As I became more serious about photography, I faced a choice: buy a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera or try the new compact system camera (CSC)? The DSLR which uses the same design as the 35mm film cameras of days gone by is still the stalwart choice of most of the professional community who perhaps like the substantial feel of the larger model and the authenticity of the optical viewfinder and argue that DSLR still has the advantage in image quality, a greatly debated topic.
I however went with the up-and-comer, the CSC, also known as the mirrorless – so called because it lacks the mirror mechanism in more traditional cameras. In DSLRs a mirror inside the camera body reflects the light coming in through the lens up to a prism and into the viewfinder. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, a shutter opens and the light falls onto the image sensor, capturing the final image. In a mirrorless camera, this is bypassed, and light passes through the lens right onto the image sensor.
CSC’s though they have exploded on the consumer market in the last five years, are still fighting a perception that DSLRs are the end-all be-all in high-end photographic equipment. Despite huge technological advances and outperforming DSLRs on several different fronts, CSCs are struggling to get the respect they deserve within the photographic community. As the owner of a Sony A6000 I am clearly a fan of the CSC and offer a brief argument in favour of going mirrorless.
Especially when you travel as often as I do. I know I am not the first frequent flier to lug their camera around, photographers have been dragging their DSLRs behind them well before the advent of the mirrorless and how to pack light seems to be somewhat of a science. Size is a huge selling point for CSC cameras. My Sony A6000 is designed to be light and compact, weighing in at just 12 ounces with battery and power zoom lens as opposed to the unwieldy 2 lbs of the average DSLR. Other lens options can be more bulky of course, but generally CSC lenses still weigh in a little lighter and smaller than lenses for DSLRs. So, at only 22 cubic inches, my camera is small enough to fit just about anywhere, so I can comfortably carry it with in all my travels and quickly whip it out when I see the perfect shot. Who can argue with that convenience?
Minimal accessories? Fine by me
A major complaint about CSCs is that being newer to the market, they have a lot less accessories, most specifically lens options. For the professional photographer I understand this complaint, you always want the largest variety of the best equipment. For an amateur like me however, the over 30 lens choices for my camera truly suffice. With award winning options, like their FE 85mm lens, which won a Technical Image Press Award for best prime lens, I am satisfied to know that I am working with quality equipment as I learn on the go. Furthermore, with portability being a key factor for me I simply have no use for lugging about multiple lenses. For those who really do love the variety though, do not discount the CSC, the selection of lenses for these cameras is quickly growing and if you opt for Olympus or Panasonic, who are both on the Micro Four Thirds system, you will find the selection of lenses pretty extensive already.
The future of photography
I like the cutting edge. That’s where I always push my businesses to be, having started one of the first online broker/dealers in North America, and I like the idea of my photography equipment pushing the envelope as well. Mirrorless cameras are the future of photography, with the technology that drives them rapidly advancing at every moment. When the first CSC, the Nikon 1 series was introduced in 2011, the photography community seriously doubted if it could ever compete with the powerful DSLR cameras. A short 5 years later, CSCs have already caught DSLR up on a number of fronts matching the previously superior cameras in autofocus speed, image stabilization, image quality (with some debate), and durability. Additionally they have generally already surpassed DSLRs in shooting speed, and video quality. With that kind of rapid improvement, I look forward to the advancements that are surely coming in the future.