Mirror or less

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Why people say LESS is MORE

Newer cameras were able to get away with the mirror in the DSLRs. You have to admit advertising something because it does not have a component is funny (mirrorless). After all we do not say we are wingless humans.


Short history, how did we end up with a mirror?
  • To take a photograph, you need two steps
  1. you need to adjust your settings (frame the picture, adjust exposure),
  2. and then allow light to the film (or these days sensor) for a short time.
  • One of the earlier solutions was the Twin lens reflex cameras like the Rolleiflex camera where one lens is for adjusting and the other is for exposing the actual image. Both lenses are connected to each other, so if you adjust one, the other one will follow.
  • The improvement was to use only one lens, and a mirror to deflect the light going to the sensor through a prism to a viewfinder. This way, when you look through the viewfinder you see what the sensor will see. These are known as Single Lens Reflex Cameras
  • The digital cameras replaces the film by an electronic image sensor, but the basic idea stayed the same. These cameras were known as Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras.
  • Early image sensors were good for pictures, but were not very good for live (video) images. Modern image sensors can afford to have a high frame rate without deteriorating the photo quality. So the same sensor can be used both for the adjustment and taking the picture. The sensor will work slightly differently, but this is handled internally. The mirror-less cameras were born.
    • A mirrorless camera does not use a traditional optical viewfinder, but a small monitor, called Electronic View Finder (EVF).
Why is mirrorless great
  • Mirrorless cameras are newer, they have better electronics, and likely will take over a significant market share. In the future there might be more refined mirrorless cameras but not so many DSLRs.
  • They can be made more compact. After all you do not need a 3.5cm mirror standing in the body
  • The mirror needs mechanical movement, which is a part that can break down with time.
  • The EVF is able to display you much more information than before. You could zoom, see overexposed areas, the possibilities are endless
What is the issue with mirrorless
  • For years DSLRs used the same lenses as older analog cameras. This gave you a lot to choose from. Since the mirrorless cameras do not have an extra 2-3 cm of distance between the lens and the sensor, lenses can be constructed differently. This is good for the companies trying to sell you lenses, bad for you if you already have many lenses or like to use cheaper second-hand lenses.
    • The adapters more or less add the distance you have saved by getting rid of the mirror, nothing else.
  • Some people complain about the lag in the EVF. Others do not like to look into a bright EVF in the dark
  • Constantly supporting the EVF drains the battery faster. Mirrorless cameras do not last as long as your DSLRs
  • A large f/2.8 zoom still weighs a lot, the weight that you save in the camera does not really reduce your load when you have larger lenses (i.e. zooms).
    • Personally some of the mirrorless cameras are a bit too small for me, and I have issues with gripping and finding the buttons.

Bottom line

  • Consider that cellphones are good enough for most of your needs. They are technically also mirrorless cameras, so you may not need a new one.
  • If you are starting new, and do not mind the higher cost, mirrorless cameras are great. They may have some disadvantages but they also offers a couple of very cool features.
  • If you already have some lenses and equipment, the new system will not be compatible, or will require you to buy additional things.
  • If you are on a budget, you will lose access to about 50 years of second hand equipment when you choose mirrorless.



These pages are for Amateur Photographers and not really for seasoned photographers and professionals. I have no affiliation or commercial interest with any brand/make. I write from my own experience. I ended up using mainly Nikon, so I am more familiar with this brand than others. See price for notes on pricing as well as photography related links.