneducated people out there who consider these cameras as toys.

I personally own a Sony RX 100 II (~$800), which is considered a compact camera, and I often attach it to my pro FEISOL tripod. I shared some original RAW images for you to look at here from the Sony RX 100 II. I often get funny looks from other photographers with their DSLR’s on tripods at locations around Sydney. They are probably thinking why does this guy have this tiny little camera on a tripod and what’s the point? I know how good the images are going to turn out, so I ignore these looks but its hard to not see them, haha. Obviously the Sony couldn’t be used as a professional wildlife camera as it doesn’t have a large enough zoom on it, as well as there being a smaller buffer than a top of the line DSLR so you would more than likely miss the shot.

I’m in the market for a new camera for my Landscape and cityscape photography as my D800 was damaged in windy weather recently, but it was covered under insurance so I have received the money to replace it. I’ve closely been following the release of the new Sony Full Frame mirrorless cameras that are about to be released. These Sony FF will retail between $1700 and $2400 and have 24MP and 36MP, sourced off the Sony rumours website. These cameras will offer me everything I need in a camera in a much smaller and compact unit. What also interests me about these Sony FF cameras is that they are weather sealed and I found this was important to me with my D800 as I love to shoot HDR images during or after rain, as they turn out amazing. For example look at this HDR example shot in the rain in Kyoto, Japan. This announcement is looking like it will be on the 16th of October so I am keenly waiting for the specs and info on these cameras before I purchase my new camera. These cameras won’t be for everyone, in fact if I was a wedding photographer Id get a 5D mark III, and if I was a wildlife photographer Id get the Canon 1D X. But I shoot landscapes and cityscapes and Im happy to purchase a much smaller system that can produce images with quality just as good as any DSLR. Also having a lightweight system for me is high in my list of priorities as I do A LOT of exploring, which you can probably tell from looking at my portfolio. Often my vantage points aren’t the same as the top photo location views as I like to find my own angles and put my own spin on landmark or scene.

So the answer, unfortunately, isn’t black and white as each photographer needs different things in a camera. Each of us personally needs to prioritise what is most important to us as we head into this huge change in the camera market. If its important that your clients at a wedding still see your BIG DSLR then stick with your 5D mark III or the high speed shooting of the 1D X for wildlife shoots.


Thanks, Luke

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