Joseph, Photography

DSLR Or Mirrorless ?

First I would like to say this post is purely my opinion so please don’t think I am singling out any particular manufacturer or promoting one system over another. I am giving my reasons for switching and my thoughts are probably out of sync with the majority of readers so as I said in last weeks post “to each their own”.

Well I finally took the plunge into the mirrorless camera world wholeheartedly yesterday. I had been building a Fujifilm system along side of my Nikon System for about a year now and I had found myself using the Nikon less and less, sorry about that West 🙂

I already was using a Fujifilm X-T1 so when the opportunity arose to get another X-T1,  Vertical battery grip, 56mm f/1.2, 23mm f/1.4, Fuji Flash and a handful of Fuji batteries and other goodies I jumped at it. I’m sure you are saying “Oh No Joe” you must have spent a small fortune on that gear. Actually I swapped my Nikon gear for the Fuji gear (except for some items which I will sell separately) so it didn’t cost me a penny. Now I am not the first person to jump ship from a DSLR to the mirrorless world but at least I have had the opportunity to use the Fuji gear side by side with the Nikon gear to sway my final decision.

Why in the world would you do a silly thing like that Joe ?

To me it the glass (lenses) is a very important aspect in deciding which system to go with. It also has a lot to do with the camera controls but more on that later. You see way back when I was an eager young buck I remember deriving great joy from going out for a days worth of shooting with prime lenses on my Canon F-1 film camera. I had a lot of those marvelous Canon FD prime lenses and all of them were fast. I don’t remember having any lens that was slower than f/2.0. I did not own a single zoom lens. My images were really good with those fast lenses and then Canon had to go and upset the whole apple cart by changing the design of their lens mount.

You might be saying to yourself “I don’t remember Canon changing their lens mount Joe” but they did. They had to change the mount design to one that would accommodate the newer cameras that were beginning to appear with electronics.

Those great Canon lenses were called breech-lock lenses and they were machined so well that all you would have to do was face the camera lens mount up and line up the dots and the lenses would practically mount themselves. All you would have to do is twist the breech-lock ring about 1/3 of a turn and your lens was securely mounted. There was no twisting of the lens against the camera body. The only thing that moved was the breech-lock ring so there was no lens mount wear or wobbly lenses. Yes those were the good old days.

So when Canon changed their mount I traded in all my gear for Nikon. One of the great things that Nikon had been able to do is retain their original mount design so not to alienate users who had accumulated years worth of lenses. Every Nikon F mount lens will fit every Nikon SLR camera no matter how old it is. The older lenses might not meter on the newer cameras but they will fit. Why Nikon was able to build upon their original mount design to accommodate electronics and Canon did not is beyond my scope, but to say the very least I was pissed. So for the next 35 years I built a Nikon system.

The time seemed to fly by and every couple of years when Nikon announced a new camera I was at the local camera shop checking it out, and most of the time buying it. Each new generation of Nikon added more and more features, so many in fact that I was sure I never use all of them. I noticed a strange thing that happened along the way though (and I am strictly talking about myself here). The more features that were added to the cameras the less I would enjoy using them. Either you would have to twist a wheel in front of the camera to change the aperture, or hold a button while twisting a wheel to adjust exposure compensation. Some features were only accessible by diving into the menu system.

Thats great, something else I have to remember.  Besides getting the correct exposure and composing my shot I had to remember dials, wheels, buttons and menus. Don’t get me wrong, having a bunch of features is great but I just didn’t feel right to me the way these features were implemented. I fully embrace technology when its enjoyable. I’m not an analog man in a digital world.

OMG look at all those glorious dials 🙂

XT1 (1 of 1)

I guess I’m just old school, I like aperture rings on the lenses and knobs to twist with numbers on them. This is one of the reasons I started to like the Fuji cameras more and more. Besides having some of the best APS-C sensors in the business they have dials for shutter speeds, ISO, and exposure compensation. They have aperture rings on the lenses where some of us think they should be on every make of camera.  I like the way the Fuji X-Trans sensor reproduces color and B&W, and I do believe it has something to to with the non-traditional layout of the sensor (it is not a Bayer type layout).  I also liked the fact that Fuji has eliminated the AA filters on the sensor (anti-aliasing).  I know other manufacturers have removed these filters also but not at this price point. Across the entire Fuji line these filters are gone so the sharpness of the images is more to my liking.  Originally before jumping ship I was hoping when Nikon announced the df camera I would love it but, to me the Fuji X-T1 has better ergonomics.

The Fuji glass is also impressive. They have a complete lineup of fast prime lenses and the only zoom I have felt a need to buy is the 55-200 Optically Stabilized lens (yes Gale VR or OS lenses do work). Almost all of the lenses are tack sharp also. I enjoy using the fast lenses a lot, it reminds me of my days with my Canon F-1. The fact that the X-T1 has dials instead of wheels (it has wheels but you can choose not to use them) is just icing on the cake for me.

I was also very impressed with the quiet operation of the camera. If you turn the beep off you can hardly hear the shutter. There is no mirror slap as on a DSLR when you press the shutter, so I can use slower shutter speeds with a mirrorless and get sharper slightly images. There is no optical pentaprism to add weight to the camera. There is an electronic viewfinder and it is a superb one. I could look in the viewfinder and adjust the exposure compensation wheel  and see in real time what the image will turn out like without removing my eye from the viewfinder and looking at the rear screen.

When doing time or long exposures with a DSLR you have to cover the eyepiece or it will affect your images. There is no need to cover the eyepiece on a mirrorless.

Over the years I have used and owned a lot of Canon and Nikon glass and I have really never had any complaints with the sharpness of the images.  I do find that most of the Fuji glass has a “bite” to it for lack of a better word (looks a bit sharper).  As far as the Canon and Nikon bodies go I have never had any major issues almost all of them were totally reliable (my Nikon D200 had over 190,000 shutter actuations) on the original shutter and was still going strong.  I want to be very clear that I have nothing against these big manufacturers.  The Fuji system just fits my slower deliberate style of photography better.

Just because the Fuji system fits me does not mean everyone will like it. Some reviews I have read indicate that Fuji’s are not beginners cameras or are “Quirky” but I don’t find that the case at all. For anyone looking into upgrading or buying a DSLR camera I suggest you take a look at mirrorless along with DSLR’s. There are a lot of mirrorless brands such as Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic Lumix (Olympus and Panasonic are micro 4/3 sensors which are smaller than APS-C sensors) that offer considerable bang for the buck. Mirrorless technology is rapidly maturing and when image quality is compared to DSLR’s it is almost indistinguishable.

I’m sure in time I will find some disadvantages to mirrrorless also but the way I see it the advantages will far outweigh the disadvantages.

Here is a video clip that Patti K. sent me in a comment (Patti is one of our Main Contributors on Monochromia).  This is a pro that decided to go mirrorless and a lot of the reasons I switched were similar.  I hope you enjoy the clip and thank you to Patti for sending it – Why I moved to mirrorless

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33 thoughts on “DSLR Or Mirrorless ?

  1. I agree and think all DSLR’s should have aperture rings on the lenses like their older SLR counterparts with clear markings as well as shutter speed dials. Thank you very much 🙂

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  2. Although I’m staying with DSLR, I complain, — endlessly I guess, about the fact that manufacturers are printing the aperture and DOF numbers less on their lenses. That’s so annoying. Even when I was staring off with SLR’s way back in high school with tools like the sacred Pentax K1000, lens labeling had begun to decrease.

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  3. To me it doesn’t matter what camera brand a photographer uses. What does matter to me is the photo they show. When picking a photo apart to determine what I like about it in order to work some of that into my photography the camera brand has nothing to do with it. It’s all about what settings to use to get similar results. I started out with an Olympus E-510 and it was a great camera that produced some sharp photos but it was horrible in low light conditions. Now I’m carrying around Nikon gear. I’m not sure what I’ll have in 5+ years but to me it doesn’t matter what camera system I’m using to get a shot as long as I have something to capture the scene other than my own eyes. And as long as that system gives me IQ that I’m happy with.

    Right now I’d say there are two things holding me back from going mirrorless. The first is the cost as I know I’d have to spend something even with a trade with all my gear since it’s near impossible to get back what you put in as everything degrades in value as soon as you purchase it (except houses). The second is that I often find myself looking through the viewfinder to see if a particular scene has any hope for a nice shot before I decide if I want to try and capture something. I never turn on the camera for this and I just adjust the zoom and/or focus on the lens itself. With a mirrorless camera I’d have to constantly turn the camera on and off each time which would slowly eat away at the battery. I know that by carrying around multiple batteries this isn’t much of an issue but just something I always think about when thinking mirrorless. I wouldn’t mind trying one out but in order to prevent making myself to want to convert, I’ll just stick with what I have for now.

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    • You are 100 % correct Justin its not the camera its the end result. Some people take awesome images with pocket cameras. One of my favorite cameras was the Fuji X100s because it taught me a sort of discipline. I didn’t need to have the camera on to compose because it was a rangefinder type camera and it had a 23mm fixed lens (35mm equivalent) so it taught me to move around instead of relying on a zoom lens. I have since sold the X100s to finance the X-T1 and primes lenses but I really understand and can relate to your comment. Thank you very much and have a great evening 🙂

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  4. Love both my Nikon D7000 and my Olympus OMD E5. I have to admit, I use the Olympus more these days. Love the flip out screen-love the size–love the price point on some really beautiful glass-love both my 60mm macro and my 12-40 zoom (the backlit/flare is gorgeous on both of these lenses for my portrait work). My images are generally sharper across the board with the mirror less, which think has more to do with the camera that the lenses. Downsides: Wish it had a larger sensor though–and I’m not always a fan of the 4:3 ratio. Yes I know I can shoot in different ratios, but I loose pixels. I really needy a larger sensor for those larger format canvas prints that my clients want. (Some of them want to print 20×30 which is a big stretch for the four thirds sensor.) I also just started selling some of my “art” photography and the companies want the flexibility of up to 58″ on a side at 160-300 dpi.
    Curious if you have looked into Nikon’s new D750. It’s more agile than a typical full frame camera and a bit lighter in your hand and on the wallet–also has an articulating screen screen (though not like the OMD E5.) Trying to figure out if I should go with the D750, or take a full plunge with the D810 or just upgrade some of my Nikon lenses. Also curious why you switched from the OMD E5 to the Fuji. Was it the dials and rings?

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    • Thank you for commenting Kamala and these are all very good questions 🙂 I had a Nikon D610 which was small like the new D750 and was a full frame sensor I still used the Fuji’s more. I am not a professional so I really don’t have a need for a full frame (I don’t sell my prints) and the reason I originally bought it was because it seemed like the logical upgrade from a D300.

      I think the reason you find your images sharper on the Olympus is because there is no mirror slap like on the Nikon. There are just less moving parts. When you take photos with a DSLR you are not focusing off the sensor (unless you are in live view) and when you take a photo first the mirror has to flip up and get out of the way to expose the sensor. With a mirrorless there is no mirror so there is a lot less going on. Remember when we used to use mirror lock up for macro images ? That was so there was less vibration going on while we took the shot.

      The reason why I sold my Olympus was because at the time I decided to concentrate on the Nikon (I shot that brand for over 30 years). When I picked up my first Fuji I just fell in love with the image quality (they have APS-C size sensors the same size as the Nikon D7000 and the same megapixel count) and the controls. The controls just worked like I did with the aperture rings in the lenses and the shutter speeds and ISO dials on the top deck. They just seemed to fit my big hands better than the OMD-E-M5. What I still miss about the OMD-E-M5 is the crazy good image stabilization in the body.

      I don’t really know what the biggest print size is that you can get out of an APS-C sensor but I do know there are a lot of professional photographers using the Fuji’s. There are also quite a few using the OMD’s.

      The flip to screen of me is a must because I can get a lot of different angles with it (I have a bad back so I can’t really move like i used to).

      Thanks again and have a great week Kamala 🙂

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  5. Photos close to home says:

    Joe, I shot Nikons for 35 years. A couple of months ago I traded in my equipment (including a wonderful F3) for a Sony mirrorless and a couple of their Leica lenses. The camera menus were easy to learn thanks to a third party book from Amazon. Recommend that anyone changing over to a mirrors system buy a third-party book – the range of options available are amazing.

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    • Thank you very much for your comment 🙂 It’s hard after shooting with a certain brand to jump ship but I do think mirrorless is the future. Have a great weekend.

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  6. Great post, chimes with me because I’ve been a Nikon girl for almost a quarter of a century but just changed to mirrorless because of weight. I love my D300 which I’ve used for over four years, but reluctantly came to the decision I needed something lighter. So far I’m very impressed with my OMD em1… Olympus glass is good (my main worry after Nikon lenses), and the camera seems well built (another worry after the super rugged metal Nikon chassis). I’m looking forward to putting it through it’s paces!

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    • Welcome to the club Sue 🙂 I also had a D300 before I switched to the D610 and I understand why you were concerned about durability. The D300 was a tank but I loved mine also. I also had a Olympus OMD E-M5 for about a year and I loved that but then I started getting into the Fuji rangefinder style cameras like the X100s and the X-Pro 1 and I just liked the way they fit my hands. At the time the OMD-E-M1 was not announced or I might have went with that. I wouldn’t worry too much the Olympus also has a die cast aluminum chassis like the D300 and I agree the micro 4/3 sensors do produce some great images. Good luck with your new system and I think you will even find the smaller system more enjoyable to use when you get used to it. Have a great weekend 🙂

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  7. Very interesting to read about your experiences with different types of cameras. But you know Joe, I’ve been following your work for quite a while already (you’ve used lots of different gear during this time), and my observation is that whatever equipment you use, your photos are just fabulous!! 🙂 All those cameras should feel special to have been in the hands of such great artist!
    ps. Your X-T1 looks fabulous! 🙂

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  8. Great post Joe! Makes me want to ditch all my Nikon equipment and start over with a Fuji mirrorless system. Something I may want to investigate for down the road. I’m for anything that is easier to use and the fact that it’s lighter is a big plus for me as I have a very bad back myself. I made a custom camera case out of a small travel suitcase with wheels and a telescope handle to lug my equipment around in. Everything fits nicely in it. A real life saver for me. Thank you for the bit on the VR & the OS lenses. I’m sure that by the time I’m ready to uprade my equipment there will be a ton of new developments and improvements to the existing cameras on the market today. Guess I’ll just keep using my Nikon and stay on top of all the new developments for now. P.S. You do need to start selling your work and you need to make a book. It’s too good not to share. Don’t be stingy!!

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    • Thank you very much Gale 🙂 Believe me it was a major decision to switch but I think I will enjoy getting out with less cumbersome gear. The camera case sounds cool what a great idea. I like being stingy, LOL. Have a great weekend Gale 🙂

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  9. A wonderful post Joe, really opening up the conversation on this meaty topic. Have you seen this clip, about moving from Nikon to Sony?

    I am still so on the sidelines. As much as I would love the X-T1 (I played with one the other day) I can’t decide which lens to go for. Then I think I might invest in a prime lens for my little workhorse DSLR but that never lasts long either, again indecision at spending the big $$$’s. How on earth I made the commitment to get married all those years ago I’ll never know! Enjoy your new camera Joe and look forward to hearing more about it.

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    • Thank you very much for your comment and for the link to the video Patti 🙂 A lot of those reasons seem very familiar. Next time I’m in the city I’ll let you know and maybe if you have some time we could go out shooting for a while. I’ll bring the other X-T1 and you can shoot with one too, sort of like a test drive, LOL. Have a great weekend and thanks again 🙂

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  10. “That’s great, something else I have to remember. Besides getting the correct exposure and composing my shot I had to remember dials, wheels, buttons and menus. Don’t get me wrong, having a bunch of features is great but I just didn’t feel right to me the way these features were implemented. I fully embrace technology when its enjoyable.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I stepped-up from a P&S Canon PowerShot A-720 IS looking for better pictures. I’m sorry to say that I still use my budget camera, even though I have a bulky Canon DSLR EOS Rebel 2Ti. The weight, size, complexity, costs of lens, and accessories made me think about another alternative, so I started researching the Web.

    One day I found a YouTube video from Zack Arias talking about a “miraculous” camera. He was referring to the Fujifilm X-100S and all its magic. Everything he said in his video sounded like music to my ears. I saw more videos and read more articles and reviews about the different Fujifilm cameras until I found out that there was a Fuji camera within my means. It was the Fujifilm X-20, but soon learned that it was being discontinued and replaced by the Fujifilm X-30 which can be had for $599.00 from Amazon.

    That will be my final decision. I thought I would have the money by the end of the year, but some unexpected expenses depleted my photography budget. I guess I will have to wait until January or February of next year. If I feel comfortable with it, then I’ll sell my DSLR camera and everything I’ve been buying for it.

    I agree with you that we are at a turning point in the photography industry. More and more amateur and professional photographers are making the switch from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras. I recently wrote a post about this same subject. Here’s the link in case you missed it. (http://epiac1216.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/fujifilm-adds-a-new-camera-to-its-successful-x-line/).

    I’m glad we’re on the same page. Enjoy the upcoming weekend. 🙂

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    • Zack Arias is awesome, I love his style of street photography and I really loved his photography from a trip to India.

      I think you will be happy when you finally get the X30 it a really nice camera. As a matter of fact if I could find someone who wanted to buy my Sony RX100 Mk-1 I would sell it and buy the X 30 myself.

      Just remember the ISO performance above ISO 1600 on the X30 will probably have some grain or I should say noise, and if you are planning to print your images to gigantic proportions it probably won’t be your cup of tea. As a street shooter and for blog images I think its great.

      One of our contributors on Monochromia uses a Fuji X-10 a lot and he is getting great images from it and you might want to check his blog out. Joerg Thamer http://joergthamer.wordpress.com

      Have a great weekend Omar 🙂

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      • I saw Arias’ pictures in India. He shot beautiful models posing on top of a huge mountain of clothes being washed in a large laundry yard. The colors were stunning. I like the ways he speaks. He can convice anybody to walk on water.

        No Joe, not not interested in printing photographs. Main main activity is taking pictures for my blog, and the weight, size and complexity of my T2i is driving me crazy. Plus people think in Panama that I’m some kind of millionaire carrying such an equipment. These devices attract crime like a magnet.

        I’ll take a look at Joerg Thamer pictures to feel the taste of my future camera. February 2015 will be an interesting month.

        Take Care,

        Omar.-

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  11. Meho says:

    Joseph, when you take a picture with a mirrorless, is the picture is being taken as soon as you push the trigger?

    What I think, is that mirrorless are very expensive, mostly the lenses. Also, I really like to have something big in my hand 😳 I mean I feel more comfortable and its easier to take a picture without moving when it’s bigger.

    But I am always intrigued and attracted by the quality and by the silent aspect of the mirrorless. Maybe someday.

    Good post Joseph.

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    • Meho the image is taken as soon as you push the trigger on mirrorless. The focusing is also being done right off the sensor on most mirrorless cameras and to use my Fuji X-T1 as an example what I see in the electronic viewfinder is what the sensor is seeing with 100 % field of view accuracy. When I first started with mirrors I had the Olympus OMD E-M5 and that was pretty silent. The Fuji’s are silent like a Leica.

      They tend to be a little expensive but then again so are the higher end DSLR’s. There are less expensive mirrorless that don’t come with an electronic viewfinder but I find them really hard to compose a shot on in bright sunlight. Even if they came with a less expensive viewfinder like 1 million pixels I wouldn’t like it as much as an optical pentaprism. I think the Fuji X-T1 has a 2.3 million pixel viewfinder but its big and clear.

      I understand what you are saying with a bigger camera being more comfortable to hold and that was of some concern to me when I jumped ship (because of my big sausage fingers) but I went out and shot for a couple of hours this morning and I think I am used to the smaller camera. They still have some weight to them the Fuji is all aluminum with metal controls and a tiny amount of plastic for the SD card door and ports.

      Thanks again Meho and enjoy your weekend 🙂

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  12. Great article Joe…I think it is all down to personal preference. After all, no one (as far as I know) is able to look at a photograph and say ‘hmmm…that was taken with a Nikon D3300 or a Canon EOS 5D or whatever). Cameras these days are all very good – if they aren’t people won’t buy them – especially with the internet and many camera reviews on line. One of the best cameras I owned was the Pentax K10D. The only reason I traded it in for a lighter Nikon was that is is really heavy. OK for walking around town or on a short/medium walk, but I did a long days walk last year (28 miles and 3 mountains)…carry that with 3 lenses and other supplies and you know about it.
    I agree entirely what you are saying – it is down to personal preference – what fits – and what you feel comfortable with.

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    • Thank you very much James 🙂 Another one of the reasons I switched was the weight factor. I’m not a hiker or what you would call a fit person (unlike yourself). Having a bad back does not help either so the weight of the system is a big deal for me. Some of the finest images I ever made came from a Nikon D610 but for someone like myself who is not a pro, why do I need the bulk and the weight. It all boils down to what you stated, personal preference, what fits your needs and what you are comfortable with. Have a great day 🙂

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