What is a Mirrorless Digital Camera Anyway? (and why they kick ass!)

June 23, 2021
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OK… so what is a mirrorless digital camera I hear you ask?

Taking the next step in photography usually means getting a nicer camera than the one that’s in your smartphone, or a pocket-sized point and shoot.

Years ago, if you’re really serious, this meant you would go out and buy a fancy DSLR. The big fat camera that looks all professional with more features, larger image sensors, and the ability to swap out lenses.

Meaning you could attach lenses based on the type of photography you were doing. Telephoto wide-angle, or prime lenses for portraits or low light work.

In the past few years, mirrorless cameras have really started to rival DSLRs.

So let’s explain what the differences between the two really are, and clear up some myths about mirrorless cameras and why one might be a better match for your needs.

First, how does a DSLR Camera work?

In a DSLR camera, after the light passes through the lens it hits a mirror.

That mirror then bounces the light through a prism and into the viewfinder that you would use to frame the shot and focus.

What is a mirrorless camera? - First, how does a DSLR camera work?

Only part of that light goes through the OVF or (Optical Viewfinder) while part of it hits a separate autofocus sensor.

When you want to take a picture, things get really interesting. You hit the shutter button and that whole mirror assembly flips up.

That’s that click-shutter sound that is distinctive of DSLR’s. The light hits the camera sensor (or film in the case of an SLR) directly.

The viewfinder will go black until the exposure is complete. Basically, you’ll see approximately the exact same light level as you experience. So if it’s dark out, you’ll have a dark viewfinder.

That’s why it can be difficult to set up a shot in dark situations – and why you would want to use modeling lamps if you are working in a studio setup.

So What is a Mirrorless Digital Camera?

In a mirrorless camera there’s (obviously… duh…) no mirror and no optical viewfinder. This also means that there is no prism redirecting light.

Instead, the light passes straight through the lens and onto the sensor which handles autofocus and then passes the digital image to either the electronic viewfinder or to the big screen.

So with that in mind, this is how the mechanism inside the camera can be smaller yet still deliver the same quality.

Busting Some Myths about Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras

FALSE: DSLR’s have larger sensors than mirrorless cameras.

When mirrorless cameras came out years ago, this was generally true. The best full frame sensors could only be found in larger heavier old-school DSLR body’s.

Not any more!

Sony, Canon and Nikon (among others) have come out with some brilliant full frame sensors for their mirrorless lineup.

TRUE: Mirrorless cameras deliver less battery life.

When you reduce the size of the camera, you also reduce the amount of space you have for batteries.

Because the idea of a mirrorless camera is to create a much smaller camera body, even with that full frame sensor, you’ll often find as much as 50% Less battery time.

High-end mirrorless cameras these days come with two batteries. Honestly, it’s pretty easy to change out a battery, but it’s important to make sure you’re prepared while youre out and about taking photos and video.

Some mirrorless camera manufacturers, like Sony actually let you use your smartphone charger to charge the batteries, which again, provides more portability.

UNDECIDED: Mirrorless camera autofocus is inferior to DSLR’s

This is another hotly debated topic.

The main difference between the focusing process of a Mirrorless camear anda a DSLR is that a DSLR directs light using a mirror to a dedicated AF sensor to do the autofocus process. This means that they are FAST!

In a mirrorless camera, the light passes directly to a sensor that processes both the image and the autofocus process.

When mirrorless cameras first came out, they were definetly inferior. Now, however; through the development of technologies such as hybrid sensors that incorporate both contrast and phase detection they are competing, if not exceeding the speed and accuracy if their mirrored counterparts (DSLR’s) even in low light.

FALSE: Mirrorless cameras don’t have great lenses.

Two reasons for this one being false:

Mirrorless cameras have been around for a while now and there is a HUGE range of lenses specifically built for them.

3rd Party Adapters – One of the advantage of the super short flange focal distance. That’s a space between the mounting ring and the sensor plane. Now that difference varies between cameras and brands, but the adapters can be precisely calibrated so each lens can render in image clearly.

Keep in mind, however; that wide angle lenses, may give you some grief with color shift issues in the corners. You’ll have to test your lenses and see how they look

FALSE: A bigger camera is a better camera

If your mirrorless camera has got a great sensor and a sits within an ecosystem that contains a lots of lens options, then there really is no benefit to having a larger DSLR camera other than the perception that you are a ‘pro’ photographer.

There is however quite an expense for those photographers who are already heavily invested in a DSLR ecosystem. The likes of a third party adapter for any quality lenses you already own can definetly cut down on costs, but over time you will want to make the transition to the newer lens options.

Mirrorless lenses are specifically designed for these camera bodies and operate with more finesse and compatibility than with an adapter.

In Summary

OK, so hopefully you know what is a mirrorless digital camera and why they are becomming a great option.

If you’re thinking of making the switch to a mirrorless camera, have a good think about the information in this article, and if you do have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and we can have a discussion.

What do you think? Is a mirrorless camera the way to go in todays camera market?

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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