The “trend” we will be looking at today is the topic of the Digital SLR (DSLR) versus Mirrorless cameras and the prevailing thought that the DSLR may be going into extinction soon.
I read the same articles and watch the same videos as you guys do and I saw that this topic was trending on YouTube for a couple of weeks.
Funny thing, I had thought of doing an article about this some time back as part of my “Tuesday Trends” series but I hesitated to post the video because I thought people might not find it relevant. It’s actually a topic of debate that’s been going back for several years!
I’m guessing what might have reignited this debate was this article on Petapixel in which Ricoh marketing general manager Hikorki Sugahara decided to buck the trend and stated that “mirrorless is a newcomer” and seems to imply that because of this people are flocking to these new systems but he predicts that the same people will return to the Digital SLR in 1-2 years. It’s an interesting article of which you can read in full here:
I have my own views on this which I will share with you here, but first let’s look at what each system is.
WHAT IS A DSLR?
As mentioned above, a DSLR is a “Digital Single Lens Reflex” camera. The word “reflex” basically means it has an optical system of mirror, ground glass, prism, and eyepiece to form an image.
WHAT IS A MIRRORLESS CAMERA?
A Mirrorless camera is just that. It does not make use of a mirror between the lens and sensor. There is no mirror to move up and down. Some models may use mirrors elsewhere such as for the viewfinder but the important thing for “mirrorless” cameras is that there is no mirror between the lens and sensor.
The image is transferred electronically to the rear LCD. Higher end mirrorless cameras sometimes also have an EVF or electronic viewfinder.
Here’s the accompanying video I made for this article. While the written article you are reading contains more information, the video makes up for it with raw grit and candid humor 🙂
I didn’t want it to go on so long, but I guess I yak too much! Anyway, in this video I introduce some new “videography techniques” if you can call it that lol 🙂
I will attempt to refine these production techniques in future videos. Remember folks, this is all for your entertainment!
DSLR PROS & CONS
The DSLR has been taking a beating recently by the “experts” and mirrorless proponents but still has a lot of things that make it highly desirable.
First off, it is the last link to actual film SLR cameras. Despite the “film vs digital” thing, a Digital SLR is in many ways an extension of the film SLR in the digital realm,
The most obvious link is the optical viewfinder. While DSLR’s may have sensors and other electronic elements, the good old optical viewfinder is built upon the same concept and engineering as your good old fashioned film cameras SLRS.
Before I start drifting off, let me just put the pros and cons into a more easy to follow numerical scheme:
- Optical Viewfinder The view from a large, high quality optical viewfinder is still hard to beat, especially if focusing in daylight. “Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby!” as the song once said 😊
- If the LCD ever fails, and sometimes it does, a DSLR with an optical viewfinder can still function for picture taking. A mirrorless camera with a broken EVF or LCD will be completely useless.
- Usually fast shot to shot times, less lag.
- Battery life is better on the newer DSLR cameras because it does not need to continually supply the LCD or EVF with power.
- Very fast AF possible.
- Focus Peaking may be available, depending on model, via Live View
- There are a ton of native lenses available for the DSLR and for potentially lower prices if buying used.
- A large DLSR balances better with long and/or heavy lenses
- This is subjective, but many people report that the DSLR feels more solid or better built than their mirrorless counterparts.
- Superb video options available on today’s DSLRs
- Choice of APS-C and Full-Frame options
- Superb image quality possible.
- DSLRs are often large, heavy, and bulky
- Lenses are often larger than the equivalent mirrorless lenses
- Many older DSLR lenses were optimized for film cameras, not digital sensors.
- The Optical Viewfinder cannot support focus peaking
- Contrary to what I’ve read, I find it harder to focus manual lenses at night or low light through the optical viewfinder.
- Focus confirmation chips not as accurate as focus peaking with fast lenses
- Limited ability to adapt lenses due to mirror being in the light path between lens and sensor
- Not inconspicuous or stealthy
- Potential shakiness at low shutter speeds due to mirror slap.
- You look old and unhip with a DSLR!
Ok, next up is mirrorless…
MIRRORLESS CAMERAS PROS & CONS
Mirrorless cameras have a lot of virtues and benefits but they also have their shortcomings. Here are some pros and cons for mirrorless:
- Smaller and lighter than their DSLR equivalent cameras.
- The easier it is to carry, the more likely you will take it with you and use it.
- Image Stabilization in body more common in mirrorless cameras than DSLRs.
- Lenses are also smaller and often lighter, but still of high quality.
- Very fast AF possible, but usually with higher end models.
- Focus peaking. Very useful with manual focus lenses
- Easier to focus at night or in low light due to LCD or EVF “gain” which makes for a brighter image in the viewfinder or on the LCD.
- The ability to use many more legacy lenses through the use of adapters. The absence of a reflex mirror in the light path makes this possible.
- Potentially less vibration at low shutter speeds due to no mirror slap.
- Superb video options available.
- Choice of APS-C or Full-Frame or even smaller 1″ sensors.
- Superb image quality possible.
- May feel too light and flimsy, depending on model.
- EVF may still feel like looking at a computer screen vs the DSLR optical viewfinder.
- Lag time. I find both my Olympus OM-D EM-5 and Sony A7r to have slow startup times and sometimes a lag after a shot is taken. This might be due to the “refresh” of the screens but it could make a difference between getting the shot and losing the shot.
- Potentially shorter battery life as battery is needed for everything.
- Native lenses, while growing, is still limited compared to DSLR lenses thus less native options, but plenty of alternative options if you’re willing to use adapters.
- Does not balance as well with larger lenses.
- Because of the small size, controls can feel cramped and ergonomics can suffer.
- You look like a modern day camera geek with a mirrorless camera! 🙂
Wow, that was a mouthful! And more than I ever wanted to write! I even missed on one of the main points I wanted to make and that is…
If we do not see a Canon 1DX Mark III or Nikon D6 for the Olympics or even in a couple of years, then it is very possible that the big badass PRO DSLR bodies will go extinct. But I still think the DSLR will survive in the from of the “little” cameras such as the Canon Rebel series, Nikon D35xx series, and maybe even the mid-tier 7D or D7000 bodies.
Personally I say, have one of each! Now you might say something like “That’s too rich for my blood,” to which I would say come on now, you know photography is an expensive hobby but with the options you have these days, especially on the used market, you could easily have a good quality DSLR and mirrorless for under $500. It doesn’t need to be the latest and greatest folks.
I’d love to hear your opinion on this topic so if you have one, feel free to leave a comment! Happy shooting folks! 😎👍🏻
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