If you own a DSLR camera, you might not see any reason to consider switching to a mirrorless camera. Trying one out in your local camera store will surprise you. They are a step up from DSLR cameras and have loads of features that you probably never knew you needed.
This article will help you get more familiar with mirrorless cameras, and encourage you to take a closer look at them.
So let’s explore the world of the mirrorless camera.
Best for Traveling
Canon EOS M200
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The Absolute Best
SONY a7R IV
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Best Entry Level Camera
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1. FUJIFILM X-T30
Best Mid range Camera
“This Fujifilm offering is a great camera and one of the better mid-range APS-C mirrorless cameras on the market.”
The 4K video is crisp and clear.
Unfortunately, there is no in-body stabilization, with the result that in some situations a tripod might be needed to provide a solid support for the camera.
The eye-tracking autofocus is outstanding.
There is only one memory card slot, which does limit your choices when saving your work
Shooting speeds are impressively fast.
The electronic viewfinder is not really up to the standard I would have expected from even a mid-range mirrorless camera.
The design of the body is excellent and makes the handling of the camera easy and uncomplicated.
The battery is quite small, and it might well be necessary to take spares when out on an urban shoot or when traveling.
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The release of the X-T30 was as a follow-up to the X-T3 at the end of last year. The X-T30 has the same brand new 26.1-megapixel X-Trans 4 backside-illuminated sensor as the X-T3. The advantage that the X-T30 has over the X-T3 is its much lower price.
Never mind that price gap, though, as the X-T30 has a mass of features with full APS-C 4K video, up to 30fps shooting speeds and AI-supported face- and eye-detection autofocus. It has a superbly designed sleek, lightweight body that weighs in at 383 grams. Generally speaking, the camera handles well, but it does have a rather small grip and could slip out of your hands. Its narrowness, though, does mean that it slips easily into a pocket, and is ideal for taking away on a trip or for street photography.
The design also lets the camera down in one other area. The tripod socket – which is essential as there is no in-body stabilization – is very close to the battery compartment. A consequence of this is that you will have to remove it before you can get at the battery. The memory card is a little bit tricky to get out of its slot as that slot is too close to the lid of the compartment.
The plusses, though, do help to offset those minor niggles. There are both front and rear dials to adjust the ISO and aperture settings, and top dials to control shooting settings and shutter speed. During continuous burst shooting, it gives a blackout-free performance.
Its best feature is its video capability. The Cinema 4K with 10-bit external output is crisp, and there is also a USB headphone jack. There is a microphone port, but you will need an adapter. Fujifilm has also included a micro-HDMI port. This camera is an excellent choice for a vlogger, despite there being no flip-out rear display.
The X-T30 has impressive shooting performance, with rates of 30fps possible in some situations. The autofocus uses phase-detect using 425 tracking points, and there are also 117 hybrid phase and contrast-detect areas. Autofocus performance is excellent as a result.
To summarize, this Fujifilm offering is a great camera and one of the better mid-range APS-C mirrorless cameras on the market.
2. NIKON Z6
Best Video Features
“The video features that put this particular camera ahead of the game.”
The Z6 includes in-body stabilization, which will be useful on many occasions.
The autofocus subject tracking on the Z6 is, at best, rather ordinary.
It produces fantastic images with accurate and sharp colors.
The Z6 only has one memory card slot and uses the XQD format, which is not easy to find and can be expensive.
The body is ergonomically well-designed and is comfortable to hold and easy to use.
In this camera, the touch display does not flip round, which can be a disadvantage when vlogging.
Microphone and Headphone ports are both provided for those who need them.
There is a limited choice of native lenses from Nikon, although more are on the way through 2020.
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The Nikon Z6 followed the more expensive Z7 on to the market and immediately made a great impression as a more reasonably priced new entrant. Just because the price is lower does not mean lower performance or fewer features. This is a superior mirrorless camera in many respects.
The Z6 offers full-frame, full pixel operation resulting in pin-sharp 4K video, with 10-bit output. The quality of the image and the intensity of the colors obtained from the 24.5-megapixel sensor are impressive. It is gratifying to see the 5-axis in-body stabilization, which is such a great feature. Nikon calls this feature vibration reduction or VR, which is a pair of initials that could easily be confused with the VR of Virtual Reality.
The body of the Z6 is weatherproof and has a large grip that is a bonus if heavy lenses are attached. Being smaller and lighter than a DSLR camera makes this an ideal multi-purpose mirrorless camera. It is excellent for street photography, landscape work, wedding photography, and tourism use, as well as general photography.
Autofocus works reasonably well, as long as the subject keeps reasonably still, and is fast. There are 273 phase- and contrast-detection points across the sensor. Nikon does not include eye-detection autofocus, so it is quite likely that you will get out-of-focus eyes and in-focus noses in certain circumstances. In video mode, the Z6 is impressive, with excellent results in low light and at night. The output from video mode is by 10-bit, 4:2:2 log to an external recording device.
The Z6 is an impressive mirrorless camera with some market-beating video capabilities. The standard photographic features of the Z6 match those of similarly priced cameras, but it is the video features that put this particular camera ahead of the game.
3. CANON EOS R
Best Night time Camera
“With a 3.69 million dot OLED viewfinder, the results are brighter, have brilliant resolution and a fast refresh rate.”
There is a choice of adapters that allow other Canon lenses to fit into this model.
There is no in-body stabilization, which seems like a silly omission on a camera of this standard.
The Dual Pixel autofocus is incredibly accurate.
When using the camera for video, the 1.8x crop and maximum of 30fps is a significant disadvantage.
The quality of the images, especially when taking photos, is outstanding.
Just one SD card slot puts this camera at a disadvantage compared to its rivals.
The body of the camera is sturdy and weatherproof and makes handling easy.
There is no joystick, and the replacement touchpad is not very reliable.
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With the EOS R model, Canon introduces its new lens mount system to the market. It is their first full-frame mirrorless camera and has some super features. Handling is excellent, as are the first lenses that the makers have made available for it. The EOS R takes superb images with impressive picture quality and has accurate Dual Pixel autofocus. The body is sturdy, weatherproof, and has a big grip, which means it won’t slip out of your hand unexpectedly.
The new lens mount system, the RF, is big, and as the flange distance is only 20mm, it is possible to take sharp, clear images. There will be a whole family of lenses in the future, and I expect nothing other than perfection from them.
There are four RF lenses already available, and there are three new style adapters also available. These will allow you to use other Canon lenses on the EOS R. The adaptors are, admittedly, an added cost. However, if you are a fan of the Canon family of photographic equipment, then one of them would be a good investment.
An unexpected bonus is the long battery life. When used for regular shooting, the battery will produce double the shots than an average mirrorless camera battery. There are microphone and headphone ports, and USB-C and micro-HDMI additionally provided. There is only one SD card slot, and this will put the EOS R at a disadvantage compared to rival cameras that offer two slots as standard. Another factor that will put the EOS R at a disadvantage compared to its rivals is the lack of in-body stabilization. The lack of in-body stabilization is made worse by the lack of stabilization in the two best lenses that Canon supply.
The electronic viewfinder, however, is magnificent. With a 3.69 million dot OLED viewfinder, the results are brighter, have brilliant resolution and a fast refresh rate. Also, there is a flip-out, fully articulated rear touch display that vloggers will love. This feature is especially the case as the video record button is on the top of the body, so no fumbling!
4. PANASONIC LUMIX S1R
Great Mirrorless Camera
“Image quality is outstanding, and its video capabilities are so good too.”
S1R’s sturdiness makes handling it easy and comfortable.
The contrast-detect autofocus is not as good as some cheaper rival cameras.
The image resolution is impressive, producing clear, sharp photographs every time.
The S1R is weighty, and this might be an issue when carrying the camera around.
With 5-axis in-body stabilization, there’s no need to worry about camera shake or the need for a tripod.
The high price would deter many potential purchasers. There are cheaper cameras available that are just as good.
A tripod would have to be rugged if you did decide you needed one.
The S1R doesn’t perform that well in low-light.
Two SD card slots make saving your work much easier and less risky.
Superb video performance makes this a good camera for a videographer. Vloggers might well find it too heavy.
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Panasonic has taken the niche video-oriented mirrorless camera market by storm and has now entered the more lucrative full-frame market with the S1 and S1R models.
The S1R is sturdy and is great to handle, but is heavy at 1,020 grams with both a battery and memory card fitted. The grip is the largest of any mirrorless camera, which means it won’t be dropped whatever the weather conditions. Weatherproofed, it can operate across a wide range of temperatures from a heatwave to winter cold.
The extra size gave Panasonic the room to include lots of manual controls. The joystick, ISO controls, and the dials are superbly well-placed. The shooting controls and the focus controls have their dedicated buttons, so no need to search a menu to find them. The only drawback is that the on/off switch is not well-positioned.
While the rear display is not fully articulated, it can flip out and tilt,
Other Panasonic mirrorless cameras do have this feature, so it’s a mystery why they left it off the S1R. The menus on the S1R are organized into categories and sub-categories in a logical and easy to follow way. It’s all fully programmable, so you can set everything in place just the way you want.
Other features make this a superb camera. The inclusion of two SD card slots, both headphones, and microphone ports, and there is a USB-C port and a full-sized HDMI port. The Lumix Sync app is one of the best available and, in comparison to apps from some other manufacturers, is easy to use.
The subject, face, and eye-tracking systems are both speedy and powerful. There is also an animal-tracking system that performs well in most situations. Animal-tracking software is a recent introduction to mirrorless cameras, and you can expect to see improvement in its performance in the next year.
The S1R is a lovely camera with lots of features that make using it a joy. Image quality is outstanding, and its video capabilities are so good too. The big problem is the price, as competitors are introducing more and cheaper cameras that are just as good.
5. SONY A6400
Best AI camera
“It has AI-supported Eye Autofocus and tracking, and this is a superb feature.”
The A6400 has top-quality eye- and face-tracking autofocus.
The A64000 suffers from a severe rolling shutter effect.
It has breakneck burst shooting speeds.
There is no in-body stabilization, which makes it unsuitable for vloggers.
The programmable buttons have been improved, which makes them easier to use.
The sensor in the A64000 is now an outdated one.
There is no headphone port included.
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The A6400 uses a nearly-identical body to the A6300, which came out in 2016. The layout of the controls is near enough the same, although Sony claim to have slightly upgraded the body against moisture and dust. The most obvious difference is the bigger grip. The controls on all Sony cameras can be a bit awkward to use, and the A6400 is no exception.
The electronic viewfinder is the same at 2.36 million dots as the other Sony cameras in this series. The rear display is a significant improvement, though, with a touchscreen rather than a joystick, for focusing, tracking a subject and shooting the image. Sadly, the touchscreen doesn’t admit you to the menus or settings. It does tilt down to 90 degrees, and it will flip up and over 180 degrees.
Sony’s menus can be frustrating to use, as they usually are not very well organized. In this camera, they have made customization much more manageable, so set up the camera first, and then go shooting.
There is now a choice of lenses for use with this camera, as it has the Sony E-Mount system. Not only is the Sony range of lenses available, but other lens makers produce lenses that fit the system.
The A6400 is a great camera for photography with its superb tracking autofocus system. The software and electronics in this model are the real improvements over previous ones. It has AI-supported Eye Autofocus and tracking, and this is a superb feature.
6. Olympus OM-D-EM10 Mark III
Great 4K Camera
” The new features include 4K video and an image processor with more power, and that uses 121 autofocus points.”
The Mark III offers excellent value for money. Despite being an entry-level price, there are lots of more advanced features available.
A fully-articulated hinge would have made this a better camera for vloggers.
It has 5-axis in-body stabilization, which Olympus clearly felt was essential when incorporating 4K video.
The resolution is not top-class, but color rendition makes up for this.
The exterior controls are well-placed and more than might be expected on a camera in this price range.
The viewfinder can get a bit confused if you are trying to track a subject that’s moving fast.
The price puts it well within the pocket of potential users looking for an entry-level camera but will benefit from those extra features.
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This camera is an upgrade of the old Mark II version. The new features include 4K video and an image processor with more power, and that uses 121 autofocus points. The manufacturers have given the exterior and the controls a face-lift.
Inside the body, the Mark III uses the same Micro Four Thirds sensor as the Mark II. Using this size of sensor means that the lenses can be smaller too, which is great when you are traveling. There is also a 5-axis in-body stabilization system that helps when doing low-light photography.
In use, the Mark III handles well, helped by an enlarged thumb grip. There is a big on/off switch, two metal control dials, and a big metal mode dial. The rear screen tilts both up and down, but there is no fully-articulated hinge.
The electronic viewfinder and the rear touchscreen are both good. Olympus has not cut corners, so the viewfinder has a 2.36 million dot resolution. The viewfinder is clear, with bright colors, and is lag-free in the best light.
7. Sony A6000
Best Entry Level Camera
“It still represents outstanding value as an entry-level camera, especially as Sony has reduced the price to almost rock-bottom.”
Although an older camera, it still has a range of powerful features that make it an excellent entry-level choice.
The body styling now looks a bit dated. Let’s be generous and call it ‘vintage.’
The 24Mp sensor is sharp
The larger lens makes the handling of the camera more difficult.
There is a built-in electronic viewfinder.
There is no 4K capability, which many users might feel they need in their new camera.
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The A6000 is an old stager in the mirrorless camera market, it having been introduced in 2014. It still represents outstanding value as an entry-level camera, especially as Sony has reduced the price to almost rock-bottom.
The A6000 is still way ahead of many other cameras for action shooting. It boasts a hybrid autofocus system where 179 phase-detect AF points work with 25 contrast-detect points. There is also 11fps burst shooting with focus tracking. For other enthusiasts, the A6000 offers a 24MP APS-C sensor, a high-resolution OLED viewfinder and an LCD screen that tilts, plus there is Wi-Fi provision.
The A6000 is a small camera with all the advantages that gives, but the design is a bit old-fashioned. It is, though, a lovely camera to use, being responsive, and producing excellent images.
8. Canon EOS M200
Best for Traveling
“The small size means it can be taken traveling and can be used where you need to be discreet when taking photographs.”
The small size makes this an ideal camera for traveling.
There is no grip on the body of the camera, which might cause it to slip out of your hand.
The lenses are interchangeable, so enhancing the camera’s flexibility.
The in-camera RAW processing function has been dropped and replaced by Craw (compressed RAW) mode.
It produces excellent, clear images that are as good, if not better, than its competitors.
Files are slimmed down and require a different approach in post-production.
There are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities.
Image quality in low-light is not too good.
Good value for money for a camera in this price range
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There are rapid changes taking place in the mirrorless camera marketplace. Manufacturers need to keep up, but most don’t want to bring out completely new cameras when they need to upgrade existing models. Canon has done just this by upgrading its M100 model to make it more appealing to the entry-level customer and those wishing to move on from a smartphone.
In the case of the M100, Sony just added Eye-detect autofocus and a 4K video option. There is also a tilting touchscreen at the rear. There is still an APS-C sensor installed in one of the smallest bodies available. The newly re-named M200 has thereby been made a little bit more competitive and handier for those who are just beginning as photographers.
The M200 is a good mirrorless camera that will do a capable job for you. You will have to give up on some images you might want to take, like fast-moving subjects. It will produce decent photographs with very little fuss, but great resolution. The small size means it can be taken traveling and can be used where you need to be discreet when taking photographs.
9. SONY a7R IV
The Absolute Best
“This is a fantastic choice of camera for a professional photographer or an experienced hobby photographer who likes to work with superior equipment.”
The resolution is fantastic, especially in single-shot mode.
There is no top-plate LCD screen to allow the monitoring of camera settings.
The body of the camera I well-sealed against the elements and has a comfortable, large grip.
The Mark IV does not cater for in-camera RAW conversion, which prevents sharing files.
The battery life is good, and there is USB charging provided.
Large capacity memory cards will be needed to cope with the large files this camera can produce.
There is an outstanding selection of lenses available, especially for portrait work.
The Mark IV does not allow you to switch from stills to video until the buffer has cleared.
With two SD card slots, it is possible to reduce problems like card failure or full cards.
Exposure settings get carried across to video mode from stills mode, which doesn’t happen on other similar cameras.
The Mark IV has an entirely silent shutter option.
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The a7R IV is a more expensive camera, but it is full of features that make it one of the best choices for the more experienced photographer.
With this camera, we are again looking at an upgrade from an earlier model, in this case, the a7R III. The most significant change is the introduction of Sony’s own ‘Real-Time Auto Focus Tracking.’ This system has been programmed to recognize people, faces, and eyes, and as a result, it will track those subjects around the frame. It is aware that a human subject hasn’t disappeared when they turn away from the camera. When they turn back, the face- or eye-detection quickly returns. As a result, this dependable system, which is easy to use, means you don’t need to go into the menus to change settings. Video mode, too, benefits from this development, as the old ‘Center Lock-On AF’ is not now available.
The body of the a7R IV has also been improved, with bigger buttons, a high-resolution viewfinder, a sturdier AF point joystick, and improvements to protect against dust and moisture.
Another notable improvement is the introduction of a ‘My Menu’ tab, which you can fill with the settings you most often use. So, there is less work for your memory, less chance for mistakes, and less timewasting. Additional to this new feature is another that allows you to customize 11 of the buttons that appear on the camera. You can save these customized settings to an SD card, and that means you can use them on a different body or return to them if you have tried different settings.
The a7R IV is a superb high-end camera with very many advanced features. So this is a fantastic choice of camera for a professional photographer or an experienced hobby photographer who likes to work with superior equipment.
10. Fujifilm X-T20
“There are a few features that do not appear on the X-T20, these don’t detract that much from a camera that does just about everything that I might need.”
The X-T20 takes most of the best features of the X-T2 and puts them into a smaller body.
As there is no weatherproofing, using the X-T20 in the rain, or when there’s dust blowing about, is not advisable.
The images produced by the sensor are of a very high standard.
There is only one SD card slot, which reduces flexibility.
The autofocus system is impressive.
The X-T20 does not have the option of a battery grip, but this may not be a significant consideration for most users.
Given the reduced size of the body, there have been some changes made to the buttons and dials, which make them just that little bit harder to operate.
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The X-T20 is the cheaper sibling of the X-T2, which contains many features from the earlier version, but at a lower price. The X-T20 is smaller and lighter but still incorporates many of the useful features of the X-T2. The body does have a slightly retro feel, but there is a good grip and all the knobs and buttons there, but the smaller size makes them less easy to use.
The first thing to stay is the 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. Whether you are shooting in RAW or JPEG, the resulting images are crisp, icy-air sharp, and vibrant colors. The X-T2 has an impressively fast processor, and this has been brought over to the X-T20 as well. Therefore, you have good autofocus speeds, shorter shutter lag time, and quick shot-to-shot time.
Battery time is always going to be an issue with mirrorless cameras. The X-T20 has the same battery as the X-T2, and that is the best that Fuji can provide now. The battery gives 350 shots per charge, which is around the average for mirrorless cameras in the mid-range. Battery life is shortened anyway when an electronic viewfinder is in use, and these are pretty much standard on mirrorless cameras.
Another borrowing from the X-T2 is the impressive autofocus. 325 selectable AF points manage to cover most of the frame perfectly adequately. There is a touchscreen, which is an increasingly standard feature on mirrorless cameras, and which most users expect to see.
The most obvious downside is that there is no in-body stabilization feature. You would need to buy a lens that incorporates an image stabilizer.
There are a few features that do not appear on the X-T20, these don’t detract that much from a camera that does just about everything that I might need.
WHAT IS A MIRRORLESS CAMERA?
A mirrorless camera is just what it says. DSLR cameras have a mirror that directs the light from the lens onto the image sensor. Mirrorless cameras let the light fall on the image sensor continuously, giving a clearer image of the scene at that moment. There are many advantages to this relatively new development in camera technology, and very few disadvantages.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING YOUR MIRRORLESS CAMERA
First of all, let us look at the factors that you need to consider when making up your mind to switch to a mirrorless camera.
1. Your current camera
If you already own a camera, what make and model is it? If it comes from a manufacturer whose products you like, then there may be some merit in buying a new mirrorless camera from the same manufacturer. That way, you will be sure that the new camera will be up to the usual standard.
A second consideration is that if you have lenses from one manufacturer and then choose a camera from the same manufacturer, those lenses could well fit your new camera.
Mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller than DSLR cameras, and that means you can slip one into a pocket or bag when traveling. The small size is also useful if you are trying to be discreet when taking a photograph, for example, at a wedding. Some of the full-frame mirrorless cameras are a bit larger, as the full-frame sensor needs more room.
Do you want to shoot JPEG images or RAW images? Some cameras are better than others at one or other of these. For a JPEG shooter, the in-camera image processing has to be of a high standard. Not as crucial for RAW images as they go through post-production anyway, and any defects are sorted out.
4. Low-light photography
If you do a lot of low-light photography, then some of the mirrorless cameras with Micro Four Thirds or APS-C sensors might not suit you. You will need to opt for those cameras that have Full Frame sensors.
5. Your future needs
Before buying your new camera, stop and think about the future. What do you want your camera to do? Will you take your photography on to a higher level in a few years?
You may feel that an entry-level camera will give you a chance to get used to the new technology. Then you can purchase a more high-end camera later when you are confident enough to take advantage of all the features these cameras offer. Most of the manufacturers offer several models in the same range, plus all the add-ons like flash units, etc.
6. Carrying options
We have all become used to carrying our DSLR cameras in large bags with all the accessories that had to keep them company. The smaller size of the new mirrorless cameras means that moving them can be much more comfortable. It is possible to slip one into a pocket or small bag. Keep in mind, though, that not all of the mirrorless cameras are small. Some mirrorless cameras have larger lenses while others have full-frame sensors, and both these facets mean a larger camera.
7. Weather resistance
Do you go out with your camera in all weathers? Some of the most impressive photographs I have seen taken during a shower of rain. If this is one thing you like to do, then you do need to ensure that the camera you choose to buy can cope with all weather conditions.
Most mirrorless cameras have some weather protection, certainly enough to protect against splashed water or droplets falling from a tree. They will also be secure against freezing temperatures and dust or sand.
COMMON FEATURES IN MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
Modern mirrorless cameras have an incredible number of impressive features incorporated in them, so let’s have a look at the most commonly found ones.
1. Video Capabilities
Video capability is one of the aspects of photography where mirrorless cameras have taken the lead over DLSR cameras. They will shoot 4K video at higher frame rates – up to 120 frames per second.
However, you do need to consider a few technical matters if the primary use of your new mirrorless camera will be video. Quite a lot of mirrorless cameras are being sold to vloggers, as their superior video capabilities are what is exactly needed. It is good to have a flip-out rear screen, as this helps vloggers. Also, does the camera line-skip when video recording, or is it able to read the whole sensor? The latter gives excellent, crisp resolution, whereas line-skipping results in two unwanted effects – moire, where there are rainbow colors – a bit like oil on water – and aliasing, where jagged diagonal lines appear. Another problem to think about is whether ‘rolling shutter,’ which can cause unwanted effects, is well-controlled. Some models are better than others in this respect.
Vloggers might also like to see a microphone jack or a headphone jack, or both, in the camera. When interviewing, both are a bonus.
2. Silent Operation with Electronic Shutters
One beneficial feature of mirrorless cameras is the silent operation. They use electronic shutters which make no sound when pressed. This feature is excellent when you are trying to get some wildlife shots, take photographs at a wedding, or taking candid shots on the street or at a venue.
The advent of electronic shutters has seen shutter speeds increase well past the usual 1/4000s or 1/8000s, with continuous shooting speeds achieving 20fps and 60fps. Other features include the ability to take an image before the shutter has been depressed fully, so making the mirrorless camera the fastest type of digital camera.
3. Full-frame sensors
I have already mentioned that some mirrorless cameras offer Micro Four Thirds sensors. These are quite small, at 17.3mm x 13mm. Suitable for most usage, but not for low-light and bokeh is only decent rather than excellent.
APS-C sensors are next up in size at 23.5mm x 15.6mm in most cameras, although Canon uses very slightly smaller versions. Suitable for shooting in bright light. An excellent option for video but with less artistic bokeh possibilities. Both the APS-C and the Micro Four Thirds sensors give more natural control of focus and light. The largest size typically found in a mirrorless camera is the Full-Frame size sensor. Coming in at 36mm x 24mm, this also offers the highest resolution at 50 megapixels. Great for low-light work and a very thin depth of field to aid artistic bokeh. Given that the depth of field is so narrow, there can be difficulties with focus and the glare of bright sunlight.
The opinion-makers in the camera world are heatedly debating as to the future of Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensors. Some reckon that the arrival of Full-Frame sensors spells the end for MFT sensors, but many photographers love them. It would seem they will continue to have a role to play as long as there are manufacturers who are willing to produce cameras that contain them.
4. Battery charging
Mirrorless cameras have had criticism for their relatively short battery life. However, most of them charge via a USB port, and this means you don’t need to carry a charger with you when traveling.
It’s normal now for modern cameras to have an electronic viewfinder through which you can get a live view of the image you are shooting. The quality of electronic viewfinders has improved tremendously over the last couple of years, with the medium- and high-end models now boasting a minimum of 2.4 million dot OLED versions. Some mirrorless cameras also have a traditional viewfinder, which you put to your eye when you are taking your photograph. For some, this connects them more immediately with the image they wish to capture.
6. Sensor-based in-body image stabilization
Some, although not yet all, mirrorless cameras incorporate image stabilization. Magnetic fields stabilize the sensor to prevent movement and camera shake.
Image stabilization is useful when working in low light and using slow shutter speeds to compensate. Sometimes the images get blurred, and shaky hands don’t help. Neutralizing that issue is a great help. It’s also an excellent feature to have when using long lenses.
Some adaptors also have image stabilization, but they don’t all have it. Therefore, having it in-body means that you will stabilization even if the adaptor you are using doesn’t.
7. Two SD card slots
Why two slots? Isn’t one enough? Not really. With two slots and two cards fitted, you can always switch to the second card if the first one gets filled up. On some mirrorless cameras, it is possible to save to both cards at the same time. Having a back-up is brilliant if one card gets corrupted or fails in some way.
It is also possible to adjust the setup of these cards to suit your way of working. Saving RAW files to one card and JPEGs to the other is one solution.
8. High-Resolution Mode
High-Resolution Mode works by taking a series of images consecutively and then moving the sensor along by either one half or one pixel for each frame. By compositing these images, a higher resolution can be achieved, giving a sharper photograph. Also, color resolution is enhanced.
It is best suited to still-life photographs, or distance views of cityscapes. It does not cope well with movement, so close shots of, say, waterfalls, or leaves gently moving, look worse using the feature. Manufacturers are developing the technology behind the feature, so it will doubtlessly improve over time.
9. Eye detection Autofocus
Autofocus technology has advanced since it was first introduced back in the seventies. These days, we assume it is there for us on every camera.
Mirrorless cameras have brought the technology right into the twenty-first century. Now we have more embedded focus points in image sensors, and contrast-detection has gone to new limits. There are more settings for subject tracking, and although face detection has not yet proved successful, eye detection has. Sony was the first to market with a system based on a single-phase detection point that focusses on the subject’s eye. Other manufacturers have developed their versions, while Sony has taken another step ahead with an EyeAF for animals. So far, this has been well-received.
I mentioned contrast-detect autofocus, and that is the system used in many mirrorless cameras. Some cameras, however, us a hybrid system combining contrast-detect with phase-detect. These hybrid systems work faster but do reduce the sensor area. Mirrorless cameras, though, have much quicker and better video autofocus.
10. AI subject tracking
Artificial Intelligence is the latest development to be adopted by camera manufacturers, who are installing it into their mirrorless cameras as rapidly as they can. AI is here to stay, so we will all now have to get used to having algorithms and databases embed in our cameras to assist in subject recognition. Some manufacturers are making better progress than others. It will not be long before AI is no longer a marketing gimmick, but it is an essential part of every camera.
When the camera can recognize your subject quickly and easily, it can choose the optimum number of focus points. Then it will position them automatically, and so make less work for you as the photographer. Already deep learning software is being introduced that will allow the camera to adjust its settings according to brightness, color, patterns, and so on.
This software all works great with moving subjects, such as sportsmen, vehicles, aircraft, animals, locomotives, etc. Once tracking has started, the camera will do the rest for you. All you have to worry about is the subject and the composition. As far as I can tell, the only subject that this technology has failed to cope with is birds in flight. It will, I am sure, only be a matter of time before that is improved too.
11. Compositing effects
If you are into creative projects, then the ability to merge multiple shots into one can be handy. Doing this in-camera gives you the advantage of a preview while you are shooting, and also avoids the need to do the job in post-production. Being able to see what you are creating gives you the chance to make any changes and improvements as you are going along.
The compositing facility allows the creation of star trails, light painting, and fireworks effects. Having a preview on the screen while taking the shots will enable you to stop when you are happy with the result. Save your finished photo to a RAW file, and you can always make changes and enhance it later.
Another addition, available currently only on one mirrorless camera, but due to appear on others very soon, is the Live ND feature. With this, you can take long exposure shots without having to use ND filters. Linked to image stabilization, taking pictures hand-held becomes easy. There is no need for a tripod, filters, or lengthy exposure times.
Bracketing is essential for some applications. AE bracketing takes a sequence of shots, each with a different exposure, and merges them later. Other types of bracketing have since been added to the range available and include ISO, aperture, color profile, white balance, and focus. Focus bracketing can be of use to landscape and macro photographers. In this, you take a sequence of shots at different focus distances, which you then stack together during post-production to create a greater depth of field. Once, you would have done this manually. Now that the camera can do it for you, you can save time and hassle, and the finished product is greatly enhanced. Unfortunately, not every mirrorless camera incorporates focus bracketing, but as is the case with most other features, it is bound to increase in availability.
Time-lapse photography has always been popular, and for many years external remotes were available that would allow a positioned camera to take photographs at pre-determined intervals. Mirrorless cameras can do this as a built-in feature, thus saving you loads of hassle.
Some mirrorless cameras let you create a video from all the captured images, saving you the trouble in post-production. Another aspect of this feature that is going to develop as time goes on is the stop motion animation feature. You can then have a chance to preview each frame as you work.
14. RAW processing
RAW processing is a handy tool to have on your camera as it allows you to process your RAW files in the camera. Many photographers prefer to do this using a computer, a large monitor, and a powerful photo-editing program. However, being able to carry this out in camera does mean you are saving time, can do the job right-a-way, and react to environmental changes while still ‘on-site’. All this is possible because you can change colors, change the white balance, correct the exposure, and adjust contrast and sharpness. You can then finish the job and save it as a JPEG file.
15. Creative effects
It seems that all mirrorless cameras offer a set of creative effects as part of the package. These are only available in conjunction with JPEG mode. These provide such things as color isolation, blur effects, and others that are similar to the apps that you can get for your smartphone.
16. Wireless connectivity
Most mirrorless cameras have Wi-Fi capabilities. It is possible to connect your smartphone to the camera so that it can piggy-back onto this Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi enables a photograph to be transferred to the phone, so allowing you to send in on through social media. It also means that you can access apps to edit photographs, and to assist when taking photographs.
17. Top-plate displays
You can usually find top-plate displays on mid-range and high-end mirrorless cameras. They are not essential but are really useful.
Positioned as they are on the top of the camera means that you only need to glance down to get a look at the shooting settings.
18. Vari-angle and tri-axis tilting screens
The LCD screens that are such an essential feature of modern mirrorless cameras need to be easy to see. Manufacturers have therefore introduced an element of flexibility on some models of camera.
The least flexible version allows the screen to be tilted up or down, and you can then pull the screen towards you. The more flexible version has the screen attached to the side of the camera by a hinge. In this way, broader movements are possible, including a 180-degree turn, so that the screen faces forward. A more recent development allows the screen to tilt up and down, but also you can pull it sideways. This design is particularly useful for portraiture work when you are shooting from a low position or a high position.
TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR MIRRORLESS CAMERA
Here are a few tips to help you make the switch to a mirrorless camera.
1. Stock up on batteries
Mirrorless cameras do have a reputation for short battery life. This is comparative, as most mirrorless cameras will take 300 or so images before needing more battery power. DSLR cameras will take between 400 and 700 on average.
Few of us would take 300 images in one sitting, so batteries may not be an issue. However, it is worth having some extra ones in hand, just in case.
2. Make the most of the video features
Mirrorless cameras shoot video in 4K, which is a great advantage that you need to use to its full potential. With 4K, you have a much better resolution allowing you to zoom in without losing clarity. It’s also excellent for cutting to close-ups, as it eliminates jump-cuts. If you are filming an interview, switching between a wide full-body shot and a close-up shot can add emphasis and dramatic effect. It will also make the viewer feel more connected with the subject.
Image capture from a 4K video will also be of better quality. The inclusion of image stabilization in your mirrorless camera will also help provide better quality video.
3. Love the silent shooting feature
One of the significant advantages of a mirrorless camera is its ability to make no noise when taking a photograph, which opens up opportunities that don’t exist with DSLR cameras.
When you start using your mirrorless camera, the opportunities for silent shooting will become apparent. A major one is sports photography – how often have we seen tennis players put off a shot by a chorus of camera clicks alongside them? Now, you can snap away with no risk of disturbing them. Wildlife photography is also an excellent opportunity to keep silent. Taking a photograph won’t frighten the subject away at the crucial moment – you have to worry about stepping on a dry twig! A lot of us enjoy street photography. It is great to be able to take photographs that capture a moment. People just going about their daily business will be more natural and unaware that you are photographing them. They will be the social documents of the future.
Another aspect of photography that benefits from silent shooting is wedding photography. More and more young couples want photos in their wedding album that capture informal moments throughout their special day. You can do this job quickly when they don’t hear the click.
4. Use native lenses
Native lenses are designed to work with the specific camera that you have and will work with the autofocus fitted on your camera. They do not need any form of an adaptor.
These native lenses do not have to be made by the same manufacturer as the camera. It makes sense to have native lenses for the focal lengths that you most frequently use.
5. Don’t forget about old lenses
It might seem odd that in one breath, I am saying use native lenses, and in the next advising using old lenses. Just because you have changed your camera doesn’t mean that you should throw away your old lenses. By using adaptors, they can still have a purpose with your new camera. Therefore when you have some special lenses that are specific to a particular job, it is still possible to fit them to your new camera. The range of native lenses is still quite limited, and specific old lenses could always do a job for you. Using them might also save you a bit of money.
If you are going to use old lenses, then you will need to buy an adaptor. These come in three types. Firstly, there is a manual adaptor that does not have autofocus control. Then there is the electronic adaptor, which has some autofocus control, and at the top of the range, there is the speed booster.
There are a lot of mirrorless cameras on the market at the moment, with most of them coming from a handful of manufacturers – Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Canon, and Olympus. The technology associated with them is advancing rapidly, so new models appear frequently.
When choosing a model to suit your needs, firstly decide which features you must have. Then seek out the models with those features that are in your price bracket. Extra features will be a bonus.