When I started using mirrorless cameras during my classes and workshops I assumed that the new generation of mirrorless cameras would appeal to newer photographers. I thought that folks with no big investment in lenses or accessories would jump at the chance to use gear that makes great images with less weight and bulk. I figured that experienced photographers with big DSLR systems would be much more resistant to switch to a different system.
So far my students have proven me completely wrong.
From my experience, beginning photographers and many advanced amateurs figure that having the “best” equipment will help them make great photos. This (naturally) means that one must strive to achieve a “full-frame” camera. As an added bonus, they will look like they know what they are doing and let their friends know that they are serious about their photography. Unfortunately most of the search for the “best” camera or system tends to happen on the internet, where you could read fifty “reviews” of the latest camera or lens and hear fifty different opinions about the equipment.
My students who have adopted mirrorless cameras the fastest have been my most experienced clients. These folks have been lugging around tons of heavy cameras and lenses for years because they knew that they needed that gear to make the best quality photos. They are not willing to sacrifice image quality for convenience. They do not invest in a new camera system on a whim. They want to SHOOT the cameras and lenses. They want to see the files for themselves, not just read about them online.
When these photographers see that they can make the same photos with a mirrorless system that they can with their big DSLR’s, they’re all too happy to get rid of the bulk! I’ve seen several students (along with me personally) sell thousands of dollars worth of CaNikon bodies and lenses in favor of (mostly) Micro Four Thirds setups. They have the experience to see the benefits of smaller equipment that can produce beautiful images, and they are way beyond the desire to “look like a professional”. Their images do the talking.
I’m not saying that YOU shouldn’t buy a DSLR. I’m suggesting that you TRY a few of the alternatives before you buy into a system. Don’t take the internet’s word for it. When I try a new camera, I take it out and shoot what I normally shoot. I don’t baby it or change the way I shoot to accommodate a small body, different sensor, etc. If I look at the images and they meet my image quality standards, I’m stoked. I honestly don’t care how it compares to another camera, as long as it does the job I need it to do.
If you want to stay hung up on sensor size, be my guest. Me and a LOT of other experienced photographers will be out shooting our “small sensor” cameras. We’ll be making quality photos, having a great time and carrying a lot less weight!
One more thing: you don’t have to “go mirrorless”. Yeah, that’s right… you could actually keep your DSLR AND get a mirrorless camera. Just try it out and hang on to your DSLR for your “real photography” or for those times when you “need a full-frame”. Maybe you’ll find, as I did, that the DSLR hardly leaves the bag. Then maybe it will be time for you to “go mirrorless” too!
I still get a lot of question in photo groups about why I switch. A year ago it was mostly “how could you do that” and now it is more “can I see that camera?”. I see a change in a lot of people’s attitudes. As for me, I am just happy to be carrying my camera every day without breaking my back!
Rob – As a long time amateur I recently fell into the mirrorless abyss. It was an attempt to get better results than a Panasonic Super zoom was giving me. I do get significantly better results. The G5 or GX1 both are nearly the equivalent of my old EOS 7D even without premium lens. I have since replaced the G5 with a GH3. I can carry these cameras for a long time without difficulty but I do miss the full range of lenses that the DSLRs provide. Also still lacking is the accessories that scaled to the mirrorless size. For instance the Cotton Carrier is a fine system. It provides a stable way to carry a camera but the hub is bigger than necessary for most mirrorless cameras. Same for a lot of the tripod quick release systems.
In closing I’m staring at my EOS 5 mark III and wondering if I really need that much camera. It is a fine camera and with the range of lenses and accessories I have for it there isn’t much I can’t do. But, good grief what a tank!
Thanks for the comment, Rich.
What lenses do you think are missing from the Micro Four Thirds system? Other than fast telephoto lenses, there are excellent options for everything else I can think of. Some tripod plates are a bit oversized, but there are some good options. Really Right Stuff makes great L-brackets for several MFT cameras, and the QR plates from my Gitzo head are not too big for my LUMIX GH3 and GX7.