Are Mirrorless Cameras the Future?

June 15, 2020

Are Mirrorless Cameras the Future?

Full-frame mirrorless cameras are the latest addition to the photography ecosystem. Are mirrorless cameras the future? Think of the mirrorless camera as the next iteration of the DSLR camera body and comparable to the shift from SLR to DSLR. Although there was hesitation moving from film to digital, immediate feedback on your image was a game-changer for photographers new and seasoned.

Electronic Viewfinder Vs Optical Viewfinder

The mirrorless camera is designed without a mirror found in DSLR cameras. DSLR cameras have an internal mirror that reflects what is seen through the lens and into the optical viewfinder. Every time you push the shutter button, the mirror flips up and exposes light to the sensor. You’ll note that when this happens, viewability through the viewfinder temporarily goes black because the mirror is blocking it.

The mirrorless camera eliminates the mirror in the design and takes the image directly from the sensor and feeds the live view to the electronic viewfinder. Because the mirror is eliminated, the body of the camera is slightly smaller and the flange of the lens is able to sit closer to the sensor. This has the added benefit of shorter minimum focusing distances as well.

Magnified view for manual focus using focus peaking

Camera level overlay

Overlay displays camera settings and information

Above are views of the monitor of the Sony A7RIV and are the same displays you’ll see while looking through the EVF. Optical viewfinders are a carry-over from the SLR camera design. Information is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder and is in real-time view through the lens of the camera.

Mirrorless cameras use the sensor for the electronic viewfinder display. You’re able to display overlays like histograms, camera settings, focus peaking, and more on the screen. We’re really only limited by our ingenuity and imagination for what we can put in future electronic displays.

The Latest For Sony, Canon, And Nikon Mirrorless Cameras

Sony’s flagship full-frame mirrorless camera, the Sony A7RIV was released in the summer of 2019 and is packed with features geared toward professional photographers. With a 61 MP full-frame sensor and impressive low light performance the image quality and detail are insane!

Two extremely helpful features are the eye autofocus, to include animal eye autofocus and video eye autofocus, and the pixel shift feature that allows you to capture a 240.8 MP image. That’s right, eye autofocus works in video and on animals and makes an insanely huge high-resolution image.

Canon announced that it will be releasing a new mirrorless camera, the EOS R5. The Canon R5 will have dual card slots, 8K video at 29.9 fps, in-body stabilization, and much more. There isn’t a whole lot of information out, but it looks like they’re investing a lot in their mirrorless cameras. 

The new RF line lenses feather an electronic control ring that allows you to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, etc. Canon featured focus peaking when manually focusing on the Canon EOS R. You can also switch on a visual indicator that will appear near your custom AF point. The guide will give you a visual indication if you’re just out of focus or right on the money. 

It looks as though Canon put a lot of thought into innovating the focus assist features among other things in their mirrorless systems. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is coming in their future models!

Entering the market with their latest mirrorless camera, Nikon released the Nikon Z7, with a 45.7 MP full-frame sensor at 9 FPS. Three features in this model I think are most helpful to creatives are the high-resolution sensor, the 10-bit video output, and the eye autofocus system. 

The 10-bit video output that can be paired with external monitors like the Atomos Ninja V for a better bit depth than competitor mirrorless cameras. Like the Sony A7RIV, the Nikon Z7 comes with eye detection and animal detection for their eye autofocus, making our jobs as photographers that much easier.

Economic Drivers

As much as we would like to believe in a benevolent camera spirit who gives us gifts of better resolution, image quality, and features; reality hits and it’s all about demand. DSLR sales have been steadily declining over the years for a number of reasons. One thing is for sure: the rise in camera phones are hitting records year over year. 

Another reason could be in the decision-making process of professional photographers. They may not see a huge benefit in spending thousands of dollars on DSLR bodies and lenses being released, especially if they already have the gear they need to get the job done.

As photographers we sit back and analyze if we really need the latest and greatest. Truth be told, sometimes there isn’t enough in a new release to make us jump. Enter the mirrorless camera.

Some manufacturers like Canon and Nikon designed their full-frame mirrorless cameras with different lens mounts from their existing DSLR line of lenses but also created adapters so photographers are able to use older lenses with their new mirrorless camera.

You’ll likely want to get the brand-new lenses to perform seamlessly and take advantage of newer innovations packed into the mirrorless camera.

Another point to note is the increase in demand for video features. As manufacturers continue to develop future mirrorless cameras, they’re packing in more video capabilities like Nikon’s 10-bit video output and Canon’s upcoming R5 that features 8k video. I see this as a reaction to more creatives using video in their content creation and to provide as much of what they need as possible.

DSLR Vs Mirrorless Cameras Final Thoughts

Maybe the industry needed a little shakeup. Now we have some awesome competition happening between the major camera manufacturers to innovate future mirrorless cameras. 

I encourage you to check out the new mirrorless cameras that are entering the market. No, you don’t have to buy it, but I personally think it’s exciting to see all the innovation that’s taking place right in front of us and watching how our tools of the trade are evolving. 


Matt Valenzuela is a commercial photographer based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. 
www.illumedia.us | www.instagram.com/illumedia

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