Over the past couple years, a new breed of mirrorless cameras has found a steadily growing market, mostly, it is assumed, of amateur photographers and professionals using them for personal projects.
But now, even professional photographers, like John Woelke who owns W Studios in Waco, Texas, believe that mirrorless cameras just might hold the key to the future of digital photography.
“This time last year, I would have said a pro would not use a mirrorless camera every day. Now that is not the case,” Woelke says. So — what’s a mirrorless camera and what’s all the hype about?
In both SLR and DSLR cameras, a mirror allows you to compose and focus your images. Press the shutter and the mirror flips up. The image sensor is directly behind the mirror and the image is captured, but technically you never see the image you captured.
“With the mirrorless, there is no mirror, nothing to flip out of the way to capture the image. Mirrorless used to mean you could not see the actual image you were photographing. You looked through a viewfinder that was similar to the image you were making, but not the same. With an EVF (Electronic View Finder), seeing the image you are about to produce is possible,” Woelke explains.
When digital photography first took off, Woelke was working in a newsroom and was part of many debates “and digital camera bashing sessions where no one thought digital would ever be good enough to use at an important event like a wedding.” Less than two years later, everyone was shooting all digital, all the time. Woelke admits that although today’s mirrorless cameras are not as fast as DSLR, it’s only a matter of time before manufacturers will produce faster mirrorless cameras.
Woelke bought the best mirrorless Nikon that was available three years ago when he wanted a lightweight camera he could use anywhere that also shot video.
“It works great as a point and shoot, and is better quality than my phone, but not as good as my DSLR.”
One major advantage of the mirrorless camera is its small size, making it very portable, easier to carry around all day, “and people won’t notice you as much,” Woelke points out. “But I have large hands and I like my camera to fill them,” he adds.
Battery life can be a downside, as the EVF will suck battery power. But Woelke sees camera battery life as only a temporary setback today that will be solved in the near future.
While several of the new mirrorless cameras have lots of features that Woelke says “make life easier and look very cool,” those same features are already being added to DSLRs. For example, certain new cameras allow you to shoot a frame and transfer the image from the camera to a smartphone via a wifi system built into the camera. There’s also focus peaking (a view screen shows you the focus point of your image) and tilt screen (the view screen on the back of the camera can be tilted), and even an app that allows you to control the camera from across the room with a smartphone.
Although Woelke hasn’t yet bought any of the high end mirrorless cameras, he is currently researching the Sony A6000 and A7 cameras.
His advice for those seeking to invest in their first mirrorless:
“This really all breaks down to my camera being my tool. I am going to use the best tool for the job. The best editors in the world don’t care what cameras their photographers carry — they just want great shots. A camera is a camera, so play with your favorite toy. But good photographers make good images by any means necessary.”