What is Mirrorless System Cameras and What are Their Pros and Cons?

What is Mirrorless System Cameras and What are Their Pros and Cons?

Are you dreaming about obtaining a profession of a photographer or just love capturing memorable moments? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you are probably now searching for a camera that would help you make outstanding shots. In this case, you have come to the right place! The modern market is full of various options. Thus, it is easy to get lost in a huge variety of choices. How cameras differ? Which model to choose? This article will shed some light on this matter!

Mirrorless Cameras: How They Appeared And Why They Are Taking Over The Market?

Without a doubt, mirrorless analogs to popular DSLRs became a new word in the world of photography. Only a few years ago, any professional, who has made a career in the field of photography, would recommend picking an SLR camera for creating top-notch shots. However, everything has changed. Nowadays, small and lightweight mirrorless cameras seem to be taking over the market. They replace old bulky models, meanwhile providing better performance.

SLR cameras annually lose about 20−30% of the market. Experts predict that the global ratio of SLR and mirrorless models will soon be 50/50. Both in the amateur and professional segment, mirror technologies are gradually becoming outdated, and mirrorless cameras are rushing to replace them. Although new models tend to cope with a wide range of tasks, they are still not suitable for a few areas of photography. For example, aerial photography would still require having an SLR camera. But taking into account the rapid development of mirrorless technology, we can expect that soon they will be capable of handling even the most complex tasks.

What Are Mirrorless System Cameras?

Before we can go on and define what are the benefits of mirrorless cameras, let’s try to define what are those. In brief, what we now call a mirrorless camera is a system camera, in which sighting occurs with the help of a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Such cameras come without complex optical mirror-focusing mechanism. Therefore, they weight less and come with smaller dimensions. Besides, what makes them stand out among a wide range of options is that they are almost completely silent during shooting.

What else should you know? One thing worth mentioning is that not all models that are small and come without a mirror can be called mirrorless. Unlike other compact models, small mirrorless cameras have removable optics. This means that (as in the case with the SLR) you can choose the lens that fits your current needs and change to another at any time. In addition, devices from this class are equipped with more powerful matrices, which means they have higher sensor sensitivity and deliver better quality of shots compared to compact models.

How Do Mirrorless Cameras Work?

To figure out how it works, let’s compare it to SLR cameras.

In the case with SLR models, the light passes through the lens into the object-glass and falls on the mirror, which initially covers the matrix. Then the rays pass through the focusing matte glass and fall into the pentaprism – at this moment, the image is turned by 90 degrees. When you press the button, the shutter is released, and the mirror rises. The luminous flux changes direction and hits the surface of the matrix. At the end, of the image is read, processed and displayed on the screen.

The operating principle of cameras from the mirrorless category is different and way simpler. The light flux immediately falls on the matrix. The processor reads this signal, the image is instantly processed by the processor and shown on the display. The update rate reaches 100 frames per second. In addition, unlike the SLR, you can see the image as it will turn out, even before the shutter button is pressed.

How Are Mirrorless Cameras Different From SLR?

As was said earlier, such cameras came to give consumers a high-quality and worthy alternative to bulky and expensive DSLRs. But how are they different? One of the main distinctive features is in the construction. A mirrorless camera comes without the system of mirrors and pentaprisms, and, instead of the optical viewfinder, it uses an electronic one.

As was already mentioned above, mirrorless models are more silent in the process of shooting and it is one of their biggest advantages. If you have ever used an SLR camera, you should know about one of its most obvious disadvantages – the vibration and noise it makes when you take a shot. This can be explained by the mechanism of its work. The mirror and shutter move when you take a picture and make noise. Mirrorless cameras, on the contrary, are silent because they don’t include those moving mechanical parts.

Not so long ago, mirrorless cameras featured a smaller matrix of the Micro 4/3 or APS-C format. This was considered a disadvantage. However, a few years ago, the world saw the first full frame mirrorless cameras. They came with a sensor size of about 24 × 36 mm. Larger matrix format ensured improved detail, reduced noise, and has significantly extended dynamic range.

Technical Specs Of Compact Mirrorless Cameras

We have already outlined what the mirrorless camera really is. Now, let’s take a closer look at the details and see what characteristics are inherent in cameras of this class.

The matrix or sensor is the focal point of any digital camera. This is a microcircuit that consists of photodiodes and, in simple terms, turns the light flux into electrical signals. The more intense the light, the greater the tension. Once the signal is sent, the analog-to-digital converter turns it into digital data. In other words, the matrix is ​​the part of the camera that is responsible for creating the image. Its properties determine the potential of the camera as a whole.

The matrix has many parameters, but the main one is the physical quantity. It determines the signal-to-noise ratio, width of dynamic range, color depth, and other important characteristics. The larger the matrix, the better.

The maximum sensor format available today is full frame (35 mm). Such matrices are more expensive because they are harder to manufacture. Due to this reason, such sensors are only included in the professional cameras with high price tags. Budget mirrorless cameras, on the contrary, are often equipped with Micro 4/3 format sensors. The most popular matrix size for mid-range cameras is APS-C.

Image stabilization – cameras from this class, as a rule, are equipped with the optical stabilization system, which is built into the lens or the matrix.

Shooting speed ​​– high shooting speed is one of the main benefits of digital mirrorless cameras. High speed is needed when shooting dynamic scenes, for example, sports events. Thus, if you were wondering what are mirrorless cameras good for, this would be one of the answers.

Mirrorless cameras generally take off faster than SLRs, which is due to the smaller number of moving parts in their construction and a simpler mechanism. Advanced models can even provide burst speeds of up to 20 frames per second.

Light sensitivity stands for the camera’s ability to produce high-quality images under different light conditions. Photosensitivity is measured in ISO units and is indicated as a range of values, for example, 50–3200. The weaker the light is, the higher sensitivity is needed.

The ISO sensitivity of the camera is determined by the characteristics of the matrix. Professional full-frame mirrorless cameras boast a very large ISO range – about 50–25600 or more. With such a camera you can even shoot the night sky and get a high-quality and clear image, but only if you use the right settings.

Dynamic range – in brief, this indicator characterizes the camera’s ability to capture details with different brightness in one shot. It is especially important for shooting contrast images. For example, you are shooting a landscape during the sunset. With insufficient dynamic range, it often happens that the sky is quite detailed, while those areas that lack lighting look like dark spots. Or vice versa: dark areas are clearly distinguishable, and bright areas are lighted (depending on the exposure settings).

Wide dynamic range means that the camera can transmit both light and dark areas simultaneously. The main thing that determines this ability is the size of the matrix. Full-frame mirrorless cameras have sufficient dynamic range in order to transmit objects with different brightness in one frame.

Autofocus – mirrorless cameras come with different autofocus capabilities depending on numerous factors. Some of the most important nuances are – the price, manufacturer, and the lenses that you use with the camera. With that being said, it is hard to say for sure whether mirrorless cameras have an advantage over SLRs in these terms.

Video shooting – the modern mirrorless cameras take into account the needs of not only photographers, but also videographers. However, the functionality depends on the model you choose. Some models are capable of shooting 4K videos, while others may come with lower characteristics.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Mirrorless Cameras?

Today, mirrorless cameras have deservedly taken over the market. They can easily handle both simple and professional tasks, which makes them powerful competitors of SLR cameras. Besides, the newest models manufactured by leading companies already have a number of significant advantages over SLR models. Let’s sum up everything said above and define what are the advantages of mirrorless cameras:

  • Compact size and lightweight. You already know that SLR cameras were large and heavy because they were equipped with the mirror and pentaprism. Manufacturers of mirrorless cameras decided to remove all the unnecessary structural elements and thus, created a lightweight and compact camera that you can easily carry around with you wherever you go.
  • An electronic viewfinder. Unlike an optical viewfinder, an electronic one comes with more functionality. It displays much more information including exposure, white balance, depth of the sharply depicted space, a live histogram, electronic level, and so on. Thus, it gives you much more control. In addition, the electronic viewfinder provides 100% frame coverage.
  • Higher shooting speed. Apart from the lack of tremble and noise, electronic shutter and the absence of a mirror also ensure higher shooting speed. Mirrorless cameras have a much simpler operating principle, which allows you to create an excellent shot instantly.
  • No vibration and noise. Again, due to the fact that there is no mirror mechanism in the camera, it doesn’t tremble when shooting. This allows taking clear pictures even in harsh conditions. Also, models of this class come with the electronic shutter that, unlike the mechanical one, works absolutely silently.
  • Hybrid autofocus system. This technology is implemented in the newest generation of mirrorless cameras. The number of focus points can be maximized since the sensors are located directly on the matrix.
  • Preview in real time. The cameras from this category allow you to see the image in the exact same form as it will turn out after you take a shot. Previewing the image on the LCD or in the electronic viewfinder makes it possible to evaluate the frame and make the necessary adjustments.

Read more about The Best Mirrorless Cameras with Viewfinder 

These are only some of the benefits that mirrorless cameras bring to the table. In fact, there are many other, not less pleasant, advantages. But do such cameras have any cons? Unfortunately, they do and here are the key ones:

  • In the process of shooting, you can see an image that was already processed, as the screens featured in such models normally have some contrast and saturation limitations.
  • The picture is displayed with a delay, due to the speed of the processor’s work.
  • It can be rather difficult to preview an image in bright light.
  • Constant operation of the screen and the processor drains battery faster.

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