DSLR or Mirrorless Part I – A History

Kahoolawe Rain seen from Wailea beach

I love my Nikon D810, as I think I’ve already mentioned in previous posts. There’s plenty of reasons why, but one I never considered was because the inside is so familiar to me. It has that big flappy mirror, and a shutter, along with that big ol’ sensor right where it ought to be. The same spot where the film was stretched between two rollers when I used SLR’s back in the 1900’s. The path of light came through the lens, reflected off the mirror, got bounced around by a pentaprism, and eventually found my eye. Pretty familiar stuff actually. In fact, it’s all I’d ever known until a few years ago. Then, along came the mirrorless revolution.

These cameras had all kinds of names from “next Gen” cameras, to “EVIL” cameras. (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens if you were wondering). The truth was no one knew what to make of them, or what to call them. The path of light was much simpler. It comes through the lens and falls on the sensor. So how do you see what your taking a picture of? That’s the EV in EVIL. An electronic viewfinder shows you not the actual light, but the sensor’s version of the image created by the light falling on it’s surface.

This was a serious industry disruptor. Dinosaurs like me liked our big flappy mirrors in the DSLRs so we shunned them, and at first it really wasn’t much of a competition anyway. Mirrorless cameras weren’t very good, especially in low light. There were other problems too, like a rolling shutter in the EV that could get you seasick taking action shots, but there were/are serious advantages too; like very high frames per second shooting. After all, there’s no mirror flapping around to slow things down. Another was focus peaking, to highlight any out of focus areas in your image, and a big advantage was a greatly reduced size and bulk factor that came with these cameras. It was starting to become a compelling argument, but for a photographer image quality, in ALL settings, trumps features, and bulk, any day of the week.

So went the early chapters of this book, but times have changed.  Some of these advantages stood the test of time and others did not, but some of these disadvantages have also begun to be addressed and things are looking brighter for the mirrorless revolution.  Part II of this post will discuss my experience with mirrorless (yes, I bought one) and where I think things are going. In the mean time, enjoy this picture of a beautiful sunset on Wailea beach in Maui. For those of us caught in the midst of a cold and snowy winter, it is a reminder of the good warm days soon to come. Any yes, it was taken with a mirrorless camera, not my DSLR.

Until next time…all the Best!!!!

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