The high end digital camera market has slowly been moving toward mirrorless options and away from traditional mirrored DSLR’s. In recent years this movement has picked up speed in leaps and bounds. With the release of Sony’s A9 the mirrored DSLR may have just been dealt a crucial nail in the proverbial coffin. These days there are so many reasons to move to mirrorless and so few reasons not too.
If someone we’re to ask me when did mirorrless first become a viable option for serious shooters I would probably point to 2011 and the release of the Sony Nex 7. With the release of the Nex 7 there we’re professional shooters that claimed they were going to shoot with the Nex system exclusively. One that took me by surprise at the time was, Zabrina Deng of Jeza Photography. Zabrina and her husband are world renowned wedding photographers based out of San Francisco. You pretty much can’t get in their door unless your budget starts at 10K and goes up fast. When I first read way back in 2011 that she was shooting exclusively with the Nex 7 for her weddings I was skeptical. At the time I was still shooting with the Sony A850 and swore that I’d switch back to Nikon if Sony ever followed through with their promise go to 100% EVF’s (electronic viewfinder) in all their cameras. Fast forward to 2017 and you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to an OVF (optical viewfinder).
First of all, EVF’s are so clear and crisp now and refresh rates are so fast compared to the early days that you can barely tell your looking at an EFV. In addition they are much less expensive to produce than pentaprism based OVF. With an EVF you no longer have to continually look at the last image you took to make sure your settings gave you the desired result. With a mirrorless system and its EVF you see any changes you make immediately, even before you take the shot. This includes changes to exposure, white balance, saturation, contrast etc. Pretty much anything; it’s a true what you see is what you get system. Then, even if your not sure you can just review your shot right there in the viewfinder without having to pull your head away and look at your LCD. Repeating this action of looking down at your LCD too much is known as “chimping”; a clear indication to those around you that might not know what your doing… So even if your a chimper a mirrorless can help you hide this fact because you can review your shots without anyone knowing 😛
Another factor that held mirrorless cameras back in the past was autofocus speed and accuracy. Historically, AF was handled by a dedicated system. Light coming through the lens would be directed away from the sensor to the OVF an AF system. When mirrorless was introduced light now traveled through the lens and was no longer diverted but instead traveled right to the sensor. AF now had to be handled on the imaging sensor. This took several years and an ongoing process of step by step improvements to get to where we are today; where the Sony A9 may have just matched the AF speed and accuracy of the worlds best DSLR AF systems. Most notably the Canon 1DX II and the Nikon D5. The A9 did so at a savings of about $1,500 vs. the top cameras from Canon and Nikon while also smashing the previous frames per second barrier. The A9 boasts an incredible 20 frames per second. While the fastest offerings from Canon and Nikon are limited to 14 fps. The A9 also has no viewfinder blackout which helps greatly when tracking a moving subject.
The A9 has 693 AF points and can calculate AF and exposure 60 times per second.
Mirrorless systems also also benefit from much smaller and lighter bodies. The A9 for example weighs in at a svelte 1.48 lbs. By comparison the 1DX II and the D5 are 3.37 and 3.11 lbs respectively. In the past the lighter weight of mirrorless cameras came at the cost of battery life. Batteries were made smaller and lighter but as a result we’re lower capacity. With the A9 and it’s newly designed battery you get roughly twice the battery life of it’s predecessors.
So if your keeping score with the A9; that’s instant feedback on settings changes, faster FPS with no blackout and half the weight without sacrificing battery life. And honestly, I’m just scratching the surface of the advantages of mirorless. I made the jump to mirrorless about 5 years ago and sold the last of my traditional dSLR’s 2 years ago. There is no doubt that mirrorless is the wave of the future and that the future is here. All 8 of us here at Action camera have made the switch to mirrorless and odds are, you should too.