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Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera: High Performance, Small Body

April 16, 2014 General, Photography 0 Comments

Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera: High Performance, Small BodyFor years, the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera and its digital counterpart (DSLR) have been the standard for high-quality photography. However, the recent development of the mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (MILC) has added new options to the camera market.

What Mirrorless Means

A mirrorless camera resembles a miniature SLR, at least externally. An SLR camera includes a mirror between the lens and the sensor that redirects the image to a viewfinder. Taking a picture causes the mirror to move out of the way, making the distinctive shutter sound and allowing the image to reach the sensor. The MILC lacks this mirror, meaning that if a viewfinder is included (as opposed to solely an LCD display), it portrays an electronic image rather than an instantaneous optical image.

The Benefits of Mirrorless

There is a lot of excitement around MILCs because they offer a range of great benefits when compared to DSLRs and compact point-and-shoot cameras. These benefits include the following:

  • A much larger sensor than compact cameras. This means clearer pictures, especially of moving subjects.
  • A smaller and lighter body compared to DSLRs.
  • The ability to swap lenses, unlike a regular digital point-and-shoot camera. This allows for a range of options including fish eye, wide-angle shots and telephoto zoom.

One of the most interesting aspects of mirrorless cameras is their ability to use pancake lenses. These are ultra-thin lenses that often can't be used with mirrored cameras because they are too short to create a proper image on the sensor (longer lenses are necessary to gain the appropriate focal length). That means mirrorless cameras can provide a comparable image as a traditional and digital SLRs, but are light and small enough to fit in your pocket.

As a type of prime lens, the pancake lens has a fixed focal length and cannot close in on subjects at the time of capture. However, the camera's high resolution allows you to later zoom in and crop the photo to get closer to far away subjects.

The Drawbacks

A few sacrifices must be made for the benefits of the MILC. These include the following factors:

  • Mirrorless cameras generally have a smaller sensor than SLRs, with top-end mirrorless options having a similar sensor size to entry-level SLRs.
  • Mirrorless cameras use contrast detection for auto-focusing. This has traditionally been slower than the phase-detection method used in SLRs, but recent innovations have severely reduced this difference.
  • The smaller body size of mirrorless cameras means that they are generally not compatible with SLR lenses and vice versa. An adapter can be used to solve this problem. As the market grows, the lens offerings will become better. This won't be a problem for a new photographer, but someone who already has a collection of SLR-mount lenses might find this to be an irritating extra cost.

Together, these sacrifices are small compared to the huge advantages of the compact size of a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera. If you're looking to get better shots than your phone or your point-and-shoot digital compact, and are interested in playing around with lenses and advanced photography settings, a MILC might be perfect for you.

Photo credit: Flickr

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