Mirrorless digital cameras have matured nicely alongside the rest of digital imaging, and are, today, at the top of the game. There are plenty of great mirrorless camera systems in the photography world today. Sony was one of the first leaders in the field, but the industry has caught up in recent years, and Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and others all have competitive models.
So what exactly is “mirrorless?” For decades the most popular cameras in the industry, both film and digital, were single lens reflex cameras, or SLRs. These cameras use a mirror to reflect light entering the lens into a viewfinder on top of the camera. Mirrorless cameras do away with the mechanically complex system of mirrors and pentaprisms by shining light from the lens directly on the imaging sensor, then showing it to the photographer using a display on the back of the camera or in an electronic viewfinder.
Mirrorless matured hand-in-hand with smartphone technology. The same way a phone gives you a live view on-screen, the mirrorless camera does as well. 10 or 15 years ago, this process was too slow for action photography, as the camera took time to process and display the image, causing a lag between the action on front of the camera and what the photographer saw.
The biggest advantage of mirrorless is size and weight. Mirrorless cameras are small and light.
I hesitated to buy mirrorless because I already have a lot of really great cameras, but for my birthday recently, my wife encouraged me to find something I would like in the field. I hunted for a bargain, since I love bargains, and I mostly looked at finding a kindly-used Fuji. One of my first cameras was a Fuji, and my wife and I have matching Fuji travel/all-in-one cameras, and I love their style.
I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: buying cameras used is the way to go, at least for me. You get powerful, expensive technology for a fraction of the original price because someone decided to “upgrade,” which is industry code language for trying to buy better photography by spending money on hardware.
The camera I found and bought is the Fujifilm X-T10 of 2015 vintage. In 2015, it was at the top of photographic technology, and the introduction of newer cameras since then has no effect on what this camera can do.
I didn’t buy any lenses with this camera, because part of the allure of mirrorless is, for me anyway, the fact that with an adaptor, you can put just about any lens on your mirrorless camera. This is possible because the imaging sensor in mirrorless cameras is right behind the lens, not buried behind the mirror box and mechanical shutter of older cameras.
The only thing I actively dislike about mirrorless cameras are the name. “Mirrorless” is a lazy, techno-pop-culture fallback name. Saying that a class of cameras is “mirrorless” is like saying most cars are “diesel-less,” which is true, but a lame way of naming them.
I have already made some impressive images with this amazing machine, and hope to keep making more as I explore its potential.
Old lenses opening worlds of possibility!
Thanks for the article. I’ve been wondering about mirrorless cameras. Some questions concerning the one you chose. Is the rear screen always on or can you turn it off while using the electronic viewfinder? I have a Nikon Coolpix with a rear screen (no viewfinder) I I think it runs the batteries down quickly because of it. It does take good pictures though and is compact.
If you use a convertor to use for instance a Nikon lens, does the autofocus still work or do you have to manually focus?
Thanks, Bob. Good questions.
The rear screen and the electronic viewfinder can be selected with a button on the back of the camera, and one of the options is to have it switch between the two automatically using a small sensor just below the viewfinder, which works very well.
The converters I got are the simple, cheap ones, since shooting manually was one of my goals with this camera, but converters are available that allow full exposure and focus automation.
I remember when Strobist (David Hobby, I think is his actual name) switched to mirrorless, one of his reasons being the flash-sync improvement… So it’s something I’ve been considering, should my 60D ever conk out.
Do you think this type of camera is something you’d use for photojournalism, or only for personal use? If so/not, I’m curious as to why.