Mirrorless Cameras Revisited

photo & article by Al Perry

Some time ago, you may recall me extolling the virtues of mirrorless cameras. Here I go again. In 2014, for the first time, sales of digital single lens reflex (“dslr”) cameras actually declined after increasing by double digits for a decade or more. Sales of point and shoot cameras have also declined precipitously as smartphone cameras have increased rapidly. Sales of mirrorless cameras are growing.

So where do mirrorless cameras fit in? In my view, mirrorless cameras are positioned between dslr cameras and smartphone cameras in terms of weight, size, sensor size and cost. Also, it seems most research and development is being directed toward smartphone and mirrorless cameras.

Here are the advantages I experience with mirrorless vs. dslr cameras: 1) less weight of camera and lenses, 2) lower cost, and 3) ease of use. By ease of use, I am referring to a high quality electronic viewer that shows overexposure (“zebra pattern”) and items in focus (“peaking”) in good and low light. Also, movies are much easier with mirrorless cameras that have electronic eye level viewers than with dslr cameras whose optical eye level viewer does not work during movie recording.

For those who want the advantages of a mirrorless camera and a full size sensor, Sony just announced the Sony Alpha 7R II for high resolution stills and movies along with in-camera image stabilization. Third party lenses, including Nikon and Canon, can be used with Sony mirrorless camera bodies.

Recently, Samsung came out with a mirrorless camera that takes still photos at 15 frames per second, along with 4K movies plus slow motion at 120 frames per second. Oh, and by the way, Samsung’s sensor was rated the best ever for aps-c (advanced photo system type-c) crop factor cameras by DXO Mark, which quantitatively tests cameras and lenses.

In the enthusiast market, Sony has just released a mirrorless camera (RX10 II) with 14 frames per second still photos along with 4K and slow motion movies with a constant f/2.8 lens ranging from 24 to 200mm.

Meanwhile, traditional single lens reflex optical viewer cameras have few of the features buyers want today and are dropping in sales.

Ice Cave, Lake Superior
Ice Cave, Lake Superior, Wisconsin, February 2015

In order to reduce weight during a 13 hour hike on lake ice earlier this year, I carried mirrorless cameras and lenses while photographing ice caves. One image from that hike is included here.