photography and cameras Gadgets

Are mirrorless cameras ahead of the game?

A small-bodied mirrorless camera with a lens and filter

A small-bodied mirrorless camera with a lens and filter  

The world is falling in love with mirrorless cameras for their on-the-go portability and increasingly superior shooting quality. So what’s the big deal with these little gadgets?

Why does a photograph clicked with a camera and a massive lens look deeper than the one clicked with a small cellphone? The difference is in the innards of a camera. To put it simply, all photography is about light. Rather, about the quantum of light entering the camera. See the cellphone and its small lens? See the bigger camera and the bazooka lens? The difference in the quality of the photograph becomes easy to understand.

A few tech blokes thought they could solve this problem by matchmaking a bigger lens with a smaller and smarter camera. They just removed the big mirror from the clunky camera, shrunk it and called it a mirrorless camera. A definition of a camera of what it isn’t. So is the mirrorless camera the perfect marriage of a big lens with a smaller device to process the light, or is the term mirrorless camera an oxymoron?

Right? Wrong? Think again.

‘Intuitive operations’

While this year’s edition of the Consumer Electronics Show didn’t unveil any mirrorless cameras outside a prototype stage, there’s an evergreen quality that hints these guys have a grip on the market. And when you’re scrolling through the enviable feeds of Instagram accounts such as A Game Of Tones, most of the eye-catching content was born out of a mirrorless camera and a great eye.

Fujifilm X-T20

Fujifilm X-T20  

Holding a Fujifilm X-T20 is pure joy. It is a mirrorless camera with three dials on the top and a few scrolling buttons on the front and rear of the camera. The control dials give a tactile satisfaction that cannot be matched by the touchscreen or scrolling buttons, the barrel of the lens has the aperture control. Then there is a flip-up screen that shows the exact image that will be recorded if you don’t want to peer through the viewfinder. It reminded me of the old Made-in-Russia Zenit camera which had similar buttons and a similarly intuitive operation. Now, what can go wrong with such a camera?

‘The camera is small but the lens is big’, ‘The camera has no grip’, ‘I have to squint to see the image before clicking’, ‘There is no space for my thumb’, and a host of other similar complaints pop up.

Performance versus ergonomics is a no-brainer of a debate. Who wants to choose ergonomics over performance? But when it comes to cameras and lenses, ergonomics get a big play. Reading the gripes about the grip, balance and dials may be derisively dismissed. But when you realise that a professional photographer grips the camera, balances it and twiddles with the dials at the same time for a few hours during a single shoot, the debate over performance and ergonomics doesn’t appear so lame.

The Canon 5D Mark IV

The Canon 5D Mark IV  

Hold the Canon 5D Mark IV and you feel as if you are holding a real weapon. The grip appears as natural as if it were a 3-D print of your palm. Take the camera to your eye and the image is clear. All you now need to get the perfect photograph is to fiddle with a dozen buttons to get the settings right. Hallelujah. You have arrived.

So, is there a clear winner between the mirrorless and DSLR camera? No, but there are clear choices.

The mirrorless camera can perform some amazing feats. It is a perfect example of ‘what you see is what you get’. It is more playful. The video recording capabilities, colour rendering, desaturation modes and the ease of operations makes it a winning proposition.

Are mirrorless cameras ahead of the game?

In the DSLR on the other hand, the image looks perfect, but before clicking, the photographer has to squint and see the numbers on the + and – side before pressing the shutter, then check the metering mode, then the white balance and a host of other control features. All these are nifty touches to full control of the image. And you can click an image that you visualise, not just see through the eyepiece. You visualise a starburst of the sun, you can click it. The same cannot be said of the mirrorless cameras, though their performance is improving at a rapid pace.

As someone who has to lug a camera around for reporting assignments, climb hills and trek, the choice is still difficult: Do I carry around a 3-kilo dumbbell that gives me full control or do I carry a small weapon that might not quite hit the mark? It’s a tough choice for a pro.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 8:28:46 PM |

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