Camera technology is a constantly shifting arena, with new products appearing on a weekly basis. It’s almost a given for professional photographers that the minute they purchase a new DSLR, it will be obsolete. As photographers, it’s important to keep up with the latest technology so we have the right tools for the job. For most of us, pro cameras have meant using Canon or Nikon DSLRs — until now.

Meet the mirrorless camera

One of the most popular and exciting new forms of technology is the mirrorless camera. But what exactly does mirrorless mean? Essentially, the images are captured directly onto the image sensor, without using the traditional mirrors of DSLRs. Sounds like a great idea, and it is, but the drawback is that you can only preview your shots on the LCD screen or through an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This can be hard to see in low light and currently produces somewhat grainy and noisy results. But, as with all digital technology, the products are improving all the time. Manufacturers are producing some serious mirrorless alternatives to the traditional DSLR. Fuji, which already has the impressive X-Pro1 is now producing the X-T1 — an APS-C style mirrorless camera. Sony is also getting in on the game with its Alpha a7 range, which is full-frame.

Sony Alpha 6000 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with Carl Zeiss zoom lens. Photo: Axel Bueckert / Shutterstock.com

Mirrorless pros and cons

There are plenty of reasons to love the mirrorless approach. These cameras offer the same resolutions as many top DSLRs, but are more compact and lightweight. Both the Fuji X-T1 and the Sony a7 weigh half as much as a Canon 5D, for example. For some photographers, weight can be a real issue, and these cameras offer the ideal solution. They still have all the features needed and are sizable enough to give a good impression to clients (yes, clients do notice the size of cameras). And there are now plenty of really good lenses available, too — particularly for the Fuji X system.

Another really fantastic feature of the Fuji cameras is that they have presets that allow you to recreate the look of old Fuji slide films such as Velvia, Provia, and Astia. This is a great little function and something that’s bound to appeal to old-school photographers.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera. Photo: jethuynh / Shutterstock.com

There are, however, still a few drawbacks to mirrorless cameras. The EVFs offer the same viewpoint as a traditional DSLR viewfinder, but the quality isn’t quite there yet. This also causes some issues with focusing. The mirrorless cameras just aren’t as quick to focus as a DSLR, and for many photographers, this is a crucial issue. And while there are some great lenses available, there just aren’t nearly as many options as with a Canon or Nikon camera. Considering that these two manufacturers have been around since the days of film, however, this isn’t really a big surprise.

So is the future mirrorless?

There’s no doubt that mirrorless technology will continue to improve over time. These cameras are already the alternative of choice for many photographers, and their popularity is bound to grow as new features are added. As with all cameras, it’s a very personal decision whether to commit to a mirrorless model over the traditional DSLR. With full-frame options and decent lenses available, the mirrorless choice is now viable for many pros. But for others, these cameras just aren’t quite there yet.

Closeup of APS-C image sensor in mirrorless camera. Photo: JIPEN

That being said, what mirrorless offers is very appealing. And most photographers would be delighted to have something like the Fuji X-Pro in their bag to play around with and use when weight is a consideration. If the slower focusing speeds and the EVF can be improved, it’s likely we’ll see more and more people heading toward mirrorless — even if, for now, DSLRs still rein supreme.

Top image: Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Digital Camera. Photo: science photo / Shutterstock.com