Mirrorless vs DSLR

DSLR cameras by design have some inherent flaws and limitations. Part of it has to do with the fact that SLR cameras were initially developed for film. When digital evolved, it was treated just like film and was housed in the same mechanical body. Aside from the circuitry required for a digital sensor and other electronics, new digital film media and the back LCD, the rest of the SLR components did not change. Same mechanical mirror, same pentaprism / optical viewfinder, same phase detection system for autofocus operation. While new technological advances eventually led to extending of features of these cameras (In-camera editing, HDR, GPS, WiFi, etc), DSLRs continued to stay bulky for a couple of reasons. First, the mirror inside DSLR cameras had to be the same in size as the digital sensor, taking up plenty of space. Second, the pentaprism that converts vertical rays to horizontal in the viewfinder also had to match the size of the mirror, making the top portion of DSLRs bulky.

Mirrorless vs DSLR

Lastly, manufacturers wanted to keep existing lenses compatible with digital cameras, so that the transition from film to digital was not too costly or too limiting for the consumer. This meant that manufacturers also had to keep the “flange distance” (which is the distance between the camera mount and the film / sensor plane) the same between the two formats. Although smaller APS-C / DX sensors and lenses seemed like a great way to reduce the bulk of DSLR systems, the flange distance / compatibility concerns left them fairly large and heavy physically. 35mm eventually came back with modern full-frame digital sensors, so the mirror and pentaprism sizes again went back to what they were in film days. On one hand, keeping the flange distance the same allowed for maximum compatibility when mounting lenses between film, APS-C and full-frame DSLRs, without the need to re-design and re-market lenses for each format. On the other hand, DSLRs simply cannot go beyond their minimum size requirements and the presence of the mirror is what continues to make them so much more complex to build and support.

DSLR Camera Limitations

Due to the mirror dependency of DSLRs for “through the lens” viewing, they have the following limitations:

  1. Size and Bulk: the reflex system needs space for both the mirror and the prism, which means that DSLRs will always have a wider camera body and a protruding top. It also means that the viewfinder must be fixed in the same spot on every DSLR, in-line with the optical axis and digital sensor – basically, there is no other place to put it. As a result, most DSLRs have somewhat similar exterior looks.
  2. Weight: large size and bulk also translates to more weight. While most entry-level DSLRs have plastic bodies and internal components to make them lighter, the minimum height and depth issue to house the mirror + pentaprism/pentamirror means lots of wasted space that needs to be covered. In addition, it would be unwise to cover such a large area with a very thin layer of plastic just to make it appear smaller / lighter – the underlying idea of a DSLR is ruggedness, even on a basic body. On top of that, DSLR lenses are typically large and heavy (especially those with a full image circle that were created for 35mm film / full-frame), so a super light camera body would result in balance issues. In essence, it is the larger physical size of DSLR systems that directly affects the weight.
  3. Complex Mirror and Shutter Design: every actuation requires the mirror to move up and down to let the light pass through directly onto the sensor. This alone creates a number of issues:
    • Mirror Slap: the most amount of noise you hear on SLR cameras comes from the mirror slapping up and down (the shutter is much quieter in comparison). This mirror slap results in loud noise and camera shake. Although manufacturers have been coming up with creative ways to reduce noise by slowing down the mirror movement (Nikon’s “Quiet” mode for example), it is still quite loud. Camera shake can also become an issue when shooting at long focal lengths and slow shutter speeds. Once again, DSLR manufacturers had to come up with features like “Mirror Lock-Up” and “Exposure Delay” to allow mirror to be lifted, then exposure taken after a set delay – all to reduce vibrations.
    • Movement of Air: as the mirror flips up and down, it moves plenty of air inside the camera chamber. And with air, it also moves dust and other debris around, which eventually ends up on the camera sensor. Some people argue that their DSLR cameras are better suited for changing lenses than mirrorless cameras, because there is a mirror between the sensor and the mount. There might be some truth to that. However, what happens with that dust after the mirror moves inside the chamber? All that dust will obviously circulate inside the chamber. In my experience shooting with a number of different mirrorless cameras, I found them to be actually less prone to dust than any of my DSLRs.
    • Frame Speed Limitation: while the modern mirror and shutter mechanisms are very impressive, they are limited by the physical speed at which the mirror flips up and down. When the Nikon D4 fires at 11 frames per second, the mirror literally goes up and down 11 times within each second, with the shutter opening and closing in between! It has to be a perfect synchronization of both the mirror and the shutter in order for it all to work. Take a look at the below video that shows this in slow motion (skip to 0:39):

      Now imagine this process at 15-20 times per second – that’s probably physically impossible.

    • Expensive to Build and Support: the mirror mechanism is very complex and consists of dozens of different parts. Because of that, it is expensive to build and provide technical support if anything goes wrong. Disassembling a DSLR and replacing internal components can be very time consuming.
  4. No Live Preview: when looking through an optical viewfinder, it is impossible to see what the image is actually going to look like. You have to look at the camera meter (which can be fooled in some situations) and adjust the exposure accordingly.
  5. Secondary Mirror and Phase Detection Accuracy: you might already know that all DSLR cameras with phase detection autofocus system (more on this below) require a secondary mirror. I wrote about this in detail in my “how phase detection AF works” article. In short, part of the light that reaches the mirror ends up on the smaller secondary mirror that sits at a different angle than the primary mirror. The purpose of the secondary mirror is to pass the incoming light to phase detection sensors that are located on the bottom of the chamber. The problem with the secondary mirror, is that it has to be positioned at a perfect angle and distance for phase detection to work accurately. If there is even a slight deviation, it will result in missed focus. And even worse, the phase detection sensors and the secondary mirror have to stay perfectly parallel to each other. If they don’t, some autofocus points might be accurate, while others will constantly miss focus.
  6. Phase Detection and Lens Calibration Issues: the problem with the traditional DSLR phase detection system not only lies with the secondary mirror alignment issues, but also requires lenses to be properly calibrated. It becomes a two way game – precise focus requires perfect angle and distance of the secondary mirror to the phase detection sensors (as explained above), and requires a properly calibrated lens to the body. If you had autofocus accuracy problems with your lenses in the past, you might have had experience sending your gear to the manufacturer. Very often, support techs will ask the lens in question to be sent together with the camera body. If you wondered why before, now you have the answer – there are basically two places where things could potentially go wrong. If the technician adjusts your lens to their standard camera environment and your camera is slightly off, your issues might get even worse after such tuning. That’s why it is best to calibrate both the camera and the lens to resolve those discrepancies.
  7. Price: although manufacturers have gotten much more efficient over the years in terms of DSLR production, assembling the mirror mechanism is no easy task. Lots of moving components mean high precision assembly systems, the need for lubrication in areas where metal components rub against each other, etc. In turn, this all results in increased manufacturing costs. And it does not stop there – if anything goes wrong with the mirror mechanism, the manufacturer must repair or even potentially replace it, which is a very labor-intensive task.

Mirrorless to the Rescue?

With the rise of cameras without a mirror (hence the name “mirrorless”), most manufacturers have already realized that traditional DSLR systems are not going to be the driving force of camera sales in the future. It makes sense from the cost standpoint alone, but if we really look at the current innovation, where are we at with DSLRs? With each iteration of DSLRs, it seems like we are getting closer and closer to hit the wall of innovation. Autofocus performance and accuracy have already pretty much hit the wall. Processors are fast enough to crank HD videos at 60p. Just to keep the word out and sales going, camera manufacturers have been resorting to just re-branding the same camera under a new model name. What else IS there to add? GPS? WiFi? Instant Photo Sharing? More in-camera editing? Those are all great bells and whistles, but are they innovations that will truly drive future sales? I don’t think so.

Mirrorless cameras open up huge opportunities for innovation in the future and solve many of the problems of traditional DSLRs. Let’s go through each point above and discuss additional benefits of mirrorless cameras:

  1. Smaller Size / Bulk and Lighter Weight: removing the mirror and the pentaprism frees up a lot of space. This means that mirrorless cameras can be designed to be smaller, less bulky and lighter compared to DSLRs. With a shorter flange distance, the physical size of both the camera and the lens is reduced. This is especially true for APS-C size sensors (full-frame is tougher to address, as discussed further down in the article). No more wasted space, no need for extra ruggedness to give a feel of a bigger camera. Mirrorless cameras can be made much lighter than DSLRs.

    The rise of smartphones as compact cameras has taught us a very important lesson – convenience, small size and light weight can potentially overpower quality. The point and shoot sales are significantly down, because most people find their smartphones to be “good enough” for those snapshot moments. All smartphone manufacturers are currently pressing hard on camera features, because they want people to think that they are not just getting a phone, but also a great camera in a single compact package. And judging from the sales figures so far, it is clearly working – more and more people are embracing smartphones and leaving their point and shoot cameras behind. Simply put, smaller size and lighter weight in electronics win in today’s economy. We can observe the same trend in many other gadgets – thinner and lighter TVs, tablets instead of laptops, etc.

    Hence, people will naturally go after lighter and more compact, especially if the quality is not compromised.

  2. No Mirror Mechanism: no more mirror flipping up and down means a lot of good things:
    • Less Noise: no more mirror slap, just the click of the shutter is all you hear from the camera.
    • Less Camera Shake: unlike the mirror in a DSLR, the shutter by itself does not produce a lot of vibrations, resulting in less camera shake.
    • No Movement of Air: since there is nothing constantly moving inside the camera chamber, dust is less of an issue (at least in my experience).
    • Easier to Clean: and if dust does end up on the sensor, cleaning mirrorless cameras is easier than DSLRs. You do not need a fully charged battery to lock up the mirror – the sensor is exposed once you dismount the lens. In addition, most mirrorless cameras do not have an opening under the mirror to house a phase detection sensor and other components, so there is very little chance for dust to circulate after the chamber + sensor are fully cleaned.
    • Very Fast FPS Speed: having no mirror means that the capture rate (fps) does not have to be limited by the mirror speed. This means that mirrorless cameras could potentially capture images at much faster frame rates than 10-12 FPS we see today, with much less noise.
    • Cheaper to Build and Support: less moving parts translate to lower cost of manufacturing and support for the manufacturer.
  3. Live Preview: with mirrorless, you can get a live preview of what you are about to capture – basically “what you see is what you get”. If you messed up White Balance, Saturation or Contrast, you will see it in live preview – whether in the EVF (see below) or the LCD.
  4. No Phase Detection / Secondary Mirror Alignment Issues: now that many of the modern mirrorless cameras are shipping with hybrid autofocus systems that utilize both phase and contrast detection autofocus, you do not have to worry about the alignment of phase detection and secondary mirror. On a number of new generation mirrorless cameras, the phase detection sensors are located on the actual sensor, which means that phase detection will never have to be calibrated for distance, since it sits on the same plane as the sensor that captures the image.
  5. Price: producing mirrorless cameras is much cheaper than producing DSLRs. As of today, most mirrorless camera manufacturers charge heavy premiums for their camera systems, because their overall costs are high. While the actual manufacturing costs are lower than DSLRs, companies have to spend plenty of R&D money on improving autofocus performance and other technologies like EVF. Plus, since mirrorless cameras are relatively new, companies have to increase their marketing budgets to educate people. Overtime, however, prices of mirrorless cameras will drop to lower levels than even entry-level DSLRs.
  6. Electronic Viewfider: now here comes the biggest strength of mirrorless cameras and the present + future innovation with it. Without a doubt, an EVF has huge advantages over OVF. While the current implementation of EVF might not be as robust and responsive as it should be (see below), it is just a matter of time before manufacturers fix that. Let’s go over some of the key benefits of EVF over OVF:
    • Information Overlay: with OVF, you never get to see more than some basic grids. There is some static information presented in the viewfinder, but it is always fixed and cannot be easily changed. With EVF, you can get any information you want displayed right inside the viewfinder – from live exposure data to histograms. Different warnings could be added, such as a warning for a potentially blurry shot.
    • Live Preview: the same live preview on the LCD can be shown inside the EVF.
    • Image Review: another key feature that you will never get in an OVF is image review. How cool would it be to see the image that you have just captured right inside the viewfinder? With OVF, you are forced to look at the LCD screen, which is a big pain in daylight conditions. People end up buying a Hoodman Loupe just to be able to see their LCD screen in daylight! With EVF, you never have to worry about this, since you could use the viewfinder for reviewing images instead.
    • Focus Peaking: if you don’t know what focus peaking is, check out this video on Youtube:

      Basically, you can nail focus when performing manual focus without having to rely on your eyes. The area that is in focus gets painted with an overlay color of your choice and you can stop exactly where you want it to be. You would never be able to do this with an OVF in a DSLR.

    • No More Viewfinder Coverage: with OVF, you typically get something like 95% viewfinder coverage, especially on lower-end DSLR models. This basically means that what you see in the viewfinder is about 5% smaller than what the camera will capture. With EVF, you no longer have this problem, because it will always be 100% viewfinder coverage, since what you see in the EVF is what the sensor will capture.
    • Much Brighter Display: if the light conditions are poor, you cannot really see much through an OVF. Focusing with OVF in low light is also difficult, because you cannot really tell if the subject is in focus until you take the picture. With EVF, brightness levels can be “normalized”, so that you can see everything as if it was daylight. Some noise might be present, but it is still way better than trying to guess when looking through an OVF.
    • Digital Zoom: this one is by far my most favorite feature! If you have used a Live View mode on your DSLR before, you know how helpful zooming in can be. With most modern DSLRs, you can zoom in to 100% and really nail focus. Well, with mirrorless cameras, this feature can be built right into the viewfinder! So imagine manually focusing with a lens, then zooming in to 100% right inside the viewfinder before you take the picture. A number of mirrorless cameras are already capable of doing this. It goes without saying that an OVF would never be able to zoom like that.
    • Face / Eye Tracking: now we are moving to the coolest part of the EVF technology. Because the EVF shows what actually happens on the sensor, additional technologies for data analysis can be utilized to do very cool things, like face and even eye tracking! I am sure you have seen face tracking on point and shoot cameras, but if you take it a step further, you could have the camera automatically focus on the nearest eye of the person that you are photographing. How cool is that? Sony is already doing this on their new Sony A7/A7R cameras!
    • Potentially unlimited focus points: as you already know, most DSLR cameras have a limited number of focus points that are distributed mostly around the center of the frame. While it works out in most situations, what do you do if you need to move the focus point to an extreme border of the frame? The only option is to focus and recompose, but that might not be always desirable, since you are also shifting the plane of focus. In addition, anything away from the center focus point is typically inaccurate and could result in “focus hunting”, where the camera struggles with AF acquisition and goes back and forth continuously. With mirrorless cameras and phase detection sensors placed directly on the imaging sensor, this limitation can be lifted. Contrast-detection is already possible anywhere in the imaging sensor, while on-sensor phase detection will eventually get to the point where focus points will be distributed all over the sensor.
    • Subject Tracking and other Future Data Analysis: if things like face and eye tracking are possible with mirrorless cameras, you can only imagine what camera manufacturers will be able to do in the future. Imaging having a complex tracking system that intelligently combines sensor data with autofocus and uses it to track a given object, or subject in the frame. Even the top of the line DSLR cameras today have challenges with full subject tracking. If you have tried photographing birds in flight with a DSLR, tracking can get challenging, especially when the bird moves out of the focus point area, or when the light conditions are less than ideal. If data is analyzed on a pixel level and there is no real autofocus area to concentrate on, subject tracking could potentially get super advanced with mirrorless cameras.
    • Eye damage: when looking through a viewfinder, one has to be extremely careful about photographing the sun, especially with long focal length lenses. With EVF, the image is projected through the sensor and there is no harm to your eyes.

Mirrorless Camera Limitations

We’ve gone over the many advantages of mirrorless cameras over DSLRs. Now let’s talk about some of their current limitations:

  1. EVF Lag: some of the current EVF implementations are not very responsive, resulting in considerable lag. While this is certainly a nuisance compared to OVF at the moment, it is a matter of time before that lag is eliminated. The latest EVFs are already much better than what they used to be before. But as EVF technologies evolve, the lag issue will be resolved completely.
  2. Continuous Autofocus / Subject Tracking: while contrast detect has already reached very impressive levels on mirrorless cameras, they are still very weak at continuous autofocus performance and subject tracking. This makes them pretty much unusable for wildlife and sports photography at the moment. However, with the rise of hybrid autofocus systems and their continuous development, we will soon start seeing mirrorless cameras with much better continuous autofocus capabilities. One of the reasons why mirrorless cameras have been slow in this department, is because most mirrorless systems are small and not well-suited to handle large telephoto lenses. So manufacturers have not been putting much of their R&D efforts into this specific area. Again, it is a matter of time until this is implemented on mirrorless cameras.
  3. Battery Life: another big disadvantage of mirrorless cameras at the moment. Providing power to LCD and EVF continuously takes a toll on the battery life, which is why most mirrorless cameras are rated at about 300 shots per battery charge. DSLRs are much more power efficient in comparison, typically in 800+ shot range per charge. While it is not a huge problem for typical camera use, it could be an issue for someone that travels and has very little access to power. Still, I believe that the battery issue is also something that will significantly improve in the future. Batteries will be more powerful and power-hungry LCD screens will be replaced with OLED and other much more efficient technologies.
  4. Red Dot Patterns: due to the very short flange distance, most mirrorless cameras suffer from a “red dot pattern” issue, which becomes clearly visible when shot with the sun in the frame at small apertures. Basically, light rays bounce back and forth between the sensor and the rear lens element, creating grid patterns of red (and sometimes other colors) in images. Unfortunately, there is no way around this limitation on all mirrorless cameras with a short flange distance, as discussed here.
  5. Strong EVF Contrast: most EVFs designed today have very strong, “boosted” contrast, similar to what we see on our TVs. As a result, you see a lot of blacks and whites, but very little gray shades (which help to understand how much dynamic range can be captured). While one could look at the histogram overlay in EVF, it is still a nuisance. Manufacturers will have to find ways to make EVFs display images more naturally.

As you can see, the list is rather short and I expect it to get even shorter within the next few years. I believe that all of the above issues are addressable and they will get better with each iteration of mirrorless cameras.

In summary, I would like to say that DSLRs simply have no way to compete with mirrorless in the future. I am not saying that everyone will be switching to smaller and lighter mirrorless cameras soon – no, we are still far from that point. However, it simply does not make sense for manufacturers like Nikon and Canon to continue investing into making DSLRs better, when the technology advantage is clearly with mirrorless. Below is what I believe what Nikon and Canon should do in the near future.

Nikon’s Mirrorless Future

Currently, Nikon has three different formats and two mounts:

  1. CX – Nikon CX mirrorless mount, cameras with 1″ sensors. Current camera line: Nikon 1 AW1, J3, S1, V2
  2. DX – Nikon F mount, APS-C sensors. Current camera line: Nikon D3200, D5300, D7100, D300s
  3. FX – Nikon F mount, 35mm full-frame sensors. Current camera line: Nikon D610, D800/D800E, D4

When everyone was going mirrorless, Nikon ended up creating a new mirrorless mount – CX with a small 1″ sensor. While the imaging and autofocus technology of Nikon 1 cameras is good and the overall system is fairly compact, the biggest issue is the small sensor size. With a 1″ sensor (which is much smaller than APS-C) as shown below, the Nikon 1 cameras simply cannot compete with APS-C in image quality, bokeh and dynamic range, just like APS-C cannot compete with full-frame, or full-frame cannot compete with medium format. Simply put, Nikon has a sensor size disadvantage with its CX / Nikon 1 system.

Sensor Sizes

So what is the logical way for Nikon to move into mirrorless? Essentially, Nikon has a couple of choices for DX and FX:

DX

  1. Create a different mirrorless mount for APS-C size sensors: this would essentially kill DX. A while ago when I posted the “why DX has no future” article, I received a number of angry comments from some readers. Well, it has been over a year since that article and I still believe that DX has no future in a big DSLR box. To be able to compete with the current APS-C mirrorless market, Nikon needs to create a new mount with a shorter flange distance. This will obviously be very expensive for the company and will take a while to catch up with good lenses. Instead of two mounts, Nikon will have to concentrate on three and phase away DX DSLRs in the future. But if this does not happen and Nikon chooses to keep the flange distance the same, APS-C mirrorless cameras from Nikon will always be at a disadvantage in terms of size and bulk. By creating a new mount for APS-C, Nikon can make smaller / lighter lenses and camera bodies.
  2. Keep the F mount, but get rid of the mirror: this is obviously the easiest and the cheapest route, and the one that ensures compatibility with all Nikon F mount lenses. With the mirror gone, APS-C mirrorless cameras could potentially be smaller in height (no pentaprism), but they would obviously have the same depth, since the mount to sensor distance has to stay the same. Camera bodies would potentially look box-like, which is hard to design with good ergonomics. At the same time, larger camera bodies would balance well with larger / longer lenses.
  3. Kill DX: if Nikon does not want to develop a separate mount for APS-C or transition it over to a mirrorless with the same flange distance, it also has a choice to kill DX completely and only concentrate on CX and FX formats. This scenario is less likely to happen.

FX

  1. Create a different mirrorless mount for full-frame sensors: basically, Nikon could do the same thing Sony did with their A7 and A7R cameras. This scenario is very unlikely to happen, as it would cripple all existing lens owners. With over 80 million lenses sold so far, Nikon would be shooting themselves in the foot by making a new mirrorless full-frame camera mount. Plus, it would be downright silly to attempt to make smaller full-frame cameras. Sony has moved to a smaller camera body, but they have to make compromises with lenses. It is optically impossible to make full-frame lenses with a full image circle much smaller than what they are today on DSLRs. Sony found a compromise by making lenses slower (f/4 vs f/2.8), so anything faster will result in huge lenses and balance issues. Nikon should stick to keeping the F mount for full-frame, as discussed below.
  2. Keep the F mount, but get rid of the mirror: this is most likely what Nikon will end up doing in the future. All current and old Nikkor lenses will continue to work, since the flange distance will be the same. Pro-level FX cameras will still be heavy and bulky for better balance with long lenses, while smaller and lighter FX cameras will also be available for those that worry about weight.

Canon’s Mirrorless Future

I believe that Canon is in a much better boat than Nikon for moving to mirrorless. First, it has no small-format mount to support like Nikon CX. Second, it has already moved to mirrorless with APS-C size sensor – the Canon EOS M is its first iteration. Naturally, Canon will eventually move all of its APS-C EF-S cameras to the M mount. The only thing that will be left is the full-frame EF mount, which will most likely follow the same destiny as Nikon’s F mount, without a mirror but with the same flange distance. This way, Canon will only concentrate on two mounts – EOS M and EF.

I apologize for making this article so long. If you have any comments or feedback, please feel free to share them below.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) SVRK Prabhakar
    November 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Nice article. For professional applications like sports, wedding, portrait, it looks like people would still want/have to go for DLSLR both for functionality (e.g. fast autofocus as in sports photography) and professional appearance purposes (portraiture and wedding where clients may still see a person carrying DSLR as pro though this distinction is being ignored slowly?). However, if you take out these considerations, do you think mirror less are at par with DSLR in terms of producing quality images when compared side by side at identical settings? At least going by comparison of Nex 5 and D700 I have, D700 with all glass I have produces sharper images with better focus. I realized that Nex is too bad in low light autofocus especially with the zoom lens. Probably comparing between these two is not fair and the latest mirrorless are getting better than Nex5 and this difference is further reduced to insignificant levels.

    • 2
      ) SVRK Prabhakar
      November 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Just an additional question, are there any mirrorless that can come close to D800 or 5DMIII in image quality or it is too much asking at this stage of evolution?

      • 16
        ) Chris
        November 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm

        Sony A7 and A7R.

        • 163
          ) Jarad
          October 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm

          At this stage in the game, I want to move to full frame. I can’t decide between the D810 or the A7R. Which route would you go at this point given that Sony is releasing more lenses?

      • 41
        ) Ief De Laender
        November 9, 2013 at 3:50 am

        I’ve got a D800 and a Fuji X-E1 and I’m very impressed of the image quality (sharp and nice colours) and noise that the fuji gives me.

        • November 25, 2013 at 5:11 am

          I, too, have the D800 and just got the Fuji X-E1. I used the Fuji X100 prior to this and was impressed. I now think the X-E1 offers nice alternatives when I want to travel light yet have flexibility for different focal lengths. This article is excellent and offers some insights regarding true current camera market.

          • 97
            ) Bruce
            December 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm

            i think asp-c format still hard to fight to FF. D800 better than XE1 so much!

      • November 22, 2013 at 6:52 am

        Read Rob Sheppard’s blog http://www.mirrorlessnature.com/2013/10/my-panasonic-gh3.html and you wil see according to his “real life” experiments he says to his eyeball the image quality of his GH3.
        Quote “I know, everyone wants to know how good this camera is. I have been very, very impressed with its results. The results are better than anything I got from the Canons I had shot (7D and 60D) and the Sony NEX cameras. I was really curious to see how good the camera really was, so I went to Paul’s Photo, run by my friend, Mark Comon, and shot off some side by side shots with a Canon 5D Mark III. I was blown away by how good the GH3 was. At ISO 200-400, you have to look really, really close to see any difference at all, and what normal person uses a magnifying glass to look at photos?”

        As a guest blog post on Rob’s blog, read what Bill Fortney ( http://billfortney.com ) has to say about his Fuji X-Pro 1, quote “When I looked at the files from my afternoon shoot, I was astounded! They were the closest thing I had ever seen to the files I was getting out of the Nikon D4 and D800!!!!”
        Read his post here http://www.mirrorlessnature.com/micro-four-thirds/ on Bob’s blog.

        If these two camera systems are good enough for these Professional Photographers they are good enough for me as a nature photographer…….. choices choices.

        • 85
          ) SVRK Prabhakar
          November 22, 2013 at 7:24 am

          Very glad to hear these developments, at least one dont get to lug around backbreaking bulky cameras for paltry outputs.

          • 147
            ) avid Martin
            June 20, 2014 at 1:14 pm

            I prefer the weight. It shows that I am actually working. I’d lug around a studio 4×5 if I had to and have in the past.

            • 157
              ) JonVon
              August 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm

              Well said avid Martin! Since when did a DSLR become such an awful burden? It is larger than the new mirrorless cameras, but pro photographers have been happy to carry them for generations.

              These days, everyone expects everything to be packaged into a smartphone because they don’t like to carry anything with a little weight… then they go to a gym to try and gain some muscle and body tone. lol

              When working, I have no problem lifting and carrying my DSLR and a lens or two. There are professions where you have to do a lot more for less money!

    • November 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      Right, but that’s only for now. Give it a couple of more years and I believe we will see a robust hybrid AF system that could be used for sports and action as well.

      As for mirrorless vs DSLR in image quality – absolutely! APS-C sensors go shoulder to shoulder in performance. The same with the new Sony A7/A7R vs D600/D800. Sharper images are the result of better lenses – put a good lens on a mirrorless and it can do equally good.

      Wait until the A7 / A7R is reviewed here – I will show differences in image quality and noise vs D800.

      • Profile photo of Darrell Wood
        141
        ) Darrell Wood
        May 20, 2014 at 7:07 am

        Nasim,

        This is puzzling me and possibly others. Am I correct to understand that if you are to compare a 35mm vs a crop censor and its lens you need to adjust focal length and the Aperture. e.g. 11- 35mm 2.8 crop sensor Panasonic GH4 and its lens is 24 – 70mm 5.6 aperture lens if converted to 35mm equiv. Are we being hood winked. and is there less light being let in so the ISO will have to go up in any given circumstance :)

        • 142
          ) Paul Digney
          May 20, 2014 at 8:24 am

          Hi Darrell,

          If you take an f2.8 11-35mm focal length lens on a crop frame the field of view you get (what you see in the picture) is exactly what you would see in a full frame with a longer lens (If the GH4 has a crop factor of 2 then the lens would act like a 22-79mm ). The small sensor is “cropping” the middle out of the image coming in. (Of course, the lens isn’t supplying as big an image as a full frame lens would which allows it to be smaller and lighter). There is another thread arguing about this.

          Now, the aperture I am not 100 % certain of but I will pretend I know: The light coming in is the same as an f2.8 on the full frame. You should get the same exposure. However the depth of field will be greater with the GH4. I think but don’t know that the depth of field will be like a 5.6 on the full frame (everything else being equal). This is why Fuji supplies an F1.2 56mm lens. It translates into an f1.8 85mm lens which is what I love to use for portraits on my full frame Nikon. (The Fuji X has a 1.5 crop factor).

          You remind me that I need to try out the X for a bit and can see if the 56 would act like an f1.2 as far as exposure goes. I am leaning more and more toward getting one instead of stepping up to a D4S.

          • Profile photo of Darrell Wood
            143
            ) Darrell Wood
            May 21, 2014 at 3:20 am

            Paul

            Thanks for your reply. I understand the formula is Focal Length/Iris Size = Aperture therefore for the above 11-35 lens it is 70mm(35mm crop) / 12.7mm = 5.6 and not 2.8 which is what Panasonic quotes. See video attached in link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtDotqLx6nA

            Look forward to somebody verifying if this is correct cheers

            • 144
              ) Paul Digney
              May 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

              Hi again Darrell,
              I’ve watched half the video and will have to finish and rewatch it. He has some interesting things to say.

              But notice at 16:30. The FF and m4/3 example shows that to get the same final exposure both cameras have the same settings for ISO and f-stop. So when Panasonic quotes the lens as f/2.8 they are referring to it’s “speed” or how much light it can grab and they are correct in this which is what I was guessing before. What he is referring to is the depth of field characteristics of the lens and for that the Panasonic f/2.8 does not behave as a 2.8 lens does on a full frame.

              The DoF issue is similar to the focal length issue. The 35 mm panasonic does have a optical focal length of 35 mm. However, used on a m4/3 camera it does not have the same field of view as a 35mm lens does on an FF camera. I’m not sure how to improve the confusion all of this is causing other than to mark lens with the FF equivalent focal length instead of their actual focal length. I don’t know enough to know what other confusion that would cause though.

              I am going to have to rewatch his comments on ISO. They appear to be somewhat interesting but useless un everyday use.

    • 113
      ) Ettercap
      January 30, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      I would say that the reason you see better results from your D700 vs the Nex-5 is because the D700 is a $3000 dollar device and is in a higher tier then the Nex-5 which isn’t in the top tier of mirror less cameras like a Sony Alpha 7R.

      So in reality if the Nex-5 is even half as good that’s pretty impressive its less then a quarter of the price, the fact that people may even think those are comparable is also pretty impressive and means it is very good value wise.

    • 162
      ) robin
      October 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      brah,a full frame mirrorless lens will not be small in anyway, just look at A7 lens, it may look smaller but that’s Sony and manufacturer bow down to the demand to make things smaller, thats why the most mirrorless camera has crippled aperture specs

      the main idea of mirrorless is to get rid of unnecessary component, the mirror box since their existent is inherently of films days (mirror act as the light insulator for the delicate film). we are stucked with this dinosaurs design because of film,its complex,manufacturer often get the calibration wrong,third part lens manufacturer has even harder time with its calibration, the mirror and separate phase detection chip are no longer needed.

  2. 3
    ) Ozmanguday
    November 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    Thank you for the interesting article (and articles). You mentioned something about mirror slap. About 4 months ago I purchased a 50mm 1.8G and it seems my pics are less sharp. I did test it in the shop for back or front focus but is seems ok. I’ve tried mirror-up, remote control, tripod and all, which seems to help. Even shooting with with SB-910 on camera seems to benefit because the whole package just feels heavier. But when I just use the lens on my camera it feels like this lens adds more “vibration” when I press the shutter.
    I have de the D7000 and used it with a 35mm 1.8G, 85 1.8G, Sigma 17-50 OS without any real issues. The lighest of these is the 35mm, but no problem with this. The Sigma I have used without the OS being engaged and have not noticed any issues due to camera shake. The 85mm 1.8G is just wonderful, no issue here either.
    So, is it the lens not withstanding the mirror slap, or is it lens slap?

    • November 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      No, I don’t think mirror slap has anything to do with blurry images on your camera with the 50mm. If there are no AF issues and you know that for sure, try increasing the shutter speed – perhaps it is too slow. Also, try shooting outdoors in good light – perhaps there is not enough light for the AF system.

      • 64
        ) Ozmanguday
        November 11, 2013 at 3:52 am

        Thanks Nasim. I did try higher shutter speeds, which looks like the camera even shakes more. I do not know what it is, but I am not super content with this lens for some reason. Perhaps I am spoiled with my 85mm 1.8G?

      • Profile photo of Darrell Wood
        140
        ) Darrell Wood
        May 20, 2014 at 7:02 am

        Nasim,

        This is puzzling me and possibly others. Am I correct to understand that if you are to compare a 35mm vs a crop censor and its lens you need to adjust focal length and the Aperture. e.g. 11- 35mm 2.8 crop sensor Panasonic GH4 and its lens is 24 – 70mm 5.6 aperture lens if converted to 35mm equiv. Are we being hood winked. and is there less light being let in so the ISO will have to go up in any given circumstance :)

  3. November 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    For future cameras (mirrorless FX size) I would like to see another change (especially for pro-level). My suggestion: A “Round” sensor. Reasons below:

    1) Lenses are round, so why not the sensor? This would remove the requirement to rotate the camera between landscape and portrait.

    2) If you add a battery pack to such a camera, it does not need additional controls. Therefore cheaper to make, and could perhaps contain two batteries, thereby vastly extending the shot life.

    3) When cropping round shots, even if your camera was not held level, rotation of the image would not result in cropping out part of the desired image. Cropping to portrait or landscape would present no problem. In effect, all shots are thereby done in both ways simultaneously, and you have your choice in post. Am I the only person who ever wishes I had shot a pic one way instead of the other?

    These are the first few advantages I see to such a system. Anybody else got ones they would like to add?

    WEJ

    • 9
      ) Peter
      November 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      1. If they make a round sensor, imagine how the shutter would be like. Would also have to be a shutter that can rotate if you don’t have to rotate the body. And if a round sensor, it would have to be larger, and it’s harder and more expensive to make a round sensor than it is to make rectangular sensors. Also waste more space (you can divide a large flat sheet of sensor into rectangles and squares, but if you divide them into circles, it’s not as cost-effective due to the wasted sensors between).

      2. Where would the second battery pack be located? Instead of a second battery pack, wouldn’t it just make more sense to have a battery with more mAh (think D3/D3S battery).

      3. So when viewing the image on your computer, it’ll be a round image? Or will the camera automatically crop. If the latter, that’s processing time and will slow down the buffer for high FPS bodies. If you wished you shot the image vertically/horizontally otherwise, then should have just rotated the camera body. That or shoot with a super-sharp lens and a high-resolution body, and then crop in the orientation you wished it to be.

    • November 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      William, while it is a nice idea, designing such a system would be pretty much unrealistic. Shutter mechanism would be insane – anything other than leaf would not work. On top of that, how would you store circular images? Everything in digital is linear – so there would be a lot of wasted space. I think it is more realistic to make a square sensor, but not a round one…

      • 37
        ) PHDGENT
        November 9, 2013 at 2:00 am

        Imagine a digital ROLLEIFLEX!
        No mirror slap, reflex viewfinder, silent and vibration less leaf shutter, max. syncro times up to 1/800 with the Rollei electronic leaf shutter, sturdy construction, shutter/aperture in the lens so when in trouble one just change the lens (Mamiya C330), AF and AE independently from the sensor system (two lenses), permanent LV whit out using the recording sensor so no heating and less noise (the LV could be done through a second and simpler/cheaper sensor via the VF lens), etc…
        AND a magnificent retro look, Df —> D-Rollei!

        The show must go on!

      • 91
        ) J.Gattuso
        December 5, 2013 at 9:39 am

        Not needing to rotate the camera for orientation was actually one of the big get used to issues for shooters moving from the old 620 square Rollei frame to the then new comer Nikon 35mm, that a 35 format camera has other advantages is proven in history, Nikon is here and Rollei is not but the 620 square frame principle is one way to eliminate the orientation flip.

        • December 5, 2013 at 10:23 am

          Changing the issue slightly, why do DSLR cameras need a shutter at all? Especially ones that are mirrorless. Follow the items below:

          1) Mirrorless cameras display an image on either an LCD or EVF. That image is read FROM THE SENSOR.
          2) Since the image is read from the sensor, that means that the sensor must already be exposed, hence nothing (IE mirror and/or shutter) is blocking the sensor.
          3) Therefore, why does there need to be a shutter at all? To my thinking, the shutter function should only be a case of programming: How long (shutter speed) will the image from sensor be read from?

          Obviously I am missing something (since there is a shutter), but the question is still there: Why does there have to be a shutter at all for a Digital based camera? Therefore, IF there is no shutter, the shape of the shutter would be a non-issue.

          As for storing round images, so what? The main point is to avoid rotation of the camera (and, yes, square would work almost as well). For that reason, I have started shooting sports in 5:4. Please remember, I shoot primarily sports, so I therefore base my needs/wants on what makes that easier.

          I also believe that a shutter-less camera would have less, if perhapd even no, vignetting. With a shutter, the middle of the image is exposed for the longest time. The closer to the edge you get, the less amount of time that portion of the sensor is exposed and read. Shutter-less would mean that the ENTIRE image would all get the same amount of exposure time.

          Would someone please enlighten this confused soul?

          WEJ

          • December 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

            By the way, I just read this on Wikipedia (not the best info source, but still can have some value). Copied and posted without any editing:

            Electronic shutter[edit]

            Digital image sensors (both CMOS and CCD image sensors) can be constructed to give a shutter equivalent function by transferring many pixel cell charges at one time to a paired shaded double called frame transfer shutter. If the full-frame is transferred at one time, it is a global shutter. Often the shaded cells can independently be read, while the others are again collecting light.[5] Extremely fast shutter operation is possible as there are no moving parts or any serialized data transfers. Global shutter can also be used for videos as a replacement for rotary disc shutters.

            Image sensors without a shaded full-frame double must use serialized data transfer of illuminated pixels called rolling shutter. A rolling shutter scans the image in a line-by-line fashion, so that different lines are exposed at different instants, as in a mechanical focal-plane shutter, so that motion of either camera or subject will cause geometric distortions, such as skew or wobble.[6]

            Me again: Therefore it would appear to me that DSLRs (with or without mirrors), should all use “Global Shutters”. One less mechanical part to wear out.

            WEJ

      • 120
        ) Sasha
        February 8, 2014 at 4:07 am

        How about getting rid of a mechanical shutter completely and replacing it with an electronic shutter that switches the sensor on and off?

        • February 8, 2014 at 7:17 am

          That is exactly my main point, a Global Shutter (GS). The advantages of a GS on a mirrorless camera are:
          1) No mirror slap;
          2) No shutter;
          3) Almost noiseless (by the removal of the above two);
          4) No vibration (again by removal of items one and two);
          5) I believe less vignetting (can only prove if made).
          6) Faster shutter speeds (since no mechanical parts in the way).
          7) Faster FPS (again, no mechanical parts in the way). Would need monster processor and memory.

          Hey Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc, are you reading any of the above? Whoever comes out with the first camera described above could get a large market share almost immediately.

          On a DSLR (with mirror), would still reduce noise (mirror slap still occurs, but no shutter noise), and item five (again yet to be proven). Perhaps small reduction in vibration from lack of shutter. Items six and seven would still be limited by mechanical parts (mirror).

          Challenge to readers: Show me where I am wrong.

          WEJ

  4. 5
    ) Eileen Ellis
    November 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    On the verge of buying a Nikon D800E, I opted instead for the Sony NEX7. This was a big leap of faith for me as a dedicated Nikon user, but I decided since most of my real camera opportunities lately involved travel, I was weary of dragging a heavy camera and even heavier lenses with me on trips. Plus I travel for business and just didn’t want to drag my heavy camera gear with me. It was always an agonizing decision about which lenses to bring on trips abroad. I mean, if your sole purpose in travel is to take pictures, the decision might be easier, but I am not a professional and my husband and travel companion is tolerant but not interested in my hobby.
    What if a smaller/lighter ( by far) mirrorless camera along with equally lighter lenses was able to take equivalent shots? So I invested in the Sony and 5 lenses which cost maybe a little more than the Nikon D800E camera itself. Two vacations and one workshop later, I am convinced I made the right choice. The picture quality of the Sony has been excellent especially with the 16mm-70mm Zeiss lens (fantastic). I am more likely to take my camera with me given it’s slight weight and small footprint which can only mean more chances to take pictures I might have otherwise missed.
    My only dilemma now is the new full frame cameras Sony just released. I am tempted but I believe that Sony will just keep improving these cameras so I will wait until the next one or two generations of full-frame mirrorless cameras before I leap again.
    I am truly saddened by the fact that Nikon has missed the boat here. I believe that the DSLR will go the way of film. And if Nikon lags behind, well, who wants to start at the beginning with a whole new set of lenses to move to Nikon once they catch up…..if they do.

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:16 am

      Eileen, thank you for your feedback! I think you are safe with the NEX-7. Sony has already pointed out that they will keep on making both APS-C and full-frame Alpha series (the name NEX will no longer be used). So we should see some new Alpha that will replace the NEX-7 in the near future.

    • 148
      ) avid Martin
      June 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      I still use Nikon and film. That won’t change as long as both are available. I prefer film over digital and that will not ever change! I guess that I’ll just sink with Nikon because I refuse to jump ship!

  5. 6
    ) Patrick K
    November 8, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Nasim, fantastic, good summation of the differences between DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. I hope someone from Nikon reads this and starts to considers what you said about making a mirrorless body with a F mount full-frame sensor (FX). The thought of replacing all my glass with new glass just because it no longer fits a new body type would be disappointing and expensive. Although Canon did just that in 1987.

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:18 am

      Thank you Patrick! I very much doubt Nikon will move to a new full-frame mirrorless format. It would be really foolish on their part. I think it would be logical to move APS-C to smaller mirrorless though…I just do not see APS-C surviving in a DSLR-like body.

      • 40
        ) David
        November 9, 2013 at 3:41 am

        Nasim,

        My 2 cents,

        Currently the biggest obstacle to mirror-less cameras is the limited range of lens. There needs to be a critical mass and range out there before they can challenge DSLRs.

        Nikon will probably not introduce a mirrorr-less FX , as you have predicted. But that would be a fatal. Corporate graveyards hold many once powerful companies who sacrificed their futures to protect their past.

        • 118
          ) Sasha
          February 6, 2014 at 9:34 am

          When X series started Nikon DX had a huge advantage on the lenses front. In less than 2 years I think FUJI X lense range is already superior to Nikon/Canon APS-C lenses? njt in quantity, but in quality. And the reason is – Nikon/Canon did not want to introduce the proper pro level DX lenses range because they wanted customers to switch one day to ther FF cameras with better lenses. This strategy is backfiring now. Anyone thinking about the upgrade within APS-C class has a choice – a brilliant new Nikon body (like a coming D7200) with a decent,but stagnating DX lense range, or, say, FUJI X with their brilliant new APS-C lenses ( incl. two 2.8 weather proof zooms coming in April) and fast evolvong bodies. Easy choice in my book.

          As for FF DSLRs vs FF mirrorless, Nikon/Canon are in dire straits here as well. Yes, a small body on a large pro FF lense is not needed. But nevertheless a future FF mirrorless body will have a big advantage. It may not be nesessary smal, but it can be flat but wide/tall with a really large LCD touch screen, a good grip and an array of controls. It will be something like a thick tablet with a (detacheable) grip. Easy to store, a lot of on-screen conrols and options etc. Whereas a FF DSLR will have to keep this outdated bulky shape. So I guess FF DSLR is pretty much as doomed as APS-C DSLR.

  6. November 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Nice comparison – but you left out what is, for me, one of the most important attributes of mirrorless – the ability to design and use PRIME wide angle lenses instead of retrofocus ones – ala Leica – which will make the lenses sharper, smaller and hopefully cheaper !

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:19 am

      Larry, I believe I pointed out that mirrorless systems are smaller and lighter – that applies to lenses as well!

    • 67
      ) Brian
      November 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Larry, more options in wide angle lens design is a big reason to adopt a shorter flange distance in my opinion. If Nikon did that, they might be able to make a mount adapter to enable the use of their older lenses, but that does add potential problems with alignment with another mounting point (lens-to-adapter plus adapter-to-camera).

      If I understand correctly, retrofocus lenses do have the advantage of less light falloff at the edges of the image. But they are larger, more complicated, and difficult to correct for distortion.

      Nasim, great summary of DSLR versus mirrorless designs. Maybe we can call them SLE (for Single Lens Electronic viewfinder)? Focus accuracy is what interests me the most, especially after the D800 debacle (which wouldn’t worry me as much if Nikon’s response had been better).

  7. 8
    ) Sri
    November 8, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Hi
    How about a mirrorless Nikon/Canon FX camera where we can use our existing dslr lenses…? Will Nikon or Canon bring up somthing like that ? If that happens then that will be the next gen cameras

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:31 am

      Sri, yes, that’s exactly what I discussed in the above article.

    • Profile photo of David Ahn
      132
      ) David Ahn
      March 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      Sri, IMHO mirrorless bodies that use full-size lens mounts miss the point of mirrorless: an end-to-end compact solution. Lenses for APS-C DSLRs are already much larger than they need to be because they use the same full-frame mounts. Micro-Four Thirds was built from the ground up: mirrorless, compact bodies with compact lenses because of a new mount designed for the MFT sensor.

      I believe Fujifilm has the best compromise between image quality and size: larger APS-C sensors (than MFT), BUT still compact lenses thanks to a mount designed for APS-C rather than carried over from a full-frame mount. I think the photos speak for themselves: amazingly sharp and detailed, low noise, high dynamic range.

      For ME PERSONALLY, the A7r is pointless. It’s neither better enough vs. the X-E2 to justify the larger camera and lenses, nor lighter enough vs. my D800E and lenses to make me switch.

  8. 10
    ) Rob
    November 8, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Smaller cameras are all well and good until you pair them up with some good fast glass. Pair up a Sony A7 for example with a 300mm F2.8, and you’ll have a nightmare on your hands. I’d much rather see a mirrorless camera in a full SLR sized body (D800 size), one that is actually comfortable to use for an entire afternoon of shooting. It seems as if every mirrorless camera is made to be used with short prime lenses. That’s all well and good, but half my shooting is in the 200mm+ range. It should be noted that most mirrorless systems are dearly lacking in terms of good/fast telephoto lenses.

    I also found with the mirrorless cameras that I have used that the lighter weight can actually work against you. The cameras were harder to hold steady, which increased the number of blurred shots in low light conditions.

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:32 am

      Rob, yup, that’s why I believe that the best strategy for Nikon and Canon is to move to mirrorless while retaining a DSLR-like camera body.

      • 87
        ) Pat D
        November 24, 2013 at 7:41 am

        The Sony A99 has a fixed translucent mirror and a full frame sensor in a DSLR style body. It avoids many of the issues associated with a moving mirror.

      • 138
        ) Jon Allen
        April 27, 2014 at 9:28 am

        Totally agree with you Nasim, I love the idea of mirrorless and current have a EM1 but as a Nikon user with large hands, I much prefer the standard DSLR body, smaller bodies are not ideal, we used to have very small mobile phones, but they died in favour of much larger more comfortable to use sizes.

  9. 11
    ) FrancoisR
    November 8, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Futur is bright, there will be light at the end of the mirror. Just waiting for next Canon iteration. In the last two years Nikon has come up with bold products (using Sony sensors). They must have something up their sleeve. Just hope I can stick to my glass for some years.

    thank you Nasim.

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:33 am

      Francois, I am expecting Canon to release a pro-level EOS M next year – should be really good! As for other products, hard to say at the moment – I am still waiting for the Canon 7D MK II…

  10. 15
    ) Ian
    November 8, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I think that in a couple years all Canon/Nikon DSLRs will be mirrorless/SLR hybrids, with a mirror and a phase detection scheme from the sensor and EVF, too. Canon’s already laying the ground work for it, look at the 70D. Professional cameras will stay DSLR for a while, an OVF is just nice to have in general, but I doubt anyone will buy APS-C DSLRs (asides from a 7D) in a few years anyway. It’s just a shame to know that Canon at least has a ton of the tech basically ready to go, but since for them it’s not as urgent I doubt they’ll make their next big camera (the 7Dmk2) a hybrid (though it will have Phase Detection AF on the sensor).

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:35 am

      Ian, yup, that’s what will probably happen. Might be a few years before full-frame moves to mirrorless, but it will happen!

    • November 9, 2013 at 7:29 am

      Thank you Nasim for the excellent write-up. I’ve been waiting for this – you mentioned in a comment that you were doing an article on Nikon’s possible mirrorless strategy.

      I fully agree with your predictions. It makes a tons of sense for Nikon to do FF mirrorless retaining the F-mount. With some clever design, Nikon could easily do bodies as thin as 50mm. They are going to be thicker than Sony’s, but that’s actually an advantage. FF mirrorless lenses will be just as big as their DSLR counterparts. See Sony’s new kit lens: 28-70mm F/3.5-5.6 – currently the slowest and most limited lens as far as FF kit lenses go. And there’s a reason for that – Sony wanted to keep the size down, possibly for ergonomic reasons. And that lens is only 40 grams lighter than the Nikkor 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5, and it’s considerably wider, a bit longer and s stop brighter on the long end!

      For DX, I’m not sure, but I still think retaining F-mount would be the better option for Nikon. Design is unbelievable important (along with ergonomics). 50mm sounds a bit thick, but with some clever design it could be made an attractive camera. I’m not sure that the old NEX APS-C design is that great with those big lenses. The Olympus OM-D E1 is 63mm thick, and is generally considered great design, with a much smaller sensor than APS-C. I think the DX crowd could live with a little bit of thickness, and Nikon could do Fuji or Olympus type DX cameras. Now that would be a dream come true! Unfortunately, I don’t have faith in Nikon to do this. For those potential customers who would consider weight & size above all else, Nikon has the CX, which beats all other players in terms of lens size.

    • 149
      ) avid Martin
      June 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      I will always use dSLR’s and that will not ever change! Sorry, but I refuse to jump on this technical boat!

  11. November 8, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Thanks for all the effort this took, Nasim. Great comparison!

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:35 am

      You are most welcome Patrick! I hope it was worth the read :)

  12. 18
    ) Wolfgang
    November 9, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Dear Nasim,

    what an excellent and well researched article. Thank you.

    This is really a bad time if faced with the decision to buy a new camera. No doubt that DSLRs will become extinct but the mirrorless just don’t seem to cut it just yet for a professional portrait and action photographer given the development stage of EVF and the ergonomic features when using it with larger lenses.

    On the other hand, the weight of a D800 with a battery pack and with even a normal 85mm lens for portrait shooting is HEAVY. But while the body may get smaller, accessories like flashes won’t and, as you said, great full frame lenses are unlikely to shrink either.

    I wish Nikon had already launched a full frame mirrorless innovative camera instead of a retro camera design. I understand that the barriers of change must be huge in those companies right now, but it’s either self-cannibalisation to a certain extent or the new entrants without this heavy burden from the past will become the new market leaders.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that Nikon and Canon are seeing a strong decline in revenues in their camera business, so there is less money to drive innovation. As Nikon is so heavily dependent on their photo business, we might even see it being acquired by another company which might be the end of a era altogether.

    • 20
      ) Global
      November 9, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Its not a bad time to buy dslrs.
      The transition wont happen for 3-5 years.
      Buy a dslr if you want fx, the D610/D800es are spectacular.

      Or just get an Olympus Omd em1 if youre missing the D400.

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:39 am

      Wolfgang, definitely not a bad time to buy – it is actually THE best time to buy :) So many great choices – and they are all good. If mirrorless is too expensive or inconvenient, get a DSLR. Those will stay alive for at least 3-4 years before anything drastic happens.

      As for Nikon and Canon not launching a mirrorless – they will first test their technologies on lower-end cameras. Once the concept is proven, then it will move to bigger cameras. That’s how they have done it for years and I doubt they will change that methodical approach.

  13. 19
    ) Global
    November 9, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Brilliant article, your thoughtfulness is very much appreciated from your readers.

    My feeling is that Nikon will transition the APSC sensor to mirrorless….. VERY soon.

    I think thats why there is no D400 — Nikon is going to release a mirrorless PRO camera that is going to kill the competition, and it will be called the D400. I dont k ow how the lenses will work, but im sure Nikon will make an adapter for this transition.

    As for FX, I think you are 100% right. And that this is why Nikon is playing with the Df. AND why they made it the same size as the D610. Not only is Nikon going to eventually transition FX to mirrorless, but the Df is supposed to indicate the style of body that this new mirrorless might take — namely, retro.

    Think about it, if FX must be big and boxy, the way to make that attractive is to hark the older cameras which were basically… boxes. Many retro cameras make boxy look good, and medium format has always been boxy yet respected….. so, as Nikon walks past medium format resolution and medium format ISOes, it will also transition FX into a Dfesque retro format for those who want the best (the same reason we lugged around MF, etc).

    This is the proper vision for Nikon.

    Everyone keeps their lenses, but Nikon has 3 lines of mirrorless camera formats. The D3200 level will go away and be replaced by the Nikon 1. And the APSC line will kill Olympus. And the FX/Df line will be the modern medium format.

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:41 am

      Thank you sir!

      As for the D400 – I doubt it will be mirrorless, but who knows. It usually takes a few years for this kind of technology to develop and mature for Nikon to consider it seriously. It would certainly be nice though :)

  14. 21
    ) gianpaolo
    November 9, 2013 at 12:58 am

    just an observation:
    the presence of mirror determines the distance of the lens from the sensor. in a leica the lens is much closer to the film, and can be significantly smaller. a problem arises however with corners, and a few wide angle lenses cannot be used with digital bodies…

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:44 am

      Gianpaolo, it is not the presence of the mirror that determines the distance – a mirror could be smaller (DX) and yet the distance is the same as FX. But you are right, Leica cameras have a shorter flange and their primes are smaller. However, there are two very important factors to consider:
      a) If the flange distance is smaller, only certain focal length lenses could be cut in size (mostly wide-angle to normal).
      b) Leica has no AF in their lenses, which is why they are much smaller in size. If Leica added AF, their lenses would no longer retain the same dimensions.

  15. 25
    ) KasperW
    November 9, 2013 at 1:26 am

    It is not only the mechanical body of the DSLR camera that was build to look like an old film camera.

    It actually started with the scanning back when we made the first Phase One cameras. Not to remove the photographers to far from their familiar ways off working the software where build around the handles and terms of photography even though the technology was much more from the reproduction/scanning world.

    We made strategic business decision that took the repo world to the photographers and not the photo world to the repro work shops/service houses.

    That is one reason that the powerhouses like agfa, Heidelberg etc. newer got a foot in the new business. The first wave was small start-ups like Leaf, Phase One and Imacon (Hasselblad).

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:45 am

      Thank you for clarifying that Kasper!

      • 38
        ) KasperW
        November 9, 2013 at 2:17 am

        Nasim

        You do not need any clarification on your well written article. I just wanted to provide a 20 year old perspective from the early days of digital photography.

        Just in case there might be a few that would like the historical picture.

  16. 26
    ) Richard
    November 9, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Great article Nasim. As an ambassador for the “mirrorless” camera I enjoyed reading your article. If the Nikon Df had been a mirrorless camera which could have used existing lenses I would have applauded it. However, Nikon missed another trick and should have capitalised on the technology from the Coolpix “A” and V1/2 as a foundation for their first real mirrorless offering. It would have been affordable too. Instead they gave us “sexy” instead of “substance”!

    As both a D800 and D7100 user, I long for a mirrorless camera for wildlife shooting with good fps and high buffer speeds. I love my D7100, but the buffering of RAW images is pathetic. On the basis that it looks like a D400 is now dead in the water, what a unique opportunity to bring out a mirrorless camera. Hopefully engineered to take Nikon existing FX lenses with a minimal (x1.5) crop factor. However, if Nikon is starting to walk the “sexy” road then this may well not happen.

    Oh dear, I love my Nikons, however I will sell my soul to the first manufacturer to come up with a realistic mirrorless wildlife/sport digital offering.

    Richard

    • November 9, 2013 at 1:47 am

      Richard, the Nikon Df was 4 years in the making – even before the CX format was introduced :) It was severely delayed due to floods. Plus, it takes years for Nikon to make such technological jumps – I doubt that we will see a full-frame mirrorless any time soon…

      • 39
        ) Richard
        November 9, 2013 at 3:07 am

        Shame, a missed opportunity. I’ve seen nothing about this camera being years in the making anywhere, so that comes as a surprise to me. I am not interested in a full frame mirrorless, I meant an APS-C sensor mirrorless enabling FX lenses to operate with the x1.5 crop factor. That would be my choice and I would have thought we can’t be far from that being achievable. Or, did you mean Nikon are as fast in seizing technology as an ice flow?

        Richard

    • 151
      ) avid Martin
      June 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      You people are all sick and will be the destructive force of photography. You can keep your “progress” and I’ll keep my traditions. You can stick your evolution up your a$$!!!!

  17. 42
    ) Graham
    November 9, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Thank you Nasim for a superb article, concisely reasoned. And this has also been one of the most intelligent discussions afterwards that I have read for a long time.
    Many of my thoughts have already been addressed, and like others I think it might be wise to wait until the Mark 2 or 3 Sony arrives. I noted you last point with regret, that Nikon may take 3 years or so to respond as we should like. It may be too late for them. Other points of concern:
    The equation between vibration invited by a body too light for the lens and the freedom from mirror slap offered by Mirrorless. If working up to 200 mm, how would you rate the A7R for vibration, comparatively? (And will the new long Zeiss f4 zoom offer the superb VR that we rely on from Nikon? The VR equivalent in my otherwise superb RX100 is really only good for 1 to 1.5 stops.)
    Since losing the mirror mechanism will save money, has Sony really any excuse for the current prices of A7/R?
    Does the AF have the ability currently to track moderately moving subjects in poor lighting, say with a 200 mm tele?
    So far none of the reviews has recommended any short flange-distance W/A wider than 35 mm that gives clean and /or unsmeared corners on the A7 or A7R (which are supposed to have different sensors, the one being better than the other in this respect, although reported results are still contradictory!) Landscape photographers, even avid travellers, require this problem to be solved. For my own solution, despite hoping to shed 2/3 of the weight in my bag in the next few years, I have bought a 21 mm Distagon, preferring an extra 200 gms over spoiled quality, especially for a high-res sensor. Your comments on wide-angles, Leica lenses, Biogon, Contax etc. please!
    Would it really be so expensive to produce a Rolleiflex with a Phase One-style back, that allows for an adaptor to take MF lenses, perhaps even including those for Mamiya 7?

  18. 45
    ) nora connell
    November 9, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Great article Nasim, thank you. The one question I have is that you mention the drawback of small sensor size of the Nikon 1 cameras. I am considering getting an Olympus OM 1 but do you think I will be seriously disappointed going from the full sensor of a Nikon D700 to the micro four thirds system?

  19. 46
    ) Ertan
    November 9, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Hey, I did not know that we have had so many serious problems with DSLRs :) A little bit exaggerated I think-
    Some advantages that you put are only applicable to mirrorless cameras without EVF. Size of a D3200, and especially Canon 100D are similar to E-M1 and GH-3. The more mirrorless cameras try to get close to DSLRs in performance, the bigger they get.
    I think the most advantegous mirrorless system is m4/3 due to their insanely small and excellent lenses. Body-wise, I don’t see any huge benefit. Plus, small = better equation is not always true from ergonomics perspective.
    And, in case of A7/r, there is no benefit of size/weight whatsoever as soon as you attach an f2.8 zoom. A full frame system such as D610+24-70mm f2.8 is not hugely heavy and large compared to an A7 and a 24-70mm f2.8 (which we don’t have anyway).
    For pro’s, the heaviest parts in a bag are lenses and flashes. With a FF system like A7, I don’t see a huge advantage because A lenses are also as big.
    In a studio? No benefit whatsoever.
    We are too much into body specs, and missing the real point: System. Give me smaller lenses, than we will talk again. The “body size” advantage is there, but it’s not THAT huge.

  20. 47
    ) TomH
    November 9, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Hey Nasim – you said no current Nikon mirrorless APS-C. You forgot the Nikon Coolpix A. This may be a throwaway, but maybe it’s their first of many APS-C mirrorless models. Just like Fuji started with fixed lens X-100 and then went MILC with X-Pro1.

    As a user, I think APS-C MILCs with lens mounts that are specifically designed around the shorter flange distances are the way to go for travel, street, landscapes, weddings, family (now that we have better phase detect) etc. where the smaller form factor is a real plus. Sensor technology is improving to where pixel pitch to noise ratio will not be as much of an issue (look at D7100 for example at 24MP and Fuji’s X series at 16MP).

    And once on sensor phase detection and EVF technologies get to the next level, I think the manufacturers’ challenge might be to design a better way to balance and grip long teles on smaller cameras, rather than make big MILCs for sports and wildlife.

  21. November 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Personally, I am still waiting for smaller/lighter long tele lenses designed for APS-c using either the current FF mirror box, a mirrorless design, or a dedicated APS-c mirrorbox !

  22. 49
    ) Andy Schmitt
    November 9, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Really nice article. My concerns for the mirrorless cameras are two fold.

    My first stems from the lack of a proper viewfinder. I see so many of the mirrorless cameras being used like an iphone, held at arms length so the operator can see the rear screen, with the camera gently swaying in the breeze.

    My other one is why we have a shutter at all.
    The sensor is not a mechanical device but a set of electronic accumulators. It should be very possible to strobe the data (& after all, that’s all it is) into a register in much less time than it takes to make a shutter flap. There would have to be a delay or sensor of some sort built in for strobe input but otherwise it should be easy peasy.

    Thanks again & keep up the good work.

  23. 50
    ) samir sinha
    November 9, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Nasim, all this analysis and comparison between EVF and OVF and the paeans that you have sung in favour of the EVF is bull crap. EVF, however high the resolution may be achieved in future, cannot hold a candle to OVF in terms of clarity and reality.
    And to think of the maestros like Bresson, Capa and Adams created such masterpieces without getting any tailor-made information in their viewfinder.
    It maybe argued that what they could have done, had they got these modern innovations, but that will be missing the woods for the trees.
    It is their unique vision that is and will be treasured by the future generation.

    We all know and acknowledge this fact but somewhere down the line we all seem to get carried away.

    • 150
      ) avid Martin
      June 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      You are completely correct! Don’t completely modify my field to improve your lack of capabilities. Carteir-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Robert Adams, Robert Frank were all legends and used the technology that is currently being used despite the digital part. I still use the darkroom and that won’t change until all film will be phased out and that will be a tragic day. I refused to jump on the digital bandwagon and I’ll do the same with the technical bandwagon. Don’t change what has taken years to perfect just because you want to play around with technology! I actually became a photographer because I fell in love with the technical aspects of the darkroom and lighting. Digital is flawed and I will always stick with that. I will not change quality for convenience! All you technical gurus will not ever change my mind and I will continue to teach other’s that!

  24. 51
    ) HomoSapiensWannaBe
    November 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Nikon can mimic Sony regarding flange to sensor distance for it’s APS-C and FF mirrorless cameras. The Sony NEX and FE bodies have the same flange distance, with FE mount lenses projecting a larger image circle to cover full frame. The A-mount lenses require an adapter to mount on NEX/FE bodies. Nikon could also make an adapter that allows mounting F-mount lenses on its mirrorless APS-C and FF bodies, just as it already makes an adapter to mount F-mount lenses to CX bodies. This way, Nikon can design smaller bodies in APS-C and full frame with a shorter flange distance, gradually release an extensive lens line for them, and still allow use of existing legacy lenses as long as required.

  25. 52
    ) David Ziff
    November 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for your timely and comprehensive article. It provides an orientation and guidance to my contemplation of my future buying decisions — which is much appreciated.

    I’d like to add my two bits to the discussion. The whole idea behind the pentaprism is that you can see what you’re going to get — in other words the elimination of parallax in a viewfinder. The electronic viewfinder pushes the envelope further as now you can see what the sensor is seeing after camera adjustments have been made. I believe that will be the winning technology. Optical lenses of course will still be with us. Conceivably a genius of the future will invent electronic lenses as well!

    • November 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      Actually, the main idea behind the pentaprism was for focusing ! Which leads me to my next question : Does anyone know to what extent you can manually focus using only an EVF ?? I ask, because with any of these mirrorless cameras, I would want to use older/cheaper manual focus lenses with adapters ……

      • November 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm

        Larry, that’s a great question! If you look at my article, I specifically addressed this question – when using manual focus lenses, you can actually zoom in to the image and see precise focus at zoomed range. This is amazing technology, something that you will instantly fall in love with once you see it! Sony does this and a number of others are implementing such features into their mirrorless cameras.

        • November 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm

          Thanks, I think I see what you are refering to – so it is still visual focusing with “electronic enhancement” …. I was worried regarding the resolution capabilities of the EVF, but I guess that is not such a great issue.

  26. 53
    ) iau
    November 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Re the DX format. Couldn’t Nikon just make a new mount for a mirrorless APS-C format and rather produce an adapter for DX lenses? No need to keep the flange distance if it can be solved with an adapter. They did it for CX with the FT-1 adapter.

    I’d be very happy if the lenses could be somewhat smaller than they are. Even if it meant ditching the AF-S motor in the lenses.

  27. 54
    ) Ehud Kedar
    November 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    What about lenses for mirrorless? Is there equivalent of 24-70 2.8? Do they have the same selections as DSLR?

  28. 55
    ) Love2Eat
    November 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks Nasim, definitely food for thought. I would totally agree with your comments and some of the user comments about future of DX, Nikon would be too late in the mirror less game with a decent sensor. I have been thinking lately about a move from Nikon to a smaller mirrorless system, ideally full frame. Was close to buying a D610, then awaited the DF launch which came with a ridiculous price tag (USD=GBP) and with no video function (not that I use that a lot, but I strongly feel that the price tag just reflects the look and the image of the camera rather than features). D800 or higher is too much for my use and I did not consider D7100 as my FX lenses would be underused.

    I am seriously thinking about getting the Sony A7 with either Zeiss 35mm prime or 16-70mm F4 when it comes out in December, just wish they had faster lenses. But I hear they have sensor improvements to compensate the slow lenses. I will wait to see how the IQ compares to D610/D800 and then will make the decision. At least a comparable low light performance and higher RAW burst rate would be a bonus. Would be great if you could get your hands on one and post a review as soon as it comes out. Thanks!

    • 62
      ) max
      November 10, 2013 at 7:19 am

      Hi LoveEat,

      I am intrigued by the Sony A7 as well. I like everything about my D800 except the weight. On paper the Sony A7 looks great.

      The bad thing is that with a 36 mp camera you need weight! We all know that to get all of a 36 mp camera you need the best shooting technique and any camera shake should be avoided. For this, a high resolution camera needs weight! I hope that I am wrong but I think the combination of a small lightweight camera and a super high resolution sensor is just wishful thinking, unless you want to carry a tripod all the time!

      • 63
        ) Love2Eat
        November 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

        Hi Max, I will be looking at A7 which is 24.3mp and not the A7R (36mp). The only thing I wish the camera had is in-body stabilisation, just wishful thinking. Will definitely wait for the reviews before I jump the ship. ;-)

  29. 56
    ) Patrick O'Connor
    November 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Since you all seem to like the idea of mirrorless, I hope they develop them. But, I hope they don’t abandon dSLRs to do it. Just like Nikon (at least. I don’t know about the others) still sells film cameras, they could sell mirrorless and dSLRs simultaneously. Since I shoot FF, I think I’ve got a better chance than those who like APS-C. If they abandon dSLRs, I’ll have to quit shooting when the last available used one stops working.
    I really liked them going to a digital medium since it makes shooting, and therefore experimenting, a lot quicker and cheaper, but that’s as far as I can go. I hate trying to shoot handheld with the LCD on the back and really detest the idea of the EVF. But then, I don’t have a cell phone or iWhatever, either.

    • 60
      ) Willy
      November 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Olympus is transitioning from 4/3 dSLR to micro-4/3 mirrorless. Now that the EM-1 has on sensor phase detection AF, their legacy high quality dSLR lenses can be used with an adapter, while they continue to develop mirrorless 4/3 lenses.

      I don’t see why Nikon or Canon couldn’t do the same. Design a new shorter flange mirrorless body, use a full function adapter for current lenses, and develop an entirely new line of smaller, short flange lenses. Maybe they are waiting for on sensor phase detection technology to equal current SLR speed.

      I agree, EVF’s will replace OVF’s. Once EVF’s reach “retina display” resolution (if they haven’t already), fine detail will be indistinguishable between the two. The only thing left is dynamic range. While an EVF may never be able to match the DR of the human eye, it will eventually be good enough that all the other advantages will outweigh this short coming.

  30. November 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Great article.
    I look forward to when mirror less cameras allow me to mount my FX lenses.
    But the mention of EVF’s got me thinking to the possibility of the EVF being removed from the actual camera. There is no technical reason why the EVF cannot be in a separate unit, say a pair of glasses/spectacles connected to the camera via a lead, or the ultimate, via bluetooth or some other wireless data technology.

  31. 65
    ) KSPGM
    November 11, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Nasim you said:

    “Simply put, Nikon has a sensor size disadvantage with its CX / Nikon 1 system”

    As one who has now abandoned my DX system and moved entirely to CX (albeit with a couple of FX telezooms for the FT-1), I just wish people would stop making comments like this without also emphasising the concomitant advantages – size, cost, portability, increadible focusing accuracy … and so on.

    You also say that BIF photography is not possible with mirrorless systems – if I understand you correctly. Again, I believe it is with the Nikon-1 + 70-200 combinations. Nasim, if you have tried the combination of V2+70-200 f/4 since Nikon fixed the continous focus problem (almost!) then I will bow to your greater experience and knowledge. But if not, please give it a go!

    Not related, but can you say why Nikon do not consider in camera stabilisation like Olympus? Is it that the external VR technology is just so much better?

    Thanks Nasim – great article as always !

    • November 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      KSPGM, all I am saying is that Nikon cannot compete with other players just because of the smaller sensor. CX has its own appeal for enthusiasts and avid birders, but its image quality cannot match an APS-C mirrorless or Nikon’s own DX system. Since most modern sensors are excellent today (regardless of brand), the only differentiating factor is the sensor size. And that’s where the Nikon 1 loses (M43 is also at a disadvantage compared to APS-C).

      As for stabilization, it is certainly very advantageous for mirrorless cameras and short focal length lenses. However, once you attach a long lens, in-camera IS will have lots of limitations. Ideally, it would be great if there were two IS systems – one on camera for short lenses, and on the lens for super telephotos :)

  32. 66
    ) Roar Arne Velle
    November 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    dear Sirs,
    With mirrorless one want the image sensor to do all tasks: Make excellent image, doing phDAF, contrast AF, give data for exposure evaluating, give data for tracking, and for video. I don’t think these tasks can be done optimaly inside one solution. With DSLR we have different sensor optimised for different tasks. I think that will allways give DSLR a benefit in low light and tracking with PhD AF.

  33. 68
    ) Brian
    November 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Nasim, there’s another advantage to EVF that you didn’t mention — sensor-based anti-shake will work for both the final image and the viewfinder. Putting the system into the camera rather than every lens will save customers money as well as simplifying the optical design of lenses.

  34. November 13, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Very good article, though I’d argue one point – are DSLRs really that bulky? Weight and most importantly mechanical complexity of the mirror system – yes. However, physical size of DSLR (and even a 35mm format) evolved over time and won in (among other things) ergonomy. One could argue that it is the optimal size/shape for the function.
    I think that pushing the size is just a simplest marketing device for the manufacturers of mirrorless cameras and with it comes the main, correctible disadvantage of current mirrorless cameras – not compatible (needlessly I’d say) with the old lenses.
    Removing the mirror but keeping the “old” flange distance is much better solution. First, just for adoption of mirrorless it would do much more than just touting smaller size (which is good for some purposes but keeping old lenses is good for all purposes). More importantly, there would be space left by the mirror system to replace it with new technology. In other words – why just remove when you could replace with some other new functionality in the same volume?
    And, as astronomer I’ll add the first idea what to install from my field of study: use freed up space to install some form of active cooling for the sensor. Astronomical sensors live by that kind of staff… Active cooling system of such size could definitely move sensor performance at least for one material generation, possibly two. Instant improvement in quality.

    • 78
      ) JR
      November 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      dusanmal, I agree with EVERYTHING you’ve said!

      Very well said and difficult to argue against.

  35. 70
    ) dima
    November 13, 2013 at 9:45 am

    EVFs are pretty bad in my opinion, produce enormous noise and color shift under dim lighting, especially artificial.

    Compact size of mirorless cameras is only good for pancake lenses, they are not suitable for any good zoom or tele lenses. Too small, no grip

    So mirorless are good for casual or “leica” style shooting, when you wondering around with one 35/2. Hard to see how they can win a higher segment

  36. 71
    ) Mark
    November 13, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Any comparison between cameras of different sized sensors is meaningless. There is a lot of talk about smaller being better but that is certainly not the case for many photographers. There is mention of ergonomics, but you won’t get better than a FF DSLR camera. The great features of having external controls cannot be overstated. Being able to grip the camera and use the buttons we need to without going through menus. Not wishing we had lady hands.

    Balance was mentioned. There is no point carrying around a small camera when you are mounting it on a 300mm/2.8 for example. Especially when EVERY review comparing a mirrorless camera to a FF DSLR indicates that the DSLR is superior. They use words like “almost as good”, or acceptable for the size.

    I’ll keep my superior camera, with better ergonomics and controls. You keep your “almost as good”.

    • November 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      Mark, you are forgetting one very important thing here – I am mostly comparing APS-C mirrorless with APS-C DSLRs. Full-frame will always be better than APS-C, just like Medium Format is better than full-frame! Still, why wouldn’t you want a mirrorless full-frame DSLR in a couple of years? Imagine having a good, sturdy DSLR-like camera (with good weight balance), but without a mirror and a pentaprism.

      • 108
        ) Paul Digney
        January 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm

        I enjoyed the review a lot. Thank you again. However, I never see an important distinction made enough. You hint at it here and others have as well. “Small/Light” merges two things that are not equally valuable to many of us. We want a camera that can give use the controls we need and that we can get a grip on. Since I can’t downsize my hands I find all the current mirrorless cameras including the amazing packages that are the Sony full frames *too* small. It’s my birthday to day and the years are building up into a rather large pile. Soon dragging my D7000 and D600 around will simply be too much. I don’t need small — I need LIGHT.

        As for the worry that Nikon and Canon have about killing their DSLRs. If they don’t someone will (and perhaps is).

        Also for all those who comment on EVFs being inadequate (or other deficiencies) they need to consider those things which have a very high chance of being fixed by the march of technology and those which don’t. Considering that EVFs will (eventually ) be indistinguishable from OVFs. However, I’m not expecting a 600mm F4 lens to be produced that weights less than 1 or even 2 kgs in my lifetime (or maybe ever). Physics is annoying that way. Maybe when there is no glass in there.

  37. 74
    ) AJ
    November 14, 2013 at 8:48 am

    An interesting scenario would be the exact opposite:
    If digital cameras all had EVF’s would someone be bold enough to bring out digital cameras with mirrors?
    Or would this be seen as regression?
    ;-)

  38. 75
    ) Greg
    November 15, 2013 at 4:49 am

    I’d better keep my D600, since it looks like it’ll be a retro design in 10-15 years :) I wonder how the blog-o-sphere would have looked like during the shift from DLR to SLR…

    So interesting to see such a popular blogger who happens to live close by. Greetings from Boulder!

  39. 76
    ) JR
    November 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    “Keep the F mount, but get rid of the mirror: this is most likely what Nikon will end up doing in the future. All current and old Nikkor lenses will continue to work, since the flange distance will be the same. Pro-level FX cameras will still be heavy and bulky for better balance with long lenses, while smaller and lighter FX cameras will also be available for those that worry about weight.”

    Yes, Nasim, this seems like the no-brainer path for Nikon to take. I mentioned this a couple weeks back and I´m glad you´ve agreed. Not that I’m very smart, it’s just that it’s too obvious that Nikon can only go that route; if it wants to retain its lens user base.

    It’s just a matter of months before Nikon produces some sort of F-mount mirrorless. Mark my words.

    • 77
      ) JR
      November 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      One more thing, Nasim: you said that the potential mirrorless Nikon bodies may end up looking boxy, since they would lose the pentaprism housing on the top of the body.

      Take a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3, with nearly a flat top where the pop-up flash is hidden. I can see a Nikon FX mirrorless looking somewhat close to that design. Of course, having the flash in such a low position may be problematic for any lenses longer than primes and may result in shadows with some longer zooms. Can’t have everything, I suppose.

      I have no doubt that both Nikon and Canon will find ways to provide an excellent user experience while moving their world-class lenses to mirrorless FF bodies.

    • 89
      ) Birder
      November 27, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      Great article. I agree that the most logical way for Nikon to introduce a mirrorless replacement for either FX or DX would be to keep the F-mount. Nikon’s track record of backwards lens compatibility is one of the main reasons why I switched to Nikon when buying my first DSLR.

      Also I hope Nikon does not make ergonomic mistakes with its first DX/FX mirrorless cameras. A camera that has a poorly accessible user interface and/or small grip is not of much use for action photography (e.g. BIF).

  40. 79
    ) JR
    November 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    “However, it simply does not make sense for manufacturers like Nikon and Canon to continue investing into making DSLRs better, when the technology advantage is clearly with mirrorless.”

    You’re exactly right, Nasim, and precisely why some folks believe that it’s a “senseless” move for Nikon to offer the Df when they instead could have used their resources to produce a mirrorless FF body.

  41. 80
    ) David E. Stahl
    November 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

    If Nikon had access to Sony’s SLT technology (translucent mirror), then they could take a DX camera like the D7100, replace the moving mirror with the translucent mirror, replace the OVF with a decent EVF, drop the ‘Live View’ (that really isn’t such and they’ll get the real thing now) and they’d have a path forward for DX users. Adding AVCHD/60p video would up that game even more — we’ll have to wait for that probably until it’s offered on the higher FX cameras first.

  42. 81
    ) Chris Cullen
    November 17, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Thanks Nasim
    Very interesting and stimulating article. This issue must be a little scary for many keen amateurs. I am far from rich and my switch from DX to FX about 3 years ago was very expensive for me (but ultimately worth it for the leap in quality, if not for the state of my neck!)
    The possible switch to mirrorless excites me greatly but having bought three FX zooms and three primes (albeit 3 of the 6 on ebay), I feel pretty well committed to Nikon FX. The idea of changing again brings me out in a cold sweat!!
    I think Nikon made a major mistake with the CX 1″ format. They possibly also missed a trick in a major way in the 1980’s / 1990’s in sticking with the F-mount and not doing what Canon did with the switch to EOS.

  43. 82
    ) Doug
    November 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Great article, but I’m not sure I agree with you about Canon being in a better position than Nikon regarding mirror less. Not that Nikon has really nailed it. Far from. But Canon? The first EOSM was widely criticized for having terrible focus issues, but it was the lack of physical controls that really turned me off. That, and the the fact that they didn’t even release the latest M lens in the U.S. It seems like they’ve abandoned mirror less and are focusing on the SL1, their tiny SLR. Too bad. I’d love a retro rangefinder style full frame Canon, or even an APSC version, if it had great autofocus. They should put that new 70D tech into a mirror less!

  44. 83
    ) Wilfred
    November 21, 2013 at 3:16 am

    my view of the better approach…
    new mirrorless format (presumably GX) utilizing APS-C size sensor but the slimmed down size like Nikon 1, ditch all the DX only lens and Nikkor 1 lens…but do it nice by offering trade-in to get new lens for the new format/mount. This should be targeting casual consumer for light weight and easy usage.
    (possible a converter is created for mating the DX lens with new mount?)

    For the Fullframe sensor, keep the body ergonomic, remove the old mirror and the AF module, maintain the flange distance. This is for prosumer and professionals.

    I am thinking…thinking…well…will Nikon moves ahead?

  45. 86
    ) Anne-Marie
    November 23, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Nice article. I was wondering if you could help me out? I stopped photography a few years ago, and am looking to start up again. Im after a mirrorless, but I’m just not sure which one is best for me. Something that can do indoor portraits, but also outdoor and landscaping. Do you have any ideas which would be the best? I have no idea about the mirrorless or where to start with them! Many thanks

  46. 90
    ) Neeraj Mishra
    December 5, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Hey Nasim,

    Could you please explain in detail about shutter shock and mirror slap? And how do they affect the sharpness? What should be done to mitigate/avoid the effects of vibration due to shutter shock and mirror slap?

    Thanks in advance!

  47. December 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    A very thought provoking article, especially as I am currently considering the purchase of a Fuji X100s as a carry around camera; I will simultaneously upgrade my D300 to a D610 or D800 (still undecided). The advantages of mirrorless camera design have been obvious to me for quite a while and I have often wondered why the basic SLR design has survived for so long.

    These advantages seem obvious for “slow” photography disciplines such as landscape, architectural, commercial and portraiture.

    However, I can’t imagine being a sports photographer trying to shoot an F1 race or a tennis match with an electronic viewfinder. By the time one sees the height of the action in an electronic viewfinder the event will already be over in the real world and the opportunity to capture the moment will be lost. Mind you, SLR design was originally criticized for having the actual moment of capture blacked out. Maybe this is why the X100s holds such special appeal to me as a “walk-around” “street” and “family-moments” type camera.

    I suspect there will always be a niche market for basic SLR design or even some sort of new TLR or rangefinder design with no blackout. But for the types of photography that I am doing commercially I see very little harm in removing the mirror from the camera.

    • 109
      ) Paul Digney
      January 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Can most of use really move quickly enough to see the “height of action” then press the shutter and capture it? Don’t we have to anticipate or blast away in a burst? At some pace of the action no one is going to be fast enough.

  48. 95
    ) stephen hapke
    December 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    While mirrorless and small sensor developments are helping the photography industry as a whole–I use a D4 and D800 with a variety of lenses in a variety of photographic situations and have tried shooting a couple of the new mirrorless units; I see functionality being a HUGE issue for other than ‘snapshots’ at low ISO settings. A new article by Lloyd Chambers addresses similar points that a lot of the new units don’t have functional menu designs and that holding a small, virtually pocket type camera is generally impossible for some picture taking when a DSLR that has some weight and fits your physic better is much more functional and manageable for great shots in more challenging scenarios-the future lies in bringing best designs of both types into a new line of bodies and sensors that preserves the ability to use existing lens.

  49. 96
    ) Peter
    December 7, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I agree with all your points and came to the same conclusions a few months ago when I bought a mirrorless camera (Fujifilm X-M1 with a 16-50mm lens).

    The APS-C sensor was my main need. That, in my opinion, is the perfect size for most photographers. While I do have a full-frame Nikon D700, I have only used it once in the last few months. I keep the X-M1 in my glove compartment and that easy access has opened up a big new world for me.

    Buying that camera was the best choice I’ve made. The quality is there. The flexibility is there. The fun is there, too.

    Sometimes I wonder why I keep my D700 and all my lenses.

  50. 98
    ) PerL
    December 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    This mirror less hype is getting tiresome.
    Mirrorless is lacking/lagging in every important feature IMO – lagging eye-tiring EVFs with limited DR, long blackouts, stutter when shooting series, motion softness in the viewfinder (yes – try shooting something that it is in continous motion and compare to an OVF). AF-C that can’t keep up with good DSLRS (actually almost useless with CDAF, probably somewhat better with on-chip PDAF), lacking in IQ and DOF control (except FF mirror less which currently has other shortcomings). The information overload in the EVF just distracts from the subject.
    Over time SLRs/DSLRs have proven themselves as extremely reliable, despite the mechanical construction.

  51. 99
    ) Rios
    December 22, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Thank you for writing this article! I am excited to see what the current mirrorless, DX and FX big manufacturers have in sorted. Who knows, maybe the smaller companies will make a rise. Either way, I will be happy if there are mirrorless D5xxx sized full frame cameras that are compatible with high end fast lenses.

  52. 100
    ) Flavio E.
    December 22, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Nasim, i’m sorry but it seems that your enthusiasm for EVF cameras is becoming into bias when writing this article, which, i’m afraid to say isn’t well researched and would be better with a little input from pro photographers who use both DSLR and EVF cameras. I will have to go point by point:

    1. Mirror slap: The Mirror slap problem was already solved in the late 60s and right then in 1981 the Canon F-1N had such a smooth mirror mechanism that it was the first pro SLR to come without mirror lock-up. Ask any pro photographer and he/she would tell you there are no issues with mirror slap unless you use a 500mm+ lens, in which case you would need a tripod anyways…

    2. “Movement of air”: Your analysis ignores the fact that the mirror is moving BEFORE the shutter opens, so the claim that more air is moved around the sensor (versus a EVF camera which also needs a shutter) is dubious.

    3. “Very Fast FPS Speed”: Do you really need more than 11 frames per second? Do you think even 5 frames per second is useful on the current EVF cameras if they aren’t able to accurately track a moving subject?

    4. Focus issues:
    a. Not everyone experiments focus accuracy issues.
    b. Individual lens calibration solves it, if present.
    c. You forget that practically all pro DSLR camers of today and most amateur DSLR cameras also offer Live view and contrast focusing while doing live view, so this is not an exclusive advantage of EVF cameras, as it is wrongly implied.

    5. “Weight and bulk”. You know, since the Olympus OM-1 of the early seventies, all the other pro-photographers strived to shrink down their pro cameras (example: Pentax LX), thinking that compactness and lightness was important above all. They were wrong. On the late 80s users and manufacturers realized that good ergonomics and high performance was what counted, and you can see the pro cameras being bigger than ever. As a pro who shoots and walks with a Mamiya RB67 when necessary, i can tell you that DSLR bulkness isn’t an issue at all…

    6. In low light situations, the EVF becomes almost useless, because the sensor needs to use low shutter speeds to provide the EVF video, and thus the EVF image does not track the action in real-time anymore.

    And here is the worst part of all:

    7. THERMAL NOISE — to reduce the thermal noise, you want to have the sensor turned OFF as much as possible, and only use it in the instant where you record the image. This goes precisely against what is needed for providing an EVF. So this means that comparatively, the same sensor on an EVF will suffer from more noise than on a DSLR camera. Of course, amateurs think it’s ok because they ignore that the algorithms that are making their cameras give very clean ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 images are actually wiping off all the luminance and chroma detail of the image…

    Mind you, some EVF cameras are great, particularly the Fuji ones which also have a great optical viewfinder (ahem, ahem), but to think that they are presently able to replace a current state-of -the-art DSLR for professional purposes is a bit off the mark. And once a EVF camera replaces a pro DSLR for all purposes, i will bet you it won’t be a small and light camera at all.

    • December 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Flavio,

      I will not try and respond to all those points you’ve mentioned, although I do have something to say on all the points. Instead, I’ll just ask you one question. You do realize that professional photographers are.. different. And their needs are different. Their requirements for a camera are different. Right? If you do, you should one vital sentence to your comment – all you said is valid for you, it does not mean it is valid for someone like me. For example, an EVF is useless in low light for fast-moving subjects – for sports photographers, for example. But for someone who photographs stationary subjects or, say, portraits, it is actually more useful than an OVF, because it allows you to see better in the dark. Not to mention that refresh speeds are getting higher. Mirror slap – for my macro work, when I use a 105mm macro lens, I use exposure delay, timer and a remote control to avoid vibrations at shutter speeds slower than 1/80s. Live view with DSLRs is more cumbersome to use than with mirrorless cameras and AF is not as fast. You see? What is good for you might not necessarily be good for me. Or someone else.

      • 124
        ) Patrick O'Connor
        February 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm

        Nasim’s article implies that mirrorless is the future for ALL photographers. You state that different photographers have different needs but the article Flavio is responding to doesn’t allow for that. Just as you would prefer a mirrorless for your reasons there are quite a few of us who would not like to switch. I see no reason why Nikon and Canon can’t continue the FF dSLR line in parallel with a new FF mirrorless line. After all, they still manufacture and sell new film SLRs…

        • February 13, 2014 at 10:08 pm

          Patrick, technology is moving at a very fast pace. While what we see today in the mirrorless world might not be feasible for you and many others, give it a few years and that EVF will be as good, if not better than OVF, particularly when shooting in low light conditions. When speed picks up and manufacturers figure out the way to make contrast+phase detection work as fast as phase detection we see on a DSLR, we will see a global shift of the consumer market. And don’t worry, for folks like you that need the ergonomics of a DSLR and want a larger grip, I am sure manufacturers will offer that option. In fact, when Nikon goes mirrorless (and there are rumors that the next Nikon D2300 will be a mirrorless camera), they will have to keep the same flange distance to keep lenses working. So if the flange distance stays the same, the size of cameras won’t change all that much! So I do not think you should feel threatened by the “small” factor of mirrorless cameras. Imagine a Nikon D800-like camera body, but without a mirror mechanism and hundred of parts that go into it. No secondary mirror, no potential for phase detection issues and lens calibration nightmares. It seriously simplifies the whole process. Check out Roger Cicala’s article where his team disassembled the Sony A7R. The number of screws and components within that camera is impressively low, which makes it super easy and cheap to manufacture that camera. Not only that, but it also significantly simplifies support. When a shutter mechanism is broken on a DSLR, it is often easier to just replace the whole DSLR rather than to try to rebuild it. Too many parts and too much work!

          So the way I see the future, is that we will get to the point where EVF will be clearly superior to OVF and manufacturers will start removing mirrors from cameras. If Nikon is successful with their mirrorless SLR-like camera, they will push that into the higher end cameras fairly soon.

          • 127
            ) Patrick O'Connor
            February 14, 2014 at 1:12 am

            You assume too much. My objection to using mirrorless cameras has nothing to do with the quality of EVFs compared to OVFs or body size. It is similar to the reason some photographers didn’t switch to digital. I won’t bother to explain in detail because you probably wouldn’t understand and, even if you did, you wouldn’t agree. There’s nothing wrong with that.

            • February 14, 2014 at 4:36 am

              Patrick, forgive me if I made my post sound too arrogant or if I assumed too much about what you were trying to say – it was certainly not my intent, just wanted to keep the conversation healthy.

              I understand where you are coming from in regards to people that did not want to switch from film to digital. However, when you look at the market as a whole, you can see that most people out there shoot digital. Those who resisted and stayed with film are a very small niche and their options are shrinking every day, with labs closing down and companies discontinuing their films. And yet the film market still stands, despite the fact that there is practically no new film cameras being released today. In the same way, when I talk about mirrorless technology, I do not mean that it will completely make the DSLR market disappear. DSLRs will probably stay for a very long time, similar to film. I think we will see a shift in the way cameras are made and advanced EVFs will make mirrorless cameras look very attractive compared to DSLRs. Once that technology takes off, I do not see many companies investing a lot of their R&D into making DSLR cameras better. In fact, as of today, most companies are already just releasing mirrorless cameras and staying away from DSLRs: Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji and Sony to name a few…

            • 129
              ) Patrick O'Connor
              February 14, 2014 at 5:05 am

              The fortunate thing for me is, at my age, I probably won’t have to deal with the future you paint for too long.

  53. 102
    ) Cee Cee
    December 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Does anyone have an opinion on the Fuji Film X-MI with the XC 16-50mm lens package. We were thinking of buying this camera as it is a good price @ $649.00 in Canada. The reviews we have read a good but not strong one way or the other. We are coming from a point and shot camera and not experienced with the the SLR’s. Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • 103
      ) Johnny
      December 27, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      I have been looking at all the different mirrorless and have purchased an Olympus PL-5 to see if this would be a good move for me. The price at $499 for the body, flash, 2 lenses and a bag was to good to pass up.
      I feel better know after watching this review http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LqTb4UtH1s

  54. January 6, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Can I translate and use the images to my website and the Fotografia-DG?

    http://www.almaia.com.br
    http://www.fotografia-dg.com

  55. 105
    ) Erika
    January 6, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I just read your article and find it reassuring. I have been having major buyers remorse. A couple weeks ago I was in the market for a new camera. I know very little about photography now, but intend to take some classes to learn the basics. The need came because I have two hyper toddlers and was getting blurry and low image quality shots on my point and shoot. I love the beautiful photojournalistic type shots with the subject up close and blurred background and would love be able to take these of my toddlers. I had narrowed it down to a Nikon 5200 and Sony Nex5T. I finally decided on the NEX and then bought a 35 mm/1.8 lens for it. Then when I tried to enroll in photography classes I was turned away because I didn’t have an SLR with the instructors saying that the class is not intended for people with ‘point and shoots’. And hobbyist photographers I spoke with told me my camera would never take as good photos as an SLR. So now I am out $1k and feeling like I may have made the wrong decision. How would you respond to their comments about my NEX not being able to stand up to a DSLR in terms of image quality and capabilities?

    -Sad (but hopeful) mirrorless owner

    • January 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      HI Erika.
      That is unfortunate. Id recommend -find a new teacher. As that camera does not have a viewfinder or the traditional layout of buttons it would be difficult to teach/learn on vs a dslr camera setup. I teach lessons myself and understand that most higher end cameras have a button layout for quick and smooth operation without the need to dig into menus. In any case one can be taught how to shoot in manual or semi manual mode on anything. A one on one class might work best for you. Don’t be discouraged and try a different class or instructor.

  56. 106
    ) Keith S.
    January 13, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Hi everyone,

    I am new at this so please bare with this question, I have a very specific reason for asking. Does anyone know of a Camera (DSLR) that I can use a long range remote to trigger both stills and turning on/off video? Also is it possible to have remotely operated zoom?

    Thanks
    Keith

  57. 111
    ) Rama
    January 29, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I am suprised that for the cons of a missorless system you did not mention weatherproofing and ruggedness. Maybe they are more rugged now but I still would assume they don’t match the top cameras from canon and nikon(referring to the 1DX and the D4) . Have they gotten better in this regard for those of us that do shoot in the muck so to speak.

  58. 112
    ) Johnny Boyd
    January 30, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    The Lumix GH3, Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Fuji X-T1 are all fully weather sealed and Olympus, Lumix and Fuji offer weather sealed lenses to go with these cameras for a weather sealed experience..

  59. January 31, 2014 at 12:54 am

    You mention in your article that assembling the mirror mechanism costs a lot of money, but who says so? The mirror technology is a very well proven technology (already in use for 60 years). In the latest, 2013, camera sales in Japan it shows that dSLR cameras create much greater revenue than mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless is still full in development and sales are still lower than expected. Especially in the lower price segment consumers don’t seem prepared to pay the extra money for a mirrorless camera and buy a D3300 or Canon 650D instead. Therefore also the Credit Suisse analyses that only Canon, Nikon and Sony might prevail since they have dSLR’s in their line up.

  60. 115
    ) Tankerman
    January 31, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I have only just found this article and I found it very relevant as I have just purchased a X-E1 + 18-55 zoom for use as a second camera.. It was on offer at a very good price and as I had a Fuji S5 when it was first introduced, the OOC jpegs were an attraction with the X-E1.
    The one thing that Fuji, and the other upper end mirrorless manufacturers, need to do before they are going to make serious inroads into the professional portrait/wedding market, is to equip their cameras with TTL flash systems that are the equal of Canon and Nikon.

    I have a D700, to which Nikon have never produced a successor, and if the new Fuji X-T1 had a flash system like Nikon CLS I would already have pre-ordered it and be preparing to sell the D700 and my Nikon lenses.

  61. 116
    ) Paul Digney
    February 1, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Weight, weight and weight; it’s all about the weight.
    I added up the naked weight of most of the Nikon lenses I use and added in a D7100 bare body. Then picked comparative lenses for the Fuji. The nikons are all full frame (the DX lenses aren’t any good) so that bias’ it a bit (ok a lot ).
    I get Fuji about 2.4 kgs and the nikon about 4.6 kgs. Pretty close to double. The grams per megapixel number is much closer :) and joking aside, meaningful to me.
    Lenses: Nikor 14-24, 24-70, 70-300, 85mm 1.8g, 50mm1.8g, 105 macro
    Fuji 10-24 F4,18-55, 50-230, 56mm 1.2, 60mm f2.4.

  62. February 1, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Great camera. Very live like pictures. I`m about to get one soon, already have D600 but would like something pocket size like for everyday, and The Fuji seems like the right choice for me. Low light performance is also awesome. Probably not as my Nikon but the mobility and size is a factor.

  63. 119
    ) DeepFry
    February 6, 2014 at 11:57 am

    If mirrorless cameras are less complex and less expensive to build and maintain than DSLRs, why are mirrorless bodies so much more expensive than most common non-professional level DSLR bodies? I have been using Sony SLT and it has already got rid of a lot of the limitations from traditional DSLRs. I somehow thought that mirrorless cameras must have superior optical quality / features and that’s what makes them so expensive but if it is just because it is smaller then personally I can hardly justify paying so much more for it. If one argues that it is more expensive to pack the same features and capabilities into a smaller body then doesn’t that just contradict the argument saying a DSLR is more expensive to build? A mirrorless camera with a bright zoom lens can hardly be called compact and the weight of such lens is not exactly light either. Right now I’m trying to find a compelling reason to move on to mirrorless, so help me if you can LOL

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      DeepFry, the reason for this is relatively high “intro” cost and high R&D costs. Mirrorless cameras are much cheaper to produce than DSLRs – just give it some time and you will see mirrorless prices come down significantly. In fact, they already have!

  64. 122
    ) Allie
    February 11, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    This was really helpful article, mirrorless is definitely something good to know about as I look into buying a camera.

    My husband and I are looking to get a camera and are having a hard time deciding which route to take. Neither of us are photographers but we have invested some time into learning some of the basics and would like something nicer than just our phones to take for vacations and other trips (we’re going to the california coast in a few months, and then out to minnesota and brazil shortly after that.) I love the flexibility that a DSLR allows, but my husband hates how bulky they are, and carrying them around draws attention to yourself and is rather inconvenient while traveling. It seems like mirrorless might be the answer, but what would you recommend? Any mirrorless cameras you think might be good for a couple of beginners? Or would you not even recommend mirrorless? I’d love to hear any feedback you have, thanks!

  65. 123
    ) Johnny
    February 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Allie,

    I am selling my Nikon D600 (full frame) AND my 24-70 and 70-200 2.8 lenses and will be buying an Olympus M1 but am still 5% chance of buying the Fuji XT-1.

    Why?

    Image quality is there but the main reason is 5 lenses, battery charger, 3- batteries, two flashes and the M1 weigh in at apx.6.25 lbs.

  66. 130
    ) Rick Keller
    March 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Nasim, please do not forget that Nikon has a fourth format and thus a third mount: the S-mount for its range finder system, of which the S3 is wonderful camera. The S3 would be a very nice addition to your reviews. :-)

  67. 131
    ) Jim Mossman
    March 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Pretty cheesy that the Fuji X-T1 comes WITHOUT a USB cable for transferring photos to your computer. Manual says it is available from a third-party supplier, but doesn’t give the specs for it.

  68. 133
    ) Karl Johan Borgis
    March 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    For the moment I use a Nikon D700 when I need the best file quality available to me and a Nikon V1 when I expect light to be good and low weight is important.
    I have a number of Olympus excellent single focal length lenses among them the superb 75mm lens. For the moment I refrain from using the system due to shutter shock issues with my Pen E P-5 which make results utterly unpredictable with normal shutter speeds. Trying to solve this by setting a shutter delay is pointless with moving subjects- the train has left the station when the camera decides to take the image.
    Several mirrorless cameras are reported to have this problem, I find it strange this was not mentioned above. Until this issue is resolved I find the mirrorless concept partly flawed.

  69. 134
    ) kekubik
    March 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Can you help me understand the new Nikon 1v3 versus other DSLRs such as the Canon Rebel T3i. I am just starting out and have been given plenty of pointers and advice but I am still confused which would be best. The types of photos I want are those that can capture something mid-air, or focus close on one thing and blur the background, etc. I want to be able to really creative photos, not just a high quality digital photo. Can the mirrorless cameras really do this type of work?

    Obviously there is a huge price difference between these two cameras. I wonder if the Nikon 1v3 solves some of the issues you posed earlier, in terms of autofocus, or sensor.

    Any advice would help. Thank you!

  70. 135
    ) DickM
    March 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Nasim,

    It seems to me that as sensor sensitivity keeps getting better and better, we will wind up in a place where only the most discriminating photographers will be able to see any difference between FX, DX, and even 4/3 camera image quality (add smartphones to that after some longer period). The only place for FX to go will be more and more pixels.

    Is there some metric (other than number of pixels and depth of field) that will make FX sensors relevant for most photographers in 5 to 10 years?

    • 137
      ) David Ahn
      March 27, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Sorry my initial reply was not posted in-line with this comment. To restate, the final frontier will be dynamic range, currently at 14.4 EVs, the human eye is at about 24 EVs (when evaluating a scene, such as being able to see the dark rocks and the setting sun simultaneously, or a whole room normally exposed while simultaneously seeing a noontime scene outside a window). This can be solved with better firmware using existing sensors, but to my knowledge no one is doing that.

      Also, true optical resolution will be a factor that limits the continued shrinking sensor size.

  71. 136
    ) David Ahn
    March 27, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I think the final frontier will be dynamic range, as sensors get closer to the human visual system.

  72. 139
    ) J p Singh
    May 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Is Sony A58 a mirror less system? How does it compare with nikon 3200 or 3100

  73. 145
    ) Dinesh J
    May 24, 2014 at 2:11 am

    No need for apologies, because You have given many technical details about cameras and mainly about Pros cons, but for a beginner it is somewhat difficult to some technical concepts. I need to buy a mirror less camera for self use, because photography is hobby. I like participate some photo contexts. Help me in giving some camera suggestions on it.

    My email id : jddineshjdeee@gmail.com

  74. 146
    ) Johnny
    May 24, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I shoot a D600 and can highly recommend an Olympus E-PL5. http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/digitalcameras/e-pl5.html

    You can pickup the body and lens at B&H for $599 USD.

    Here is a link to my E-PL5 gallery http://johnny.smugmug.com/Nature/Wildflowers-2014/38159812_SR8THV

  75. 152
    ) avid Martin
    June 20, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Your argument is very partial and it is sickening to me as a photographer and a student of the field. I refused to jump on the digital bandwagon and continue to use it as minimal as possible. I am still a photographer that feels the art is in previsualization and the darkroom. So, I still use my darkroom with 3 enlargers and that won’t change unless film is completely phased out. This continuous “advancement” on technology, especially with photography, is a movement that needs to slow down or end. It took quite a while to get the darkroom perfected and now you want to completely change my field? I’ll stick with tradition and what I learned from and about the greats at my photography school. I’m sorry but the Master’s of Photography would completely disagree with you and I doubt Ansel Adam’s would get the results he was looking for with today’s technology as it’s more about technology than actual skill anymore. So, I’ll stick to tradition and ask that you technology geeks keep all options as they are all art forms. Progressive is one thing but don’t kill the art of the past. It’s nice to have an alternative but don’t completely remove the past art forms. I will stick with all my dSLR’s and continue to use them until the day they die. If my passion does get phased out, I’ll use basic cameras for references for my paintings as I don’t need to worry about that technology phasing out in the near future. Hopefully, I’ll be dead before I can no longer get a dSLR but I don’t see that happening. So, I’ll just keep using my art skills to impress myself and my fears since all you technology geeks need technology to do it for you. I dare you to try and match my skills in art as I doubt it is even possible for one of you tech douche’s to go into you actual artistic intellectual side and create something!

  76. 153
    ) juju
    June 22, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Nassim,
    I just started reading your photography tips for beginners and found it very informative, concise and useful. I’m upgrading from point and shoot to practice the 3 pillars of photography. For a beginner, which would make a better camera – M43 or DLSRs. For DLSRs, I’m looking at Nikon D3300. What would be a good M43 camera for a beginner? l Iean towards landscape, street and macro photography.My primary concerns on DLSR would be the weight, size and bulk since I’m a mum who travels with a kid.

  77. 154
    ) Kim
    July 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I’m new to all of this and trying to figure out what is the best camera for me. I was looking at the Nikon D5300 and now wondering if I should perhaps go with the Nikon J4 or another mirrorless camera … Right now I’m just an amateur photographer who mostly takes photos of landscape and architectural buildings; but, will be taking photos for church events in the future… do you have any suggestions and/or recommendations on the best cameras out on the market at this time under $1000? Thank you.

  78. 155
    ) CC
    July 16, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Although a lot of good points were mentioned, there are some mistakes and not mentioned things.
    First of all shorter focal distance would make smaller only wide lenses. All telephoto would remain the same. Actually it would be very easy to redesign current portrait and tele lenses for mirrorless – just the mount would change including focal distance compensation.
    Then – short focal distance in correlation with sensor technology causes serious problems for wide lenses. Guys, who use rangefinder lenses on Sony A7(r) already noticed hard vignetting and colour shifts in the periphery of the frame, which was not present on film.
    For the idea of keeping F mount, but getting rid of the mirror – Pentax did this in K-01. Total failure.

  79. 156
    ) Leland Chen
    July 16, 2014 at 11:24 am

    For the APS-C size sensor, Sony NEX A6000 pretty much can kill all DSLRs.
    It’s much lighter, faster and can come out better quality pictures. It only costs $800 with kits lens.

    For the full frame size sensor Sony A7 series is the first generation. It will take some time to be more capable to compete with D800/D810 and 5DM3. However, I do agree eventually it will be there after a couple of iterations.

    Nikon and Canon now did not put big efforts on the mirrorless cameras. They will eventually pay to price for this(by losing more market shares). Just look at B&H sales activities. Sony A6000 is often out of stock for the black color. It is stealing market shares from DSLRs with APS-C sensor in a big way.

    Nikon and Canon try to ignore the mirrorless market. Eventually, the market will ignore them.

  80. 158
    ) JonVon
    August 3, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    People have been slapping each other with (very light) handbags for years now with the mirrorless versus DSLR arguments. I think that the weight of a DSLR is actually nice to balance quality lenses. The sound of the shutter is one sound I love (and so has any compact or mirrorless camera users who have picked up my DSLR).

    Here are my thoughts… only my thoughts…

    I have both mirrorless and premium compact cameras. I use them for some travel work and non working events, but mainly carry them along with a DSLR. The list of mirrorless “advantages” in the above article have me scratching my head as to why on earth someone who is that easily put off would want a career in photography.

    1. Size and bulk? No problem for many generations of photographers… DSLR’s are small in comparison to older formats. I go with quality and feel, not spec measurements. For work I use the DSLR and I enjoy the way it handles – size has a lot to do with that.

    2. Weight? I have no difficulty in lifting and carrying a DSLR with a lens. A bag with a few lenses poses no problems. Maybe, less time in the gym to rebuild muscle, and more time doing something with a bit of weight, would lead to more healthier and happier photographers ;-)

    3. Mirror Slap? Not a problem at all with the new Nikon D810. There is something about the sound of a traditional DSLR that makes the electronic shutter brigade swoon when they hear it ;-) I predict that some manufacturer will add a fake mirror sound as a menu feature to their mirrorless camera – some smartphone apps do.

    4. Movement of Air? Good luck with preventing air movement in any camera with interchangeable lenses. I have both DSLR and mirrorless, and I have to clean the DSLR much less often than the mirrorless.

    5. Frame Speed Limitation? 10 or 12 fps shutter speed is enough for me and anyone I know. I must admit, I don’t know anyone working on particle accelerators, but they probably don’t use off the shelf mirrorless cameras to freeze electrons :)

    6. Expensive to Build and Support? Like anything of top quality. One paid job pays for a new top end DSLR. If you can’t afford one, you may not be looking at the right end of the market.

    7. No Live Preview? My new Nikon D810 has perfectly good LV (live view) functionality.

    8. Secondary Mirror and Phase Detection Accuracy? I’ve owned and used lots of DSLR cameras over the years and never had that as an issue. But then again, I buy quality. Every camera, including mirrorless systems, have a potential for some critical electronic or other issue. Let’s be fair.

    9. Phase Detection and Lens Calibration Issues? You can get your lens calibrated if they aren’t to your exact specifications. The sharpness of my DSLR setup would match or beat that of the latest mirrorless systems I have used for far anyway. Just saying.

    10. Electronic Viewfinder? No thanks, not if I can get away without it. It’s not that I don’t think that tiny little screen is cute, it’s just that I prefer the optical viewfinder. I get all the information I need in the viewfinder, running along the bottom. I’m one of the old school photographers who want to see the scene I am shooting more than any fighter jet-style HUD display. Sure you can probably browse the web on future Electronic Viewfinders, but I’ll still be looking at what I’m shooting.

    11. Digital Zoom? I have it on the display of the D810. I’d be more comfortable looking at it there than the the EVF. But if it is such a big deal, any manufacturer could add an optional EVF to a DSLR in the future. Mirrorless systems add stick on EVF’s, don’t they? I don’t see too much demand at present for it though.

    12. Eye Damage? Erm… bottom of a small barrel right there… You don’t need a camera to damage your eyesight looking at the sun. Just don’t look at the sun.

    Now, to end… I have both systems. Sometimes a list of differences doesn’t make up a compelling list of advantages. Mirrorless is an exciting new technology that I am looking forward to see evolve. I’ll be buying new mirrorless systems soon no doubt but, judging by the underwhelming sales figures for mirrorless in 2012/2013, I’m sure I won’t be the last person to see merit in the DSLR too.

  81. 159
    ) Kathy
    September 5, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for the wealth of information. I am a mom of 4 very active kids and am trying to decide where to go after the point and shoot cameras. I am really a louse photographer but am willing to study. As I was researching and different options, I was reviewing mostly DSLR cameras. But I came across article about the mirror less cameras. I saw a review of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and was so excited until I learned this type of camera is not good for fast shooting like that required in kid sports. Are there any non DSLR cameras you would recommend? Thanks!

  82. 160
    ) Johnny
    September 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Kathy,

    Curious as to where you saw this review?

    I suggest you watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up8K_xd_iwU

  83. 161
    ) julie obrien
    September 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Nasim,
    I have always bookmarked your website as a resource for the most helpful and thoughtful photography advice. I do have a question for you. I have an old Carl Zeiss Rolle mount 85 1.4 HFT lens that I am excited to use. I shoot with a D4 and a backup D600. I have purchased the fotodiox adapter for the nikon mount and awaiting its arrival.I had thought about purchasing a mirrorless camera so that I could use this lens but the salesman told me that the mirrorless camera would make my 85 1.4 a 125 mm lens with loss of 1 stop.
    Does this sound accurate to you? I really want to use this lens in its full glory!

    Thanks,
    Julie

  84. 164
    ) mss
    October 26, 2014 at 5:42 am

    I have a question. I heard that the DSLR lenses have a limited no. of shots. For instance, if a lens is exposed for 1000 shots, from the 1001th shot, the lens is said to perform little poorer (in terms of crispness of image, image quality, etc). Is this true ??
    I want to buy a DSLR (I am tired of using mirrorless) and the above point is really troubling? Can you pl. clarify??

    By the way, a very nice informative article.

  85. 165
    ) Preyas Gursal
    October 31, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Thanks for the brief information . I’m planning to buy DSLR or mirrorless camera . My budget is 40k (Indian rupees ) I’m aware of canon eos 1100 D is there any better camera (mirroless or dslr) in canon or nikon ? Which should be my first preference?

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