Despite new cameras coming out each year, innovation progresses at irregular intervals. Just as Apple iPhones allowed us to be online on-the-go, continued innovations in mirrorless cameras offer today's photographer incredible and unique features for a greatly improved toolbox.
These five major benefits of mirrorless cameras are worth knowing about!
Smart Auto Focus
DSLR auto focus can be incredibly reliable but is still limited by the mirror. The legendary Canon 5D Mark IV has 21 cross-type AF points, a far cry from the 693 found on Sony's new a9 iii. While better focus could be found on sports cameras like Canon 1D or Nikon D6, focal points now cover the entire sensor.
- More AF pixels allow for greatly improved responsiveness. With mirrorless cameras, gone are the days of focusing first to recompose, or losing tracked subjects if they moved near the edge of the frame.
- With live view always enabled and optimized for the camera, it can recognize subjects. While DSLRs focus blindly on their subject, mirrorless uses AI to recognize people, animals, and subjects to prioritize focus zones. If shooting an individual, faces are automatically recognized and focus is trained on the eye. This is a dream for shooting with fast lenses.
- Critical focus was extremely difficult it's missed by just a half inch, now cameras adjust for the slight movement in the camera or subject. Mirrorless cameras now have new flexible focused zones. When combined with subject tracking, a photographer can select where to focus, and the camera can do the laborious work of getting critical focus.
Image: Nikon D800 Focus Area modes.
Large Diameter, Short Flange Lens Mount
Mirrorless cameras feature new lens mounts. Larger openings allow for brighter lenses like the first ever Canon 28-70 f/2 zoom lens, various f/1.2 primes and rare specialized lenses like Nikon's f/.095 Noct. These are the first lenses to have extreme aperture's without sacrificing other traits like sharpness and color fringe.
- Wider lens mounts allow optical designs with significantly better corner sharpness, lens vignetting, and optimization for sensor-shift stabilization.
- More electronic contacts allow high speed data transfer communication for focus, stabilization and programmable functions like recalling focus settings or control ring input. This is necessary for new linear focus motors that move more quickly and smoothly than our a speedy USM motors (ultrasonic motor).
Many zoom lenses have great stabilization, but mounting the sensor on a floating plane allows even more stability.
- Optical stabilization corrects on three axis. Like an airplane, glass lenses inside the lines compensate for pitch (vertical tilt), and yaw (horizontal tilt). Sensor stabilization allows raw correction ensuring a locked horizon and XY movement.
- With high resolution sensors, sensor movement ensure tack-sharp photos without the slight change in focus plane when using optical corrections only.
Image: Olympus E-M1ii Stabilization Visualization
New cameras inspire more confidence when shooting. Aids from the video production world that usually require external monitoring equipment are now standard features even if you can nail exposure reliably visual aids help you get the shot faster and without having to verify exposure after taking a shot.
- Like blinkies (over exposed highlight alerts) which can be shown while reviewing images after the fact. In real time, 'zebras' can display clipped highlights or a certain chroma value (luminous) ensuring shots look exactly like what your eyes see.
- Focus peaking is another tool to quickly check focus. A dream when using manual lenses and extremely useful for macro shots, focus peaking highlights edges that are in focus. While zooming to 100% it is the only absolute way to verify, peaking reliably gets very close at a glance. Adjusting edge detection can allow you to further specify controlled precision or quick focus racks depending on shooting situations.
Image: Lightroom Histogram
Mirrorless cameras have exceptional video quality.
- DSLR camera is set the new standard for video found by the large, full frame camera sensors. Full frame DSLRs and early mirrorless cameras brought the low light capability and backgrounds separation not found in the movies.
- Mirrorless continues to advance the pace of movie production. Even big budget film crews routinely use mirrorless cameras on set because of their quick set up, small form factor and stellar image quality. Mirrorless cameras now have features that five-figure ENG broadcast cameras would need optional equipment to achieve.
- Additionally, new features include the built-in ability to shoot in professional formats like LUTs, Apple ProRes, and HVEC. With a powerful computer, creators now have controller similar to shooting photos in Raw.
For some time mirrorless cameras have been ahead of the curve. Now that the market has matured, it's hard to recommend buying a new DSLR. Sony has long since discontinued there A-mount DSLRs. Canon and Nikon ceased DSLR lens R&D announcing they are focusing on mirrorless.
If you have a DSLR that you are happy with, use it enjoy the features it offers. If you are considering buying a new camera, the mirrorless cameras have helpful new features that make photography easier, quicker, and more consistent.
NOTE - If you recently made the switch or are looking to get more out of your mirrorless camera, we offer a class to maximize the new capabilities and break some old conventions that no longer hold true for mirrorless. Join David Boyars on 2/4 for our Moving to Mirrorless class.