Switching From DSLRs to Mirrorless Cameras

Let me start by saying a camera regardless of how many megapixels, whether it’s a full frame or a crop, or whatever gangster mob  brand it’s affiliated with is simply just a tool. It’s not the camera that makes stellar photos, it’s the person who happens to be using it. With that being said after making the jumps from shooting with the Canon 5D Mark II to the Nikon D800 [Joining the Darkside] I’ve jumped again from DSLRs to Sony’s mirrorless camera system. As of August 2015 I’ve been using the Sony A7r II as my main camera, which lead many of my peers to ask me “how do you like shooting with a mirrorless Sony?”

Let’s begin shall we? First…

 

Why Did You Switch from the Nikon D800 to Sony A7R II?

I’m going to be frank with this question. The answer is a financial one. In mid 2015 my trusty, workhorse camera at the time was the Nikon D800 starting making that I’m-Dying-And/Or-Getting-Old shutter sound. That’s when the shutter click doesn’t sound as crisp anymore. The once bright *click* begins to lose its luster and sound more like a *flop.* This translates to me that it’s time to start looking at what’s current on the market for an upgrade and sell the old workhorse.

At the time almost all full frame flagship cameras by your standard Canon, Nikon, and wildcard Sony were priced at $3200 (MSRP.) In all honesty I was not impressed with the available cameras from both Canon and Nikon. Canon seems to be a little slow with innovation and the Nikon D810 appeared to be a slightly better version of my D800. That slight difference would cost me almost an extra thousand more.

In my mind if the competing cameras were all approximately the same price I’d go for the best bang for the buck. Hello Sony!

 

What I Love About Shooting Mirrorless:

It’s Tiny

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In contrast to my commercial photography, my personal work has shifted vastly into the realm of travel and adventure photography. With that shift comes many, many miles of backpacking into backcountry wilderness. Situations like these are where the weightless, small camera body really shine. I can still bring a quality camera up into high elevations without the weight and bulk!

For my urban travelers a smaller camera system also equates to an easier check-in or overhead storage for flights.

 

Never-ending Lens

With the right adaptor fundamentally you can attach any lens to the mirrorless A7r II! Canon? Nikon? Sigma? m42? The possibilities are endless!

 

EVF Viewfinder

The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) offers a big help when it comes to manually focusing a lens and to physically see what my exposure is going to be. For manual focus you can turn on focus peaking and accurate focus on your subject.

 

The Sound of Silence

Without a mirror the camera is quiet. If you want to take it a step further you could turn on the silent shooting mode and become a sneaky snipper. No one will ever hear you click away.

I’ve personally found the silent shooting mode extremely useful for shooting on set when the video production is recording sound. Traditionally set photographers would take stills by shooting with a camera shrouded in a sound blimp.

 

New Technology!

Newer mirrorless cameras are really open-minded when it comes to innovation within the camera’s own programming. Something that I recently discovered on my A7r II is its ability to install mobile apps. All of a sudden tools and accessories that I used to bring along have been replaced by apps on my camera’s body and cell phone!

For example with a wireless remote app I can use my cell phone to control the settings on my camera, fire the shutter, and even use it as an intervalometer. This saves me the effort and energy of bringing a separate intervalometer and the batteries to power it.

Another example? My current camera has a 5-axis stabilization system built in and 399 AF points! To make it even better those 399 AF are speedy and about 99% accurate. Canon and Nikon need to catch up.

 

Send Photos Directly to Your Phone

Apologies, I’m not one of those #iPhoneOnly photographers on Instagram. I am guilty of sending photographs I take on my mirrorless camera and then sending it directly to my iPhone, which then end up all over my social media. This seem like a fancy gimmick, but since most of my branding and marketing is done via the internet this wi-fi transfer feature is nothing short of awesome.

 

What I Hate About Shooting Mirrorless:

Battery Life

It sucks! Compared to a DSLR it is absolutely horrendous. I need to have at least 4 fully charged batteries on a shoot date to feel confident that I’ll get my shoots in.

 

It’s Not So Tiny

Yes, mirrorless cameras are small …Until you put all the professional gear on. Once you put a professional level lens, wireless triggers, flashes, microphones, video rigs, etc the weight and bulk of all the setup will negate the initial size benefit.

 

The EVF Viewfinder

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There is a very specific situation in which I find the EVF very, very annoying:

When I’m doing astrophotography and I can’t see or focus on the stars that I’m shooting

 

Lens Are Lost In Translation

metabones

Using adaptors and non-native lens is game changing –when they decide to communicate properly and work. (Note: This probably does not apply for video.) I’ve tried several times to use Metabones adaptors with EF-mount and F-Mount lens and when they work the AF is great. When they don’t work the lens take their sweet time hunting and racking focus for no substantial reason.
 

Where Did All the Lens Go???

Granted professional mirrorless cameras haven’t been around for that long. Many of us are still waiting for companies to put out a wider variety of lens that should be standard. For instance Sony has finally released a 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 zoom lens for FE-mounts.

 

Final Thoughts

I’m writing this post in early April, which means that I’ve been using a mirrorless camera (specifically the Sony A7r II) for 8 months now for both commercial work and personal travel photography. I can confidently say that I’m glad I switched over to shooting on Sony’s mirrorless system. Granted there are a few things that irk me –I’m talking about your crappy battery life! However with any new technologies there are going advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage being that it is new technology and that as consumers were going to have to wait for the programmers and product engineers to work out all the bugs and create new products that are adaptive to current real world situations.

Moving forward though the advantages such as weight and the openness to new technology outweigh the disadvantages. If you’re in the market for a new camera I’d highly recommend jumping ship and switching to Sony’s mirrorless system.

 


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4 Comments

  • I’d add one more reason against mirrorless – ergonomics. With the size and weight savings of the body comes less surface area to wrap your hands around. I have used my mother’s GX7 and friends’ A6000, A7 and OMD EM5 and was ready to throw any of these against a wall after less than 20 minutes. For me nothing beats the ergonomics, especially the deep grip, of my K3. Plus the EVF vs. OVF point you listed, and the fact that the mirrorless lenses are just as big.

    • Yea I’ll agree with you there on the ergonomics. Mirrorless cameras do feel a lot better when you add a vertical grip, although (again agreeing with you) it completely defeats the purpose of having a small body to begin with.

      There are trade offs with every camera. I suppose for my purposes the option of being able to built the camera up to a comfortable size as well as downsizing it serves well for commercial work and travel.

  • Thank you for your post! I’m in the exact same situation and thought too much about ‘switching the system’ – until now.

    So just for fun: Which photos/series did you shot with your new equipment?

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